You can’t copy a market leader’s strategy and expect to win. Copying what the industry heavyweights are doing is a recipe for getting your ass handed to you. The secret to success as a small company is finding holes in the big players’ strategies. That’s where brand positioning comes into play.
Think of it like this, your brand is your reputation. Branding is the act of intentionally shaping that reputation. Brand positioning is defining the reputation you want and setting yourself up to make it a reality. Your positioning strategy should be built around the one thing that makes you different or better than your competition.
When we work with clients, our goal is to create a category of one. We want our clients to be ‘the’ option for a specific group of people rather than ‘an’ option for everyone. What follows is our approach to finding this sweet spot where your brand can thrive.
Start With Research
Most companies look at their competition, but they’re often doing it for the wrong reason. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve had folks walk in the door and tell us they want to copy the competition because that’s what works. Follower brands never win. Why would anyone choose to work with you when there’s a more established and proven option? You have to be something different. Here’s how you find the spot where you can win…
- Study your competition.
- Get to know everything about each player in your space.
- Define the positioning strategy of each company.
Now step back and find who they’re neglecting and how you can be ‘the’ option for that little corner of the market. Once you dominate that little corner of the market, you can expand to a broader segment. Let’s look at a brand positioning strategy example that resulted from this process.
We’ve got a client launching a new canned alcoholic beverage at the moment. Think of it as a competitor to hard seltzers and canned vodka drinks. It’s a fun product I can’t wait to get to a point where I can share.
During our competitive analysis, we noticed the overwhelming majority of competitors are touting how their drink is sugar-free or low sugar. They’re all fighting for the low-calorie crowd. We’re going to be the opposite. Our cans will feature…
“100% NOT Sugar-Free”
We’ll have fun being the delicious option with sugar. This is obviously going to cost us the low-calorie drinker, but that’s a sacrifice we’re willing to make. We’re not afraid to push away the wrong people to appeal to everyone shopping on taste.
Sometimes your weaknesses are opportunities in hiding. Take a step back, shift your perspective, embrace your weaknesses, and jump on any opportunity you find to stand out from the crowd and be the different option.
Decide Where You’ll Hang Your Hat
It’s hard to be the best in one spot. Our natural inclination is to try to be good at everything. That’s the trap. When you try to be good at everything, you end up great at nothing. Your brand is a heaping spoonful of mediocre. Nobody comes back for mediocre.
We crave badass experiences. Figure out where you can be remarkable and own that brand position. Sacrifice in other areas to be the best in one. I refer to this as deciding where you’re going to hang your hat as a brand. Your product, brand, website, and marketing will be more effective when they’re stressing one real differentiator.
Give disproportionate attention to finding this one thing. A few examples of solid differentiators:
- Taphouse with the widest selection of IPA’s in Tennessee.
- Realtor who is the expert at helping families relocate to Denver.
- Builder who provides the most organized and professional experience to clients.
- Restaurant that throws rolls.
- Chocolate company with a hilarious sex joke on every wrapper.
These examples are in wildly different markets, but they all share one thing—they know their one thing. Accept that not everyone is your customer. Don’t water down a strong brand by trying to appeal to people that won’t buy from you anyway. Remember, you’re trying to be ‘the’ option for a specific group of people instead of ‘an’ option for everyone.
Make It Easy For Customers To Tell Their Friends
You know you’ve nailed your brand positioning when customers can’t wait to tell their friends about you. Unsolicited word of mouth is the Holy Grail of marketing. You’ll be unstoppable if every customer that interacts with you then goes out and tells everyone they know.
Here’s a ridiculously simple word of mouth hack you can use to make it happen. This will help you vocalize where you’re going to hang your hat as a brand. Give it a try…
You have to try _________ they ____________.
Put your brand in the first blank and the one thing you want customers telling their friends in the second blank. Feel free to slightly tweak the phrasing to fit your market. Let’s do this with our examples from above.
- You have to try Andrew’s Taphouse, they have the widest selection of IPAs in Tennessee.
- You have to use Good Good Realty, they specialize in families relocating to Denver.
- You have to use Andrew’s Builders, they are so professional and tell you where every penny of your budget is going.
- You have to try Lambert’s, they throw rolls at you.
- You have to try Andrew’s Chocolates, they have a hilarious sex joke on every wrapper.
This one little prompt might be the key to vocalizing a killer brand positioning strategy. Just make sure you keep it simple. Customers aren’t going to remember five things. Focus on that one thing you want customers telling their friends. Everything else is secondary.
Brand Positioning In A Nutshell
I just walked you through creating a brand positioning strategy for your business. If you’re too busy to spend 5 minutes reading, here’s the basic gist…
- Study your competition to find a hole in the market you can exploit.
- Focus on being the best at one thing that matters to a specific group of people.
- Make it easy for customers to tell their friends what that one thing is.
Getting your brand positioning right is worth the effort. Companies like Apple, Target, Liquid Death, Whole Foods, VW, and countless others have ridden strong positioning strategies to billions of dollars. You may not enjoy billions, but you can build a community of folks who happily choose you over all of the other options because of how you’re positioned.
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