Have you noticed how certain shoe brands are sold exclusively in limited retail outlets? How about clothes, ever notice some brands can be found all over the place, and yet others are only found in major cities? Notice how you can’t just go into your local office supply store and purchase a $2,000 gold-cased Montblanc writing instrument? Ok, then you recognize that where you distribute your products/services is an important component of a branding strategy!
Did you know your branding strategy should help define your distribution channels? It should be a guiding principle when determining exactly how you want to position your product or service in the marketplace. This applies to both products and services alike. Here’s a few examples:
If the Price Point for your product or service is →
|Distribution channel options||mass outlets, big box retailers/events, general business events||a little harder to find, more niche networking events||selective locations, not too accessible for the masses, maybe exclusive|
|Features to market||Quantity is most important – highlight accessibility||Mixed – highlight easy accessibility with quality||Highlight quality features, “you get what you pay for” also works here|
|Advertising||Blanket the market with local/regional/national ads, you have a ton of competitors||Find industry specific promo outlets, publications, websites to advertise on||Selective, targeted ads in niche publications/ websites to reach your target market|
In order to choose the best distribution channels for your business, you need to identify the heart of your business offering, your true core competency. So many people think their products and services are special/unique/rare and there’s nobody out there offering the same things. This is simply not the case! The key is to know your competition, know who’s offering similar products and services, and position your brand to compete. Where you distribute your products and services should be a factor in the development of your brand strategy.
We’ve laid the foundation to build your branding strategy in a previous post. Now, let’s talk about your competitive position, which in a nutshell is your differentiation in the market.
Now, I could bore you with a bunch of technical marketing jargon, but that’s what you’d hire a marketing pro for. Instead, here’s an easy to use quick version in lamens terms so you can begin to create your differentiator to establish your position in the market. Answering these questions will put you on the right track!
Develop a market profile as related to your niche. For example, I’m a marketing strategist for small businesses in xyz industries, and I’m based in Atlanta, GA. So, I may start with finding out how many small businesses in xyz industries there are in Atlanta, how many years they’ve been in business, their growth rates, key decision makers, and publicized new projects.
List 5-10 of your direct competitors. I use spreadsheets so I can sort data easily. For each competitor, fill in these characteristics and you’ll have an easy-to-update competitor profile:
How do your clients find you and your competitors? Are they using Google search? Are they looking through print ads? Do they issue requests for proposals? Seek out professional associations for referrals? Are they searching social media? Different industries use different tactics to find resources, so first and foremost you must learn how your industry operates.
Ask what your client needs and wants. It’s easy to sit and think about what you think your client needs. But, did you ask them? Ideally, you want to get out in the market and find out what keeps your prospective clients up at night. Do this via informational interviews with prospects and q&a with your existing clients. Hint: If you can help your client solve a problem, alleviate a burden, and get back to focusing on their responsibilities, you’re on your way to getting hired!
Identify your competitors’ weak spots. If you can find opportunities that your competitors are not taking advantage of, you may have found a goldmine to exploit!
Now that you’ve gone through this process, here’s the ultimate question to be answered:
What is your value to the market?
- Are you the lowest price?
- Is your product the absolute best out there in terms of benefits?
- Do you provide a competitive solution to a challenge with a focus on client-service?
- Are you a convenient option?
Your answer to this question is the foundation of your BRAND. There are no shortcuts! If you think you can skip a couple of steps because you think you know most of the answers, you are more than likely mistaken unless you develop marketing strategies for a living. Great brands don’t just happen, they are cultivated over time. Spending time understanding your competitive position will help you with your sales pitch, newsletter copy, e-blasts, web verbiage, etc. Once you finish this analysis, you will be able to assess your competitive position, your competitive advantages, and you’ll have an understanding of what your clients need and want. You can further develop your branding strategy based on your clients’ needs, putting you one step closer to getting hired!
Let’s define the word BRAND as it relates to your company. In a nutshell, a brand has to convince me to spend my money, time and effort with you and not your competitor.
Think about iconic brands like Starbucks, Ferrari, ESPN, and Neiman Marcus. When you hear the names of these companies you immediately think of a host of attributes for each of them. Well, it’s their BRAND you’re thinking of! Now do you understand why your brand is so important, and why you need to manage your company’s brand? Good, we’re on the same page. Consider these criteria to start defining your brand:
- Company name: does it say anything / mean anything to your ideal client? Is it easy to remember? Hard to pronounce? Keep in mind, you can leverage uniqueness.
- Logo: do you have a logo? Is it well designed? Symbolic? Appropriate in style and color for your industry? Does your company name or logo convey and emotion or inferences at all to your prospects? Is it in sync with your mission?
- What’s your niche? This will help define your brand as experienced in whatever product/service you offer. Are you trying to sell to everyone? Tsk, tsk. This is what I call the lazy-non-marketing strategy. There’s a 99% chance you have a target client, so work on identifying your niche area of expertise and find targets that fit your niche.
- Make a list of 20 attributes you want people to think of when they hear your company name.
Your answers will help you start to really pinpoint your brand from a strategic perspective. When you review all the answers in totality, you can begin shaping a brand identity. You’ll be on your way to developing a brand your customers will love!
So you’ve been in business for a while. Can you give me a definition of your brand?
For example, I’m a small biz marketing powerhouse who comes in, peels the surface layers back to reveal the true core of your biz, evaluates and, if necessary, overhauls your entire marketing strategy, immerses your biz across the appropriate social media platforms, syncs your day-to-day operations with your firm’s long term objectives, and re-energizes your passion and perception of your own business.
I ask clients to describe my brand to me and this is pretty much a summary of what I’ve been told. Do I like the way I am perceived by my clients? Absolutely!
Did I strategically develop my brand into this? Nope. I just do my work, like most of you do. But my energy is infectious and my clients immediately refer to my energy every time they talk about me. Can’t you sense my energy in this brand description? Had you asked me several years ago to describe my brand I would have probably said something with the words ‘dedicated’, ‘small but mighty’, ‘resourceful’ and a bunch of other boring, average characteristics that clearly my clients don’t even give a thought to.
Why ask my clients, and not come up with some fancy-schmancy branding concept? I mean, I’m a writer and a marketer, so I can certainly come up with the most eloquently stated brand concept ever. However, this wouldn’t be a realistic description of my brand, and I would subsequently go about monitoring and building my brand all wrong. Why?
Because your brand is all about PERCEPTION:
It is the PERCEPTION of your buying audience that makes your brand.
Since my clients perceive me to be energetic (which I am) and comprehensive in my analysis (I try), I work hard to stay true to my brand in all that I do, from my initial handshake to the way I prepare a final deliverable, and every manner of communication in between. The objective is to match your desired brand image with your actual brand image. If these are in alignment, great! If not, work to figure out how to match them. Want to know an easy way to get started? Ask your clients how they perceive your brand!