We live in a noisy world.
In 60 seconds, there are:
How do you rise above the noise so your startup gets the attention it deserves?
By positioning your brand. So when your customer has a specific problem, they know to buy from you.
Brand positioning is the place your brand occupies in the mind of your customer. More importantly, it is the discipline of distinguishing your product from your competitors.
Smart entrepreneurs know their logo is only one piece of the positioning puzzle.
To get the maximum value, proper positioning requires you to have:
Let’s first dive deeper into your brand positioning strategy. This will allow you to maximize the value of your brand positioning statement.
Main article: Positioning Strategy
“All men can see the tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.” Sun Tzu, the Art of War
To be effective, every brand can only occupy one idea in the mind of your customer.
Volvo was the leading car brand for "safety." And except for 1977, Volvo was the largest-selling imported luxury vehicle from 1975 to 1992.
Other car brands have launched safety campaigns since including Honda, Toyota, and Ford. But Volvo told this story first and repeated it often. And since safety did not fit the other brands’ stories, each competitor killed their campaigns.
But then Volvo made a mistake. They began to confuse their customers with slogans that did not connect to safety:
The list goes on and on.
Some of Volvo’s recent slogans are adding to the confusion. This includes “Life is better lived together” and “Volvo your life.” What does “Volvo your life” even mean?
An effective brand positioning strategy focuses on one core position. That theme is then repeated in different ways through its products.
How you communicate your core position may change based on your strategy. But the position will stay the same.
What should be your brand positioning strategy?
Here are three questions you should ask yourself:
This sounds lucrative becoming #1, and it is. But it’s easier said than done. Consider how MySpace, Friendster, Hi-5, SixDegrees, and even LinkedIn all came before Facebook. Yet none of them held the position forever.
Many startups overlook the value of becoming #2 in their category. It’s ingrained into the Western culture to be #1. “If you’re not first, you’re last.” But with many markets, the majority of the profits go to the #1 and #2 leaders. McDonald’s and Burger King. Pepsi and Coca Cola. Red Bull and Monster. And once you hold the #2 position, you are within striking distance of #1.
If you can’t be first and can’t be second, then you should consider creating a new category. Marketers call this last point "creating a blue ocean,” as made famous by the book, “Blue Ocean Strategy.”
These opportunities often come by serving new customers in better ways. Walmart wasn’t the first department store. But they exploited a missing place at the low end of the market. The same went for Whole Foods at the high end of the grocery market.
To craft your brand strategy, you need to start by creating your brand positioning statement.
An effective brand positioning statement is not something you create from thin air. Instead, you need data. By using data, your positioning statement will become a magnet to attract the right customers.
First, here’s a simple formula you can use to create your brand positioning statement:
[Your Company] helps [your customers] by [our unique solution].
Here’s how to fill in your brand positioning formula, step-by-step:
Find the specific words customers use to describe themselves. This will help you create the first customer persona you can use and profit from.
Also, talk to people who talk to your customers. This includes both people in your company to those outside your company. Some good people to talk to our sales reps, customer support reps, influencers, and journalists.
You’ll want to understand how they position their brand so you know what you need to do to be different. You can do this by looking at their meta title in Google and the main header on their home page.
What themes keep repeating in your customer feedback? Is this truly a point of differentiation compared to what the competition offers?
Now all you need to do is to put the pieces of the puzzle together!
Bonus: Develop your unique selling proposition from your data.
Let’s say in your research you learn your customers love that you offer fast customer service. Now you need specific data to communicate this benefit. You might look at your HelpScout reports to find out your average response time is 2 hours and 22 minutes. Now you can give your customers data to back up the claim you offer fast customer service.
Let’s dive deeper into this four-step process by looking at how to do a brand analysis.
Now I don’t know about you, but the word analysis doesn’t really inspire me. (The same goes for the word “audit”). Content audits, SEO audits, and other marketing audits don’t sound like they’ll move the needle.
But doing a brand strategy without an analysis is like building a house without a blueprint.
It’s a recipe for disaster.
So before you begin developing your brand strategy, you need to do a brand analysis. Planning is key to get the most out of your resources. Sun Tzu said this well, “The enlightened ruler lays his plans well ahead; the good general cultivates his resources.”
Here is the exact process we use in the Growth Ramp Gap Analysis™ to analyze the brand and shape the brand positioning.
Main article: Voices of the Customer.
Or if you don’t have customers, talk to people who you think are your most profitable customers.
Before you interview your customers, come up with a list of questions you plan to ask your customers. To do this, think first what questions you want answers.
Do you want to know who are the competitors your customers know about? And do you want to know what differences matter to them? Ask your customers questions like:
Are you looking to position your pricing to inform your pricing strategy? You can ask these four questions:
Do you need to improve your customer personas to create your go-to-market strategy? You might ask questions like:
Is your goal to improve the customer’s buying process? You could ask questions like:
There are 100’s of potential questions you can ask. But usually asking more than 20 questions will cause the customer to feel overwhelmed. As a result, they will want to end the interview quickly. When that happens, you’ll often get short and low-quality answers.
Need help learning how to reach out to your customers? Check out our email outreach program. This is a six-part series of articles to improve your email outreach.
