We recognize establishing a “unique brand” can be a significant challenge for small businesses especially in a highly competitive market. Thus, it is critical to understand what branding is, what impact it will have on your business and how to get started in developing a unique and powerful brand for your business.
What is a Brand?
Your brand is your organization’s reputation. A brand extends far beyond what you may think. Certainly, it includes your logo, your brochures and your website, however it is also inclusive of what YOU, your clients and your competitors think and say about your business. Your brand is affected by everything that impacts your prospect’s and client’s perceptions.
Why is Brand Important?
Statistics show that consumers “buy” based on “trusted relationships”. Relationships are influenced by perceptions, thus a unique, clear and truthful message must resonate with potential buyers and be supported by the external communications and the organization’s internal truths/perceptions.
One primary goal of a brand is to increase the company’s market value. Increased market value is accomplished by establishing clear differentiation from the competition, carving out a believable niche for your practice and communicating a unique message to articulate this differentiation. You will create higher margins, increase customer loyalty and establish expanded customer relationships by strengthening your brand.
How Do You Intentionally Develop Your Brand?
Let’s face it; your brand will be developed one way or the other. Either your reputation will be built on its own or you can intentionally make a conscious effort to build the brand for your organization. Keep in mind, third party endorsements speak volumes about your credibility — or not! You have the tremendous ability to accelerate your endorsements by leveraging your consistent beliefs amongst your circles of influence. A unique, consistent message, paired with truthful performance is the key to building a trustworthy brand. You must mirror your “talk” with your “walk”. Creating your unique point of differentiation is the first step in developing your brand.
Making Your Mark; How to Define Your Unique Point of Differentiation?
At this point, if you’ve determined that a unique and strong BRAND is something you desire for your business, you can get started by answering questions to develop your unique point of differentiation. To do this right, you should gather not only your own opinion, but request input from your closest advocates, employees and past customers when you answer the following questions:
#1 – What is your Great Result?
• What is your big picture desired outcome?
• Why do you do what you do?
• What do you wish to be famous for?
#2 – How is your business unique?
• What two single words describe your organization and none of your competitors?
• What value does your business offer that is beyond your industry standard? (hint: they do not include efforts that are expected by your audience)
• What are you not?
#3 – Who is your ideal customer?
• What are these customer’s daily activities?
• What are their needs, wants and desires?
• What is your customer’s strongest point of pain in today’s environment?
#4 – Who is your competition?
• Who are your top 5 closest competitors?
• What one phrase describes each competitor?
• What does your competition say about you?
#5- What do your customers say about you?
• When was the last time you asked?
• Why did they choose you?
• What do they believe you do best?
Develop a Competitive Message Matrix
Now that you know who your competition is and what you perceive your unique point of differentiation to be, it is time to pull all this information together to assess how your positioning compares to your competition. Ask yourself, “Are they focused on value, innovation, quality, or service? Can I own any part of their message? Is their message simply what the audience demands from the industry? If you answer yes to these questions for your business or for your competition, you’re looking at weak brand differentiation. This exercise will give you the ability to see who is swimming in the “sea of sameness” and where you have an opportunity to carve out a niche and develop a unique message to communicate your value.
Creating Core and Supporting Messages
You should be excited that you have solidified a critical phase in your go to market strategy; your unique point of differentiation. Now that you understand where you are unique from your competitors, you should create a strong core message and four to five supporting messages that will be the primary components to your “story”. Your core message introduces your audience to your unique value and entices them to want to learn more about your business. Keep it crisp and catchy! Your supporting messages will do just that; offer proof points to support the credibility of the value of your organization.
Congratulations! You are well on your way to in defining your core and supporting messages, you are ready to take this message to market; these messages should be utilized in all future marketing communications (i.e. website, brochures, sales pitch, advertising campaign, etc.)