Over 627,000 small business are started each year in the US. Many of them in overlapping industries. Want to know the kicker? 595,000 businesses also close each year! So how in the world do we figure out what sets us apart in our industry so that we can build a profitable and sustainable brand? The answer to that is in brand positioning, my friend which we’ll be tackling in today’s post.
I’m really passionate about this topic because I see so many people give up on their dreams just because they don’t know how to set themselves apart in their industry. They think that they have to employ 10 different strategies or tactics to “be different” or be seen by their dream clients. Maybe you feel this way, friend.
I’m going to tell you right now that it is NOT true.
Today we’ll uncover how you can find those things that make your business unique. Notice how I didn’t say I’ll teach you how to make your business different or I’m going to give you strategies for how to make your brand different. I said we are going to find 😉
Ready? Let’s do this!
WHAT IS BRAND POSITIONING
I’m sure you’ve heard that term thrown around or maybe even done exercises on how to differentiate yourself in the market, but didn’t really feel like you nailed it. First and foremost brand positioning is not finding ways to make yourself different. You already have something unique to bring to your industry. I know I’ve said this twice already, but it’s SO important!
Brand positioning is the process of uncovering what that is and then building a brand around that. It’s the intersection of how you want your brand to be perceived and how your audience perceives it.
Two important things to note here
- Brand positioning happens whether you take an intentional approach to it or not. The only way to make sure your brand ends up where you want it to is to be intentional about positioning your brand strategically.
2. Brand positioning is different from a tagline. Your tagline is an external manifestation of your brand’s position in the marketplace. Understanding your brand’s market helps you to make strategic decisions that ultimately align with the heart behind your brand!
The reason being intentional about your brand positioning is so important is because it is where your messaging, branding and marketing will hinge from. It will allow you to be really intentional about how you build your business and how you can connect with your dream clients.
#1 DEEPLY UNDERSTAND YOUR IDEAL CLIENT
The first step is to understand your ideal client really deeply. They are the heart and soul of your business and without them, you don’t have a business. Understanding your ideal client goes beyond just knowing their favorite ice cream flavor. It’s getting inside their heads and hearts and knowing who they are and what makes them tick.
- Their Problem
- Their Psychology
- Their Personality
Here are a few questions to ask yourself about each of these categories as you think through this:
What problem are they currently facing in their business and life?
What have they already done to solve this problem? Hired someone, DIY–ed it, etc.
What keeps them up at night about their problem? Why is it so important that they solve this problem?
What are their big hopes and dreams?
What is their biggest fear?
How does their fear drive how they show up?
What things make them feel at ease?
At the end of their life, what will they say was their biggest accomplishment?
What makes them laugh?
What are some of their favorite tv shows?
What does a dream Saturday look like for them?
Where do they like to shop?
#2 RESEARCH YOUR BRAND
The next step is to research your current brand positioning. Become an analyzer of what you’re doing in your own business.
What do I mean by this? You have to first start by assessing where your brand currently stands. Maybe you didn’t start off by thinking through this or you never knew what to look for. That’s ok! We all start at square one.
I want you to take out a blank sheet of paper and write down all the ways you are telling your audience that you are different. This may take some time to uncover, especially if you never really sat down to think about it. You may also not be doing this in your business at the moment which is ok. You just need to identify it so that you can address it.
A few things to ask yourself as you work through researching your own brand positioning:
Are there clear differences in how you market your service and/or product as compared to someone else in your market. For instance, if you’re a photographer, are you marketing your service as documenting memories (all photographers are doing that) or are you marketing your photography business as “capturing memories through a photojournalistic approach that focuses on capturing genuine emotion”. Note how I didn’t stop at photojournalistic approach but went even deeper. You want to make sure you keep going until you’re at the core of why you do what you do.
How clearly are you communicating your values and story? Are you doing this consistently or you just mention it here and there?
How clear is your mission statement? We help [ideal client] achieve/accomplish/get [ result or outcome] through/by [what you do].
If you notice that you aren’t doing any of these things enough that may be an indication that you haven’t taken the time to position your brand really well. This may manifest itself as not a very clear message, inconsistencies in branding, finding that you’re working with clients who are just looking for the best deal and not being able to charge what you want to in your business.
Don’t feel discouraged if that is you, friend. Taking this first step is critical to being able to execute this well so just think of this as a learning moment. Take a deep breath. Be confident that you are able to take the right next steps now that you know this.
#3 RESEARCH YOUR COMPETITION
Now before you jump on me for saying “competition”, I don’t mean to compare yourself to others who are doing the same or similar thing as you or to copy and paste their ideas. What I am saying is that to be able to see where you are different you have to assess what is already out there.
