Have you ever heard someone talk about “positioning” in your brand and had no idea what they were talking about? If so, you are in the right place.
I’m going to explain why brand positioning is one of the first things small business owners should be thinking about. Let’s talk about it!
I want you to imagine…
You’re on the hunt for the perfect bottle of wine for a special occasion. You go to a public market where every single stall is packed with bottles of wine. They’re all wine sellers, and there are hundreds of options around you, with every seller trying to tell you why their wine is the best. It’s loud, busy, crowded, and there’s so much to look at that it’s overwhelming and impossible to make a decision, let alone find the perfect bottle.
That’s pretty much what business is like for your customers. They have countless options for every purchase they make, and it can be tough to choose. That’s one of the reasons that people often just go with the familiar big brand name; it seems like they can trust it because it’s big, and it’s just too overwhelming to make a different choice sometimes.
So how do you compete with the big brands?
For your business to be successful, you need to get your customer’s attention. You need to stand out in a crowded market. That’s what brand positioning is. It’s the unique space that you occupy in this market that makes you stand out. When you hear someone talk about finding a “gap in the market,” that’s exactly what they mean.
Think of it as a sweet spot. You want to find the sweet spot between what is true to yourself, what is relevant to your customers’ needs, and what is differentiated you from the competitors.
So, It needs to be true to who you are, like something you’re good at or something you actually do in your business. It also needs to be something your audience – your customers – actually give a shit about. If you’re really good at something that they don’t care about, then it doesn’t matter. So, you need to have something that’s true to who you are and that they actually care about. Even more importantly, it also needs to be something that your competitors aren’t also really good at. So, you’re trying to find what you do that is different from your competitors in a way that your customers really, really care about – that is what will make you stand out.
Now, there are so many different ways to do this, but these are some common tactics:
Price can be a huge differentiator, whether on the luxury side or the cheap side. An example of this is Walmart or Subway with $5 footlongs – they are providing a unique value to their customers through their price. Their customers are most likely going to be people who genuinely about that, so money is a big consideration for them; they’re very budget-conscious.
Another example is quality or even results in the case of a service-based business. An example of this that you see all the time is luxury cars like a BMW. With their tagline, “the ultimate driving machine,” they’re trying to say that they have such higher quality that you’re gonna have that much better driving experience, or it’s gonna last longer than their competitors. So they’re essentially saying that if quality is important to you, you will pick a BMW.
#3 Customer Service
A great example of this is Nordstrom. They’re renowned for their customer service and being a place for people who like to shop and want that hands-on experience of someone helping them find the right piece. For someone who really values that and wants that extra help, customer service is really valuable and will make them stand out from a different department store.
This can apply to a lot of things, but the first to come to mind for me was Amazon or Amazon Prime. For someone that doesn’t have a lot of time, getting something the next day – or not even having to think about it – is really valuable. They know exactly who their customer is, and they filled that need within the market that others hadn’t.
#5 Uniqueness or Innovation
You hear about innovation all the time, probably overly so. I don’t know how many companies are actually really innovative, but people try to use it as a point of differentiation. So an example could be Tesla. Their position is electric cars for people who wanna be cool; they’re the cool electric car. Clearly, this has been very successful because there are people who want that high-end experience, who care about the style and status, but are also environmentally conscious. So, they filled that gap in the market.
Finding your brand position
When creating your own brand position, you’re trying to figure out what gap you’re filling. What need is out there that your customers care about, that your competitors aren’t hitting, that you can serve? Or, what do you do that’s really special, that other people don’t do, and is actually meaningful to your customers.
Here’s how you go about it.
#1 Identify who your target audience is
I have a whole video on finding your niche, but you wanna be super specific about who you help here. Often, you’ll see this as a problem statement, like “for people who have x problem, or “for people who need x thing.” And that’s who you serve; you serve people with that specific need.
#2 Look at your competitors
You can’t be sure that you’re different from your competitors if you don’t know what they’re doing or what they’re good at. And for small businesses, this can be hard; it can be tough to compete with more prominent companies. So, sometimes nicheing and being really specific with your target audience is effective because you can deliver to a specific segment of the audience while the big brand may be going broader. Either way, you may still have some point of differentiation, something you can do way better than even the biggest companies out there, and you wanna be really clear on what that is.
Once you’ve looked at those competitors, you need to figure out what makes you unique. That can be anything, as long as it’s important to your customers. Say, for example, you have a cool office, or you allow dogs in your workspace. Sure, that’s unique, but your customer doesn’t care about your workspace; that’s not gonna make them wanna buy your stuff more than the next company. So it has to be true, but it also has to be relevant.
Brand Positioning Statement
Once you have identified those key elements you can create what’s called a Brand Positioning Statement. Now, this isn’t really used in your marketing or like on your website, but it can be really helpful for you – or even in a business plan or a pitch deck – to make sure that you understand your own brand.
Below is a fill-in-the-blank, Mad Libs-style structure of a brand position statement:
For [YOUR TARGET MARKET] with [TARGET MARKET NEED], [YOUR BRAND NAME] provides [MAIN BENEFIT]. Unlike [OTHER COMPANIES IN YOUR INDUSTRY], [YOUR BRAND] [REASON].
So you are adding your target audience, the need they have, your brand name, the main differentiator that you have, what business or industry you’re in, and why they should believe that differentiator.
Here’s an example from Coca-Cola:
For individuals looking for high-quality beverages, Coca-Cola offers a wide range of the most refreshing options – each creates a positive experience for the customer when they can enjoy a Coca-Cola brand drink. Unlike other beverage options, Coca-Cola products inspire happiness and make a positive difference in customers’ lives, and the brand is intensely focused on the needs of consumers and customers.
Target Audience & Target Market Need – individuals looking for high-quality beverages
Differentiating Factor – refreshing options that create a positive experience
Industry/Business – unlike other beverage options
Reason – inspire happiness and make a positive difference in customers’ lives, and the brand is intensely focused on the needs of consumers and customers.
While that last part sounds like some branding bullshit to me, that’s what they landed on: that the reason you should believe they’re different is because they inspire happiness and positive experiences, and that they care more about their customers. It’s their statement.
You can see how you can use this structure to identify the key ideas about your brand, and what’s really gonna make you unique and set you apart in a crowded market.
Brand Positioning is Essential
So like I said, brand positioning is essential to the foundation of your brand. It’s one of the most important things you need to start with to make sure that you are going to be successful. Download my Brand Positioning worksheet so you can practice this for yourself! Let me know it goes!
Until next time, stay badass!