A Start-up Primer
How will you position your new brand in the market? Simply throwing it haphazardly into the mix is never enough. You must find the gap it will fill, find the people it will serve, create the niche it will attend to…and then communicate all of that in a unique way that makes your brand highly visible and oh-so-sticky.
The way you start your business will determine how your brand develops and operates. The beginning really is that important. Today, I’ve compiled my list of top questions I ask entrepreneurs who are ready to launch their start-ups (and who are often unsure about brand positioning).
Whether you think you’re ready to release your start-up to the world (or your town,) or you’re just rolling over a business idea in your head, you will benefit from the asking and answering of the questions I’m sharing here, in this, a comprehensive brand positioning primer.
Join me, to learn how to position your brand as something the market NEEDS…so it can become the brand that you want to see in the world.
Questions and Answers, for Start-up Success
- What problem does your start-up solve? This is where your start-up must be unique. It should solve a so-far unsolved problem or solve a problem in a way that no other brand is solving it. No one is going to take the time to switch from one brand to another if there’s no positive difference in the value they will receive. Do it better. Do it differently. Communicate that. Or learn the hard way that cookie cutter brands will crumble.
- Is there a reason this problem hasn’t been solved yet? Some research in this area will help you to learn why no one else has jumped on the great idea you have. There is a chance that no one has thought of it; however, there’s a better chance that no one has found a way to make it work. Find out why, and you’ll be much closer to figuring out how you can make it work…and work well.
- What is your WHY? Every successful business owner has a WHY, and it’s what takes them farther than any desire for profit could ever take them. Want a WHY that will escort your brand into the future? Then you must follow your heart and start a Passion Project—something that you would do even if you weren’t being paid. Find that passion and use it to define your brand and position it in the market.
- What are your brand’s corporate values? You’re going to need at least five, and they will be the guiding principles in your brand positioning…and every other decision and communication surrounding your brand. Stick to demonstrating these values in everything your brand does, and you will naturally attract those people who share and respect those values (and who will prove to be your dream clients).
- What is your brand’s promise? What does your brand promise to do? Or to relieve? Or to eliminate? Or to enhance? This promise should be the culmination and focus of every business move you make. It should be made clear and kept, because without fulfilment of that promise, your brand will suffer dire consequences, starting with an erosion of its reputation. Keep that promise, and your brand will be on its way to building the trust necessary for growth-supporting sales and ongoing success.
- What USP will be at the heart of your brand’s marketing? A USP (Unique Selling Proposition) is a must for brand positioning. Without one, your brand will be swallowed by the pile of other, more unique, competitors. Ask friends, family and colleagues what they think makes YOU unique, and then use that to make YOUR BRAND unique. Communicate this through your visuals, content and language…and of course, through the market position you choose for your brand.
- How will your brand serve? Notice I didn’t use the word “sell.” This may seem a bit unconventional, but that’s precisely the reason that it works. Focus on serving your target audience, every day. Give advice, on-demand, in social media groups. Publish free guides with a focus on educating. Conduct webinars, podcasts and other forms of instructional programmes. Plan and strategise the ways in which you will reach your target audience, including those messages and instructions that will prove to be most meaningful, relevant and useful to them. This will endear ideal customers to your brand, prove your expertise and build trust. The next logical step for anyone you reach will be to ask, “Where do I sign?”
- Have you calculated your brand’s benefits value? This is different than its monetary value. It’s the equation that your potential customers will use to calculate the value they expect to receive. You see, every customer will invest in a purchase. There’s the time they spend researching your brand and buying the product. There’s the money they spend. And there’s the energy they exhaust in making decisions, enduring social pressures, making life adjustments and more. Those are the costs. They will “subtract” those from the benefits they receive, including the product, the time they’ll save, the ease they’ll add to their lives, the status they’ll obtain, the respect they’ll earn, and more. For anyone to make that purchase, they must feel that the net result is a positive…that they will have more after the purchase than before. Conduct this calculation, under the same stresses and variables your ideal customer experiences, and if the net result is negative, then it’s back to the brand drawing board for you.
- What is your brand story? Those who subscribe to the ideas that your brand puts forth will want to know more: more about how your brand got started, what drives you and how your experiences have shaped what you’re offering to them. They will look for similarities between your story and theirs. They will look for clues to the authenticity of your brand. And they will ultimately use that story to decide if they will continue a brand relationship…which may result in becoming a client. This story is important for you, too. It will help you to determine your WHY and will give you a much clearer picture of how unique your brand is and where it should be positioned.
- Who needs your brand? These are your ideal customers: the ones who not only have the problem you’re solving, but who will wholly appreciate your brand and who will gladly pay you what you’re worth (and still know they’ve gotten a hell of a deal).
- Who doesn’t need your brand? Do not waste your time, energy and capital targeting people who do not have the problem your brand solves or who will never see the value your brand has to offer. I would rather see an entrepreneur target a small pod of people with a niche product than see that entrepreneur “spray and pray” in hopes of hitting the right spot. This only serves to dilute your brand, and will cause it to miss every brand positioning mark.
- Who will you NOT do business with? There will undoubtedly be people who come to your brand who are incessant questioners (askholes)…always second-guessing the integrity of your service or the way you do business. These are the same people who will grumble about price and show no appreciation for your intellectual property. You don’t need these people in your start-up, in your long-term business…or in your life. You will feel compelled to serve a few of them in the early months and years, but soon, you will learn to see the signs and decline their business before the consultation.
- Where will you find your ideal customers? This is a big challenge, and something you must determine before you have any chance of effective brand positioning. Follow brands similar to your own. Hang out in the same places as people who have the problem you’re solving. Gather clues. Listen. You’re the detective here, and your findings will lead you to underground pods, rich with those people who will buy from, advocate for, and come back to your brand…all because they need what you’re offering.
- How will your personal brand contribute and support your corporate brand? Decades ago, a big corporation could exist and grow without much question as to who was behind the logo. Now, consumers virtually demand to know about the people behind the brand. Why? Because people want to buy from people…people who share their values and understand their struggle. Let your name be known. Stand out as a force within your brand. Get personal and share. And get a feel for how you will communicate this in your branding and marketing strategies: because it will affect how you position your brand.
- What do you want people to say about your business? This may sound like a simple little question, but in fact, it’s huge. Your brand will not develop based on what you tell people it is. However, it will become what consumers say it is. With this [always] in mind, build your brand, branding and marketing strategies around how you expect your audience to receive and react to your brand. What kind of impression will it leave on them? What will they say about it? These are your biggest brand builders. Do your research. Get into their shoes. Give them the fuel necessary for taking your brand where you’d like it to land.
- How will you secure profit and recurring income? As a start-up entrepreneur, it’s important to look ahead to building a strategy that will create goals and “shoes to fill” for your brand, and those shoes will guide you in positioning your brand. However, understand that there will be a timeline, and in order to facilitate growth, your brand will need to establish a steady stream of profit (not revenue) first. Only after you’re paying the bills, paying yourself and investing money back into your brand can your business grow—in offerings, in geography or in target audience. This metred type of growth strategy may take a bit longer, but it will support a stronger brand with more longevity.
- Will your brand take a social stand? And why? Not too long ago, a business was frowned upon if it took a social, political or religious position. Now, taking a position can actually help brands to attract and keep their ideal customers—as long as it’s the right position. If your brand will become known as a socially conscious one, choose a cause that aligns with your brand’s mission, vision and values. Choose one that also appeals to your target audience. And be sure to go public (social media, etc.) with the work you’ll do for that cause. This is great way to connect with like-minded businesses and individuals.
- Have you planned for competition? If your brand idea is brilliant, and it’s positioned and marketed properly, you will [eventually] have competition to deal with. This is not a bad thing, and you should not be fearful. Instead, anticipate who the competition will be, why they will feel the need to compete, how they will attempt to compete, what resources and people they will recruit to help them…and how you will respond. One thing I suggest you never do is plan on (or inadvertently get into) a price war. This is a situation in which no one wins. Once you enter, there will be no end to the back-and-forth, and worse, your brand will come to be known as the “cheap one.” Your brand’s value will suffer. Another part of planning for competition is making sure that trademarks, copyrights and patents are in place. Protecting your intellectual property is key to keeping competition in check…and to keeping your brand alive.
- What change do you expect your brand to bring to the market? This is important, because if you haven’t envisioned this change, then your brand isn’t going to gain the visibility it needs to get attention from your ideal customers. Foresee the change your brand will elicit, and also how that change will shake up the market. Your brand is the stone dropped in the pool. The location you choose, and the height from which you drop that stone, are your brand positioning. The ripples created are the shake-ups in the market—and the extent to which they’ll reach is up to you and your brand positioning decisions.
- What are the educational challenges? You may have identified the people who have the problem you’re solving, and they REALLY need your help. But do they know it? Are they ready to seek the help and accept the help? Ground-breaking brands often need to invest in education, to not only “rub salt in the wound,” but to show people how their lives could be better, if they just commit to changing and trusting. This can be difficult, and it will often involve having to convert “haters”; however, those people, in the end, are often the most loyal brand advocates. Position your brand to get their attention, and then move forward according to your brand strategy.
- Have you been clear? This covers everything from your brand name, to your strapline (if applicable), to your fame name, to your website’s content, to your social media posts, and more. No one is going to take the time to decipher something that isn’t clear from first contact. People are busy. They have short attention spans. Any time they have to spend figuring out what your brand offers (and what it’s about) will become a negative in their value equation.
- What will your brand name be? For many start-ups, this is the first question; when in fact, it should be one of the last. Wait to name your brand until you discover why you’re in business, who it will serve, what it will offer, and how it will create something unique. Be clear. Speak of benefits. Use words that will get the attention of those you’re targeting. Remember that your brand name isn’t about clever word tricks or creative prose—it’s about coming up with a name that supports your brand positioning…that says this is why I’m here.
- Where will your brand be in five, and ten, years from now? Looking ahead is crucial to building a brand that will last, on the first attempt. Your brand will grow to fill the shoes you create for it at start-up, so build the brand you want to see in the world. If you plan on adding personnel or selling your brand, then building it as a personal brand, married to your name, is not a good idea. Start with the end in mind, and that end will be more fruitful.
Starting a business is an exciting time, full of anticipation for what the future holds. The temptation to jump in and “wing it” can be powerful. However, you can increase your brand’s chances of surviving and thriving if you make the time to take the right steps, in the right order and in the right way. Brand positioning is one of those all-important steps.
Learn more about how you can make your brand more visible to all the right people by registering to attend one of our B.R.A.N.D. Building Bootcamps, scheduled for various dates in both the UK and Canada. Reserve your spot early and save more than 66% off the regular price.