How to Pole Position Your Brand

Central to your branding strategy, positioning is all about how you are able to differentiate your brand from other similar products and services, and how your brand is perceived in the minds of your audience. Thus, it’s the ultimate sales and marketing tool. I like to think of it as that crucial gear, component or drive-shaft transmitting torque in the engine accelerating you well ahead. Of course, gaining this type of leverage is not something that happens accidentally or by chance, but rather it requires steering the process with much focus and intent.

So invest the time and create your brand messages. Make sure they are well-crafted, vigorously-implemented and consistently-reflected in all your communications. Doing this will keep you ahead of the race with a more competitive edge and better traction around the customer conversion turns.

To lock in the importance of why brand positioning really matters, imagine what happens…

…when you DON’T position well:

  • it makes it more difficult to develop and execute your marketing plans
  • it decreases the quality in your communications, messages and materials
  • it increases costs due to lack of synergies in your marketing activities
  • it dilutes mindshare as marketing campaigns become fragmented and disjointly executed

…when you DO position well:

  • it carves out a definitive space in the minds of your audience long before they want or need the product.
  • it increases mindshare and the chances for favorable purchase decisions when prospects are ready to buy, and/or even recommend your product.
  • it cuts down on the noise and allows you to connect directly with the customers who need you
  • it lets you stand out from the crowd

Conceptually, positioning is easy to understand, but it’s another thing to do. There are various positioning strategies you could employ, but here are the ones I see to be most effective and applicable to any company, from the solo-preneur and startups to SMEs and all the way to the Fortune 500.

Positioning Strategies - How to Pole Position your Brand:

1. Cleverly Differentiate 
What are your core competencies? What do you do or deliver that none of your competitors can or do?
If you don’t know this, it’s worth putting everything else on hold until you are able to create some meaningful competitive differentiation. (Hint: pricing is not a valid differentiator!)

2. Sell an Experience
Think of the positioning of some very well known brands. More than likely you know they are selling an experience more than they are a product or a service. This is because consumers are willing to pay more for an experience than they are for just goods and services. Here are some household names to provide some examples. Which resonates with you more, the product or the experience?…

  • Disney: amusement parks, animation? ...or a magical family experience.
  • Starbucks: coffee? ...or an uplifting get-away with personalized service and your drink made perfectly every time.
  • Apple: computers, devices? ...or lifestyle, imagination, design, connectivity, creativity and empowerment through technology.
  • Harley Davidson: motorcycles? ...or chance for the conservative middle-aged to morph into a “bad-ass”.

Although these examples are from the giants, there are plenty of small businesses that succeeded with very little money all because they positioned their brand around a unique experience for their customers. So ask yourself, which experience does your product or service offer?

3. Be First to Market
Being first to market helps establish your leadership. If I asked who Buzz Aldrin is, how many people could respond? If I asked who Neil Armstrong is, the likelihood of knowing is much greater. Nobody remembers who the second man was to walk on the moon, but they remember the first. This example illustrates the point that being recognized first in a product category or market is worth a whole lot of marketing value. Areas of opportunity reside in product size, when or how it is used, all the way to being first to cater to an age or gender demographic.

4. Story-fy with a Human Touch
Of course, when you develop your story, you should integrate how your product helps, what problem it solves, the benefits (not features) it offers and what makes it different from other similar products on the market. But just like the guy who talks about himself at the party, the same (lack of) appeal applies to your brand. Instead, humanize the story and create campaigns that get your customers to relate to your product. And while you're at it, up the anti and allow your customers to share their own related stories on your platforms.

Now that you have some springboard ideas for your positioning activities, next is to craft, or refine, your positioning statement that serve as your navigator and steering wheel.

Positioning Statement - Checklist:

  1. Have a clear understanding of your market position
  2. Keep it short and succinct
  3. Don’t write it like an advertisement
  4. Be personal and authentic
  5. Remember your audience may never read it, but will see and feel it in all its influences.

Quick Recap:

  • Position: the conceptual territory you stake out in the market - the niche you play in.
  • Positioning: a strategic activity, which involves the company leaders are involved in defining.
  • Positioning Statement: the expression of what your market position is. Hint: this can take hours word-smithing with your team in front of a whiteboard, etc. Always be thinking in the mind of your customers, i.e. “why should I buy from you?”

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