Start-ups and growing businesses have so many moving parts, always shifting and progressing, that you can get too bogged down in the ‘what’ and the ‘how’, without thinking enough about the ‘why’. What are your goals? What is your mission?
When you’re operating in a competitive market, communicating why you’re in business and why customers should buy from you, can be the difference between success and failure. And that all comes down to clearly defining your brand positioning. Being clear on your positioning gives you control over how the market sees you and the kind of customers you’ll attract. It enables you to differentiate your company from other, often very similar, products and services in the market, and helps your customers decide whether to buy from you. Your positioning isn’t just a statement on a piece of paper; it should run through everything your company does - from your product design and visual branding, to your behaviour and how you communicate through your messaging.
Not sure where to start? These six steps will help you get there:
Start by outlining what are you trying to achieve and most importantly, why? That could include thinking about where you want your company to be in five or even ten years’ time and envisioning what kind of brand you want to build. It’s all about expressing, at a fundamental level, why you are doing what you’re doing.
Your values and personality:
Next, agree at least three core beliefs or character traits that your company has, in terms of how it does business and what it offers to customers. You might find it helpful to get input and inspiration from across the business, so that all staff feel involved in the process, and to get a true feel for the different perspectives at play. Try to be as specific as possible about the values that make your business unique. To give you some famous examples, Facebook’s values include: ‘Focus on impact’ and ‘Be open’, while Starbucks has: ‘Creating a culture of warmth and belonging, where everyone is welcome’, as well as ‘Being present, connecting with transparency, dignity and respect.’
Who are your customers?:
At the core of defining your positioning is understanding who currently buys your product or service, as well as who you want to buy. It may be that, in developing your business, you have attracted a different target audience than you expected, so decide if you want to focus on them or change course. You may also find you have multiple customer groups, as well as other stakeholders you need to take into account. That’s okay, although you should try to prioritise the most important one or two – or pinpoint what they all have in common - for the purposes of positioning.
Talk to your customers and potential customers:
Your current and potential customer-base is your single most valuable source of insight on brand positioning. Talk to them as much as you can on why they buy from you, what matters to them, their pain points and what problems you solve for them. It can also be hugely valuable to observe your customers interacting with your product or service, to see which aspects of it they like the most, and how they react and respond to different elements. Everything they tell and show you is gold dust in how you position your brand, your products and how you describe your company to the market.
The other group to consider are your competitors, which means carrying out an in-depth analysis of how they describe their services, their visual branding, tone of voice, and how they market themselves. Having this insight will help you see more clearly why and how your offering is different, and which unique features you can use to your advantage. One really useful way of doing it is to plot each competitor company on an axis based on different characteristics or attributes they have and to what extent. It should become immediately obvious where the gaps are.
Bringing it all together:
Using all of this thinking and insight, you should start to see patterns and alignment between where you are, what your customers want and how you compare with your competitors. The role of positioning is finding that sweet spot between those elements to ensure you are attractive to customers and true to what you stand for, your business model and the brand you want to build over the long-term. From this insight, draft a short positioning statement, capturing very simply what you offer and what makes you unique. This should then form the basis for all everything you do, from product design, to sales, marketing and communications.
Start-ups and fledgling businesses have a unique opportunity to define their positioning, as once your brand becomes established, it is very difficult to change course. Just think about all the famous brands you know and how easily you associate them with a certain reputation or type of customer; that all comes down to their positioning in the market. So, it pays to get it right, while you have the chance.
If you need help defining your brand positioning, the perspective of an external expert can make all the difference. The Work Crowd has hundreds of freelancers with relevant brand experience who can help you – just give us a call on 0203 828 8440 or drop us a line here to discuss your needs in more detail.