Brand positioning is the act of setting your business apart from the competition. As a small business, brand positioning is an especially advantageous tool because it doesn’t require an exorbitant digital marketing budget.
By making some minor changes to your content and social media strategy, studying your competition, and celebrating your brand’s unique traits and stories, you can create a reputation for your brand that stands out in your customers’ minds.
Here are 5 smart and quick brand positioning tips to implement in your small business:
1. Establish a brand voice and stick to it
Your brand voice is the way your company sounds when interacting with your audience. If you haven’t taken the time to come up with a few adjectives to describe your brand voice, now is the time to do that.
In the sea of generic-sounding online content, your brand voice is like the lighthouse that beacons your ideal customers to find you. Maybe your brand sounds luxurious like Chanel, or creative like Adobe, or cutting-edge like Apple, or cozy like Martha Stewart.
Dictionary.com has a unique and snarky brand voice. Their brand frequently creates posts on Twitter that incorporate slang and pop culture references like this one:
If Dictionary.com can use a strong brand voice to make the dictionary seem hip and fun, then your business can benefit from this strategy as well.
Once you identify your company’s brand voice, be sure to weave it into your emails, website, blog posts, and social media pages to build your brand positioning and develop a sense of trust with your customers.
2. Learn from your competitors
You don’t ever want to copy your competitors, but conducting some preliminary research to investigate their strengths and weaknesses can help you set your business apart. After all, it’s hard to separate yourself from “the pack” if you’re completely unaware of how the pack operates or what they stand for.
Let’s say you run a bakery that makes gourmet dog treats, and you’re about to work with a designer to create a website for your brand. You peek at a few other dog bakery websites and notice that they make it difficult to buy their products directly online – their customers have to fill out a contact form.
This is an important observation because you can differentiate yourself by making the buying process extremely easy on your website. You can also use this as a selling point in your digital marketing efforts by saying something like “Buy your dog treats in just two simple clicks!”
Notice what your competitors are doing, what media outlets they have been featured in, what they’re exceptionally good at, and what parts of their branding feel weak. Audit their websites and social media profiles to get a sense of how they operate.
Get curious about how you can avoid their pitfalls, and then take immediate action steps to implement these findings in your own branding.
3. Tell better stories
Any business owner can come up with formulaic messaging about his or her company’s values, process, and customers. But you can strengthen your brand positioning by diving deeper and telling stories that ignite feelings of curiosity and connection in your audience.
Humans love storytelling. We are fascinated by TED Talks, by biopics, by reality TV – by anything that feels like it might be honest and true.
Lagunitas Brewing Company tells the relatable story of how their company’s CEO began his first foray in the beer industry by experimenting with home brewing in his kitchen. Even though Lagunitas is now one of the largest craft beer companies, they use brand stories like this one to reinforce their DIY roots and connect with their customers.
The next time you sit down to write a blog post or Instagram caption, skip the generic marketing-speak. Instead, experiment with sharing a personal story about how your product or services came to be. Give us the details. Paint a picture of what your first days in business really looked like.
What are some unique memories or traits of your founders, staff members, and customers? You can highlight these on your website or sprinkle them throughout your social media to help put a human face on your brand.
4. Zig when everyone else zags
Don’t be the life coach whose website is littered with photos of people triumphantly standing on mountains, their arms outstretched in the air. Don’t be the coffee shop that posts stock images of a mug placed on a wooden table and surrounded neatly with roses and a laptop.
Your competitors are already posting that exact kind of content, and if you jump on the bandwagon you risk becoming another generic brand that blends in with your competition.
Try this instead: When you see a trend that irritates you in your industry, purposely turn the other direction and find a way to put your own spin on the topic.
Ramit Sethi distinguishes himself from other personal finance experts in his field by positioning himself against the grain. Millennials are tired of hearing the “Maybe if you stopped buying lattes you could buy a house” finance advice from every other expert, so he creates content and programs that encourage his audience to stop worrying about buying lattes and focus on “Big Wins” instead.
By purposely railing against a common trope in his industry, he attracts an audience that finds his content refreshing because he speaks their language and understands their needs.
If your branding has been feeling lukewarm, it’s time to shake things up. Take a stand, risk being controversial, run the opposite direction of your competitors, and zig when they zag.
5. Engage with your current audience
One of the biggest social media mistakes that small businesses make is getting caught up in the numbers game: obsessively tracking likes, comments, views, clicks, and followers while losing sight of the bigger picture.
Savvy online marketers know that while these metrics can give us insight into what is (and isn’t) working, at the end of the day your likes and followers do not equal sales. Rather than getting sucked into the “how can I get more followers” trap, build your brand positioning by engaging with your current audience and finding new ways to genuinely serve them.
You can use social media to ask your customers questions, pay attention to their responses, and use their feedback to pinpoint how to improve your business offerings.
Here are a few contents prompts to help you start a valuable conversation with your customers. Adjust each one to fit your business and industry:
- What is the one biggest challenge you have when it comes to...?
- What annoys you the most about…?
- What is the best customer service experience you’ve ever had with a business?
Your Unforgettable Brand
Brand positioning doesn’t have to take weeks of analysis or millions of dollars. All it takes is a willingness to stand out, try a few new strategies in your marketing, and shine a light on the stories, opinions, and people that already make your business the unique and delightful organization that it is.
if you follow the actionable steps outlined above, you will be well on your way to leaping ahead of your competition and creating an unforgettable brand.
Kay Dee is the CEO and Brand Strategist at Aventive Studio . Kay has designed logos, websites, and visual identities for a wide range of companies, and she now helps businesses scale through strategic brand development.