By understanding what others who are out there serving the same audience as you are doing you’ll be able to see where there are gaps in the market. Think about it like this:
You want to help a specific group of people by offering your product or service. But Sally also wants to serve the same audience with the same service. The good news is that you both have different approaches, styles, and stories. Because of that, this particular audience has choices in who they want to work with. The even better thing about that? There are people who want YOU and people who want HER. You each have your people to serve within the same industry and service offering.
However, to be able to get to that point you’ll have to understand what options are already available to your audience and be able to provide them with a different one.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself in step #2
What services does your competition offer?
What is included in each service and its price point?
What does their approach look like? Do they do lifestyle photography as opposed to studio sessions? Do they do brand development as well as the brand design?
What promise do they make their audience? What results do they say they can get their audience?
What do they say is their unique selling proposition?
A couple notes about determining your competition. For someone to be your competition they have to
Be in the same industry
Be serving the same audience
Be in the same level (or a little ahead of you) in business. You can’t compare your 6-month old business to someone who has been doing it for 5 years and charges 10x what you do. You’ll very quickly get stuck in the comparison game and go down an unhealthy spiral.
Also, remember to just analyze facts! Do not spend time comparing what they are doing to what you are. The point of this is to identify the ways in which your brand is different.
#4 IDENTIFY THE GAPS
After you’ve done an in-depth analysis of your brand and the brands of your competition, you can determine where the gaps are.
Take a look at what things you evaluated your competition and your brand on. I recommend writing these down so that you can visually see where you stand. I help my clients create a brand positioning map so that we can visually see this during our brand development process. You can do that or you can just put a line down the middle of the paper and write them out that way. You can also break it up by the category of things you compared.
For instance, let’s say both you and your competition offer launch copywriting services. However, you notice that in your service offering you stay on during the launch to help tweak the copy whereas your competitor does not.There is no right or wrong in either of those services. I repeat there is no right or wrong! This is not about putting other people down for how they offer a service or how they choose to help their ideal clients.
Different people will be looking for different things. But now you know what makes your service & approach unique! This allows the people you are both serving to have a choice in terms of how they want their problem solved and isn’t that what this building a legacy business is all about anyway?
Knowing this information you can now go and communicate very clearly to your audience what your service provides and how you can help them in your unique way through launch copywriting services.
Brand positioning is all about finding out what is available to your audience and how you can offer that same service and product with a unique approach and stance.
#5 CREATE A BRAND POSITIONING STATEMENT
Next up, it’s time to create your brand positioning statement. Remember this statement is for internal purposes. This isn’t meant to be used as your tagline or marketing message.
It is meant to help drive your business decisions in terms of what you offer, how you offer it, and how you market it. This statement will be something you measure your business up against at all times.
Ready? Your Brand Positioning Statement should include:
A. TARGET CUSTOMER
B. INDUSTRY OR HOW YOU SPECIFICALLY SERVE YOUR CLIENTS
C. BRAND PROMISE
D. REASON TO BELIEVE
Here is the brand positioning statement from Zipcar as an example:
To urban-dwelling, educated techno-savvy consumers [target], when you use Zipcar car-sharing service [industry] instead of owning a car [competitive frame], you save money while reducing your carbon footprint [brand promise and reason to believe]. (SOURCE)
And this their tagline:
“Wheels when you want them” (SOURCE)
See how their brand positioning statement informed their tagline?
#6 TEST, TEST & TEST AGAIN!
Last, but not least you have to test this. You can’t come up with your brand positioning statement in a vacuum. You have to consistently be measuring it against what your audience and clients think.
Over the years Zipcar refined and elevated their statement as you can see below:
To urban-dwelling, educated, techno-savvy consumers who worry about the environment that future generations will inherit [target and insight], Zipcar is the car-sharing service [competitive frame] that lets you save money and reduce your carbon footprint [points of difference], making you feel you’ve made a smart, responsible choice that demonstrates your commitment to protecting the environment [target’s goal]. (SOURCE)
They kept refining it based on the feedback they received from their audience and aligning both how they wanted to be perceived with how their audience perceived them so that they could serve them better.
You too can do this in your own business by constantly having your ear to the ground. Some ideas of how to execute this are
Polling your audience to see how they perceive your brand
Sending out feedback forms to previous clients to hear their thoughts
Having a swipe file of what people say about your brand when they mention it on social media or in person
If your audience is in alignment with the brand positioning statement you came up with- great! It means that you are on the right track.
If not- then I would figure out where that disconnect is happening. Are they not seeing what you want them to because you aren’t doing a great job of communicating that information? Is the experience and offer you provide not matching up with your brand promise?
Your ideal clients are the heart behind your business and if they don’t sign off on your brand and how you want it to be perceived- you’ll be stuck feeling like your just another one in the sea of voices out there. Make sure to keep them front and center as you build this out!
Ok let me know in the comments below what has been your biggest aha moment so far and how will you implement this in your own business?