Using this outreach strategy, you should expect 20-40% reply rates. So you should reach out to at least 50 customers to get enough qualitative data.
Later on, you’ll want to quickly reference what someone said. Rather than searching through a bunch of Google Documents, it will be easier if the information is in one spreadsheet.
Create a new column for every question. Then copy and paste your answers into the spreadsheet.
Main Article: Competitive Intelligence.
Use review websites like G2 and Capterra to find product alternatives. You should also use the list of competitors your customers gave you.
Don’t overlook competitors that offer a part of your solution. Customers may be using a poor product alternative because they do not know about a better option.
Analyze your competitors by finding out how they position their company. How do they advertise themselves on their website? In Google results? In their about page? In their content? In their ads?
Write this position out for each of your competitors. Then categorize them by market segment.
For example, let’s say you have an email marketing automation product. There are email service providers like MailChimp, Klaviyo, and ConvertKit. But there are also marketing automation platforms like HubSpot, Marketo, and Eloqua.
The goal here is to list out as many potential positioning statements. This will allow you to mix-and-match positioning statements until you find that resonates with you.
First, why does your company exist? Understanding what you want to accomplish will give you greater clarity to create your positioning statement.
You might find it helpful to ask yourself, “If you have $5 million in the bank, what would your company focus on doing?”
Second, choose which market you want to go to first. It’s best to be a big fish in a small pond. You’ll be able to attract customers easier. And you can always move into a bigger market.
Which market should you start with? Go with the market where customers have the highest dissatisfaction. It will be easier to get these customers to switch to a new solution.
Third, look at what your customers told you about your company and your competitors. What do they love about your startup? What do they love about the competition? What do they wish were better?
You are looking for insights on what attracted them to your business over the competition.
Fourth, use the brand positioning formula I mentioned earlier. [Your Company] helps [your customers] by [our unique solution].
Create at least 20 positioning statements. Then choose the top five positioning statements you enjoy the most. Once you are down to the top five, select the statement that resonates most with your team.
Fifth, create your unique selling proposition around this position. Why is a unique selling proposition valuable?
Geico could have said they were the least expensive car insurance. Instead, they claimed that in 15 minutes, you can save 15% or more by switching to Geico. This specific claim gives customer clarity that talking to Geico is worth their time.
Finally, take your new positioning statement and add it to your website copy. The more often you repeat your message, the easier it will be for people to know what you stand for.
Need some inspiration? Here are some examples to consider for your positioning statement.
The most effective way to create your positioning statement is to talk to your customers.
Once you have this data, sometimes it’s hard to get your wording exactly right. Here are a few examples of brand positioning statements to give you an extra creative edge.
Coca-Cola inspires happiness by providing “the real thing.”
Coke was one of the first to market. One positioning angle they play heavily on is that they are the real deal because they were first. Every other soft drink brand is a copycat.
It’s a strong position. But it’s difficult to not come across as old and outdated either.
Pepsi attacked Coke right on this nerve by using slogans like:
This is an excellent example of how to position the market leader.
This is why having a strong unique selling proposition will create a defensible moat before the competition attacks.
Nike helps athletes become champions with quality athletic wear by investing in the latest technology.
What athlete doesn’t want to win?
Heck, winning goes beyond athletes. Gamers, entrepreneurs, and real estate investors want to win. Who doesn’t want to win?
Nike personifies the will to win. Its name, its slogan, and its commitment is a drive to become a champion.
The name Nike even means “victory” in Greek. Nike was a goddess who symbolized victory. (Source)
And Nike chose a slogan to represent victory. “Just do it.” You might first think this slogan is rather fuzzy. But when you stop to think about it, victory begins by taking action.
Finally, Nike’s commitment to innovation is a commitment to victory. Athletes want that extra edge. It may be one degree that separates a winner from a loser. So athletes are willing to invest in the latest technology to go from 211°F to boiling at 212°F.
Apple helps you challenge the status quo. They do this by making innovative, beautifully designed, and simple to use tech products.
Apple is the golden standard by many marketers. They continuously craft a high-end, innovative product that appeals to the young-at-heart.
The execution of their comparative ads with “I’m a Mac, and I’m a PC” was flawless.
First, they positioned all other computer brands as a PC. HP, Dell, Lenovo, and all other brands were an old, uninteresting, and up-tight nerd. Then there was Mac. He represented a young, attractive, and laid-back creative. Want to be seen as young, hip, and laid-back? By a Mac.
More and more SaaS startups are applying comparative advertising to their marketing with content. It’s unheard of to get conversions of 10% from traffic to sales. Further, these pages can rank for your competitor’s brand keyword itself:
And in case you think this is a fluke, take a look at what happens when someone Google’s Thinkific:
According to Advanced Web Ranking, branded keywords often have 50-100% higher click-through rates than unbranded keywords:
That’s a lot of traffic potential at a high conversion!
Apple also avoided the product line extension trap. Almost every Apple product has had a new and distinct name:
Hewlett-Packard (HP) is another leading computer brand.
Can you name any of HP’s products? You might know they sell printers, cameras, and calculators. But very few people remember what products they have.
These examples should give you a taste of how to craft your startup’s brand positioning strategy.