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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Branding and positioning are critical for company growth (really)

Whether it is about focusing the effort of every employee on improving customers’ perceptions of your brand or using social media to help shape your brand’s reputation and perception, you need to engage customers and prospects in a meaningful way. Successful branding helps build and maintain superior results.

Some leaders mistake branding for positioning and vice-versa. This can have serious consequences. Branding is not about your logo, tag line, and web site stickiness. While those are components, branding is about your organization’s core identity and what that represents.

Because branding precedes positioning, you need to answer a few questions:
  • What makes our offering different?
  • Can I succinctly describe what we do for our clients?
  • Why do clients hire us or use our products and services instead of our competitors?
  • Can I name my company’s strengths?
  • Do I have our 30-second elevator speech down pat so I shine at networking events?
If you cannot easily answer these questions, you may have branding (i.e., company identity) problems. Some tips:
  • Write down on a piece of paper all that your business means and represents. What do you do for your clients? What is your vision and differentiating value-add?
  • Write down how you want your clients to perceive your company and product/service offering. Consider more than “superior products” and "high-quality service.” Think about value-based goals such as trustworthiness, integrity, and subject matter expertise.
  • Speak with your clients. Learn why they hired you. Find out if they are willing to refer you to a colleague, friend or family member.
Market positioning is comprised of market segmentation and competitive differentiation. A market segment is a group of buyers who share certain characteristics. By defining buyer characteristics, you can effectively draw a boundary around a group of buyers, which keeps your marketing activities focused. Competitive differentiation means stating why your product or service is better than your competitors.

Positioning is about finding the right path to create a unique place among a crowd of competing brands. A marketer can adopt from different strategies like leveraging on existing brands, your corporate name, product features and benefits, or price-quality competitive positioning. Most important: build and share a story that helps your target audience understand how you can help them get the job (at work or home) done.

One excellent example of superior branding and market positioning is the cell phone company, Great Call (formerly named Jitterbug).

In 2008, they recognized a cell phone market segment with large, yet unsatisfied, demand. That market segment was millions of senior citizens who wanted to use a cell phone but found the high-tech, feature-loaded phones too complex and intimidating. Great Call recognized the opportunity and teamed with Samsung to create a cell phone designed to appeal to people over 50. The Jitterbug phone is over-sized, has easy-to-read buttons, and is very easy to use.

Great Call defined a large, profitable market segment and created a unique product by satisfying their customer’s most important requirements. Their superior market branding and positioning resulted in significant sales and company success.

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