A (Kind of) Quick Guide to Brand Positioning

See a real life example of how one person defined their brand strategy and work through your own at the same time. 

Ben had a great job working for his family’s company.  He had been there a long time and had four kids to support, but Ben wanted to do something different. He wanted to go into business on his own as an independent business consultant. 

I know most people reading this are saying, 

“Ben should probably keep the job that pays him well, so his kids don’t starve when his business fails.”

Well Ben doesn’t care what you think, but he did need to figure out his plan before jumping ship. 

This is a real story about my friend. It’s an ongoing story, which I’ll touch on in future blog posts, but today we will focus on the part that relates to Brand Strategy.

Ben’s professional identity had been connected to the job he had for most of his adult life. He had a lot of experience but had not previously been in a position where he had to actively seek out new clients or work. He needed help figuring out how to do this.  

This is the path we took and something you can do for your own brand.

DOWNLOAD: Fancy Brand Positioning Statement [PDF]

If you don't have a printer you can write up your own sheet, like this.

You can think of a Brand Positioning Statement as a guide for everything you do as a brand. It’s an internal document, it is a reference for you to base future decisions off of. It’s your guide. It defines your focus. Whether you want to have a logo made, create business cards, start an advertising campaign, anything… You (or the person you’re working with) should know and reference the Brand Positioning Statement. 

Before you do anything you should ask yourself, 

“Does this new thing I’m putting out into the world fit into my overall brand strategy?”

Why it’s important. 

First, I want to make sure you know what a brand is. Marty Neumeier says it best in his book “The Brand Gap”:

“A BRAND IS A PERSON’S GUT FEELING ABOUT A PRODUCT, SERVICE, OR ORGANIZATION.”

To put it another way, your brand is how your customer perceives you. Having a defined brand strategy helps you guide your brand and influence how you are perceived through a differentiated, focused and consistent message.

The thing about Brand Strategy is that you are creating one even when you are not trying to. If you have no defined strategy in place, then you are likely putting an unfocused message out into the world, and that lack of focus becomes your brand. Which means your customers perception of you is: 

YOUR BRAND NAME HERE = UNFOCUSED.

Consistency turns into trust. So, an unfocused company is an untrustworthy company. That’s why it’s important.

Ben’s a trustworthy guy. I’ll vouch for him, but he needed a brand strategy to extend that trust beyond me. So, let’s get to work.

I like to start by digging into the personality of the brand (in this case it’s an individual person, sometimes it can be a large corporation). So, let’s learn a bit about Ben’s personality and things he believes.

Attributes

For Ben these are personality traits, professional traits, and maybe skills that he brings to the table when you do business with him. 

  • Process oriented
  • Listener