Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Building a market share that drives positive margins rarely happens by accident. It requires business awareness, a feasible concept, a team of experts and thoughtful expression of your values — to investors, vendors, customers and employees alike.
Stakeholders, including the community, will form conclusions and opinions about your organization without your help, so it’s best to proactively put branding messages into the world that reflect how you want to be recognized.
And above else, successful branding should help you stand out above the rest of the pack.
1. Principles to help differentiate from the competition
Let’s start with a definition: Brand positioning is the act of purposefully creating a perception or image of your organization in the minds of investors, employees and other stakeholders. It involves building credibility, projecting values, demonstrating a unique value proposition, differentiating from competitors and cultivating goodwill.
For example, some differentiated brand positions for entrepreneurs include being a leader in:
- Operational and financial transparency.
- Developing companies that generate market-beating returns.
- Support of and involvement in the community.
- Protecting the natural environment and conserving resources.
- Commitment to and development of employee skills, wellbeing and creativity.
- Managing economic, financial and liability risk.
A brand position can comprise any combination of differentiators, and it can get complex. If it’s not consciously controlled and developed, it may do more harm than good. A purposeful brand positioning strategy is essential to exercise more control over how to relate to a market.
Related: The Importance of ‘Positioning’ Your Brand When You’re Just Starting Out
2. Reframe your brand position to work for your growth efforts (not against them)
Every brand has a position, whether built intentionally or evolved organically. Some companies manage to reach success without considering how its brand is perceived in the industry. That being said, far more are falling behind in the race for lack of an associated strategy that lets the community and prospects know what it stands for, what it’s best at and if the organization fits the community’s values and preferences.
Clients and end users are after more than competitive prices and the best benefits. Likewise, investors want more than promises of superior returns. These benefits (e.g. demand drivers for the patronage of and investment in a business) are ubiquitous in the brand messaging of many ventures, but it’s important to go a step further.
Related: Why an Entrepreneur Needs an Elevator Pitch?
3. Reflecting on core competencies
Any plan to learn, improve and grow starts with an assessment. Think of this as akin to enrolling in an educational program, hiring a consultant or visiting a new doctor — all these processes start with determining a baseline.
Indeed, we can pursue new (possibly divergent) business opportunities, or we can throw cash into marketing and other traditional revenue-generating activities. But the most economically efficient and highest growth results from improving performance in current operations and highlighting those core competencies in branding and pitches.
Related: Six Reasons Branding Is More Important Than Ever Before
4. How to adequately measure performance
Most of us would like to be a leader in our space and magnetically attract opportunity, capital and talent. Fortunately, that’s entirely achievable with good strategic planning, data management and brand development.
Yet, that sometimes feels like a lofty goal, particularly if we don’t have an objective understanding of where we excel and in which areas improvement is needed. With the complexity of ventures, it can be overwhelming to analyze performance in such a granular and cohesive manner.
However, when we have the infrastructure and team to collect data in real time from each department or subsidiary in an organization, timely insights are immediately accessible. With such operational and financial data on hand, it becomes obvious where we’re pulling ahead and what we need to do to keep that lead and push further. Pair that knowledge with benchmarks for corporate performance, and the results are actionable insights to create a plan to refine and expand core competencies.
But how to determine and quantify what you do best?
- Request the feedback and perspectives of stakeholders.
- Reflect as a team with leaders and frontline members.
- Collect and review departmental and enterprise performance data.
We may know that we’re adept at generating returns, capturing market share and developing needed products and services, however, it’s much more valuable and compelling to know why — what enables us to perform well and how to maintain it. A value proposition backed by well-defined core competencies and supporting data gives dimension, personality and credibility to a brand image.
Related: 6 Secrets to Writing a Better Brand Positioning Statement
5. Setting an enterprise ahead of the pack
After looking at the data, you’ll likely have a good idea why stakeholders choose to work with and support you. If you can effectively articulate the factors that give you a competitive advantage, you’ll win new and profitable business relationships more easily.
What creates a compellingly differentiated brand position?
- Sharing your story and the human side of the organization.
- Highlighting evidence of values and ethics.
- Demonstrating how you create stable returns for investors.
- Showing how you create long-term value and make consistently good decisions by leveraging innovative business practices and tech.
- Creating a memorable visual brand (developing an appealing logo, complete with engaging color and imagery).
- Tailoring the brand voice according to the target market’s communication preferences and style.
Prospective and current investors, clients, employees and other stakeholders have many options for lending their capital, patronage, time and expertise. That being the case, consistent and sustainable success demands that you hone abilities and project them with clarity and confidence.
In pulling together actionable data, determining what an organization does best, working towards it doing even better and expressing strengths persuasively, the outcome is a brand synonymous with reliability and performance. This will inevitably lead to an excellent experience for all stakeholders.