This is a question that every major brand asks itself constantly and it is a question that every small business owner that wants to compete will need to ask as well. You do have a position in the mind of your potential customers who come in contact with your brand. From the moment they see your billboard, website or even business card they make certain assumptions about your brand and once those assumptions are made, you will have to work very hard to change them.
Many times I talk to small business owners who believe brand positioning doesn’t apply to them. “I just run a small retail shop here.” or “We aren’t trying to build a big brand.” I understand where these small business owners are coming from, but they fail to recognize that they are building a brand. You cannot choose IF you want to build a brand only WHAT KIND of brand you will build.
Let’s look at a few examples. Did you know that customers look at your restaurant as either the lunch place or the dinner place? If you are a contractor of some kind, you will almost inevitably be placed into one of two positions in the mind of your prospective clients. Either you are the quality guy or you are the guy with the lowest prices. If you are a retail establishment, you either offer the lowest prices or great service.
It is important that you realize we are talking about perception not reality here. Maybe you personally strive to offer great service, but in your customers mind you are positioned as the low cost provider and that is a BIG PROBLEM because if you raise prices thinking that your excellent service will overcome these rate increases, you will quickly go downhill because your customers are not coming to you for great service, they are coming for great prices.
Or, we could turn this around. Let’s say you pride yourself on low prices and don’t realize that in the mind of your customers they enjoy your personalized service. Because of this misunderstanding, you reduce your payroll expenses and provide a lower level of service in order to lower your prices thinking that will drive business, but of course in this case it would do the opposite because your clients are not coming to you for low prices in the first place and they don’t even appreciate the lower rates since they enjoyed the service you provide.
Here are a few tips for positioning your brand in the mind of your target market.
- Decide what you want your clients to think of every time they hear the name of your business. It helps to make a list of words that should come to their mind like, “Quality” “Low Prices” “Service” “Professionalism” “Prompt Delivery” “Quickest Response Time” and many, many more. Keep this list very short. If you try to get more than about 3 words into the mind of your prospective client, you need to shorten the list.
- Communicate this message to your employees and contractors over and over and over again, until you are literally sick of saying it. At our company CCBizPro we have three words that tell small business clients what we do. “Save,” “Upgrade,” “Grow” and we want to be positioned as the place to come for free information on saving money, upgrading systems and growing a small, physical location business. Notice that our website has these three words on the home page and in the navigation bar. All of our blog articles are in one of these three categories Every conversation I have with our partners or sales professionals or even clients conforms to a conversation about these three words. If you are not relentless, your brand message will not stick with your employees and partners and if it doesn’t stick with them, you can be sure your customers will never even hear about it.
- Conform everything you do to your desired brand position. Have you ever wondered how on earth Walmart is so successful in retail while offering such terrible service? Seriously, their service is not good at all and they know it! There brand is all about the cheapest prices and the largest selection so they have sacrificed a great deal to have that position in the minds of their customers and they have succeeded. When someone thinks, “Where can I find X product?” or “Who will probably have the cheapest price on X?” Walmart is positioned in their mind at this intersection. You are not Walmart, but you will also need to give up some things in order to focus your brand. I know restaurants that do not even serve dinner or breakfast because they are so dedicated to being the place to eat lunch. I know small auto repair shops who pay a lot of money in overtime because they are dedicated to the fastest turn around times, so when they get swamped, their people know that extra hours are required in order to maintain this position in the minds of their customers. There are retail businesses that will not carry certain products even if they know these items would sell, because it might damage their brand image as the areas only retail shop that specializes in one type of product. These are all examples of business owners giving up certain revenue streams in order to maximize their brand image and grow their business intentionally.
- Communicate your new brand position to your customers in every way possible. Are you building a new website? Your web designer had better understand your brand image and your site should be designed specifically around that image. Are you ordering business cards or taking out a yellow page ad? These items should look like the words you wrote on your list earlier. If you are the low cost provider, don’t get a glossy expensive business card. If your business is “the place to eat lunch” your yellow page ad should say that and your specials should be geared towards driving traffic at lunch time.
I have given you a lot of specific examples in this article, but keep in mind that these may or may not apply to your business. I know restaurants for instance who serve breakfast, lunch and dinner and that doesn’t mean they are not focused on building a brand image because the position they may want is “The restaurant that serves food whenever you want to eat” and in that case, they should probably open early and close late. The important thing is to identify how you want your company positioned in the minds of your customers and then relentlessly drive towards achieving that position in everything you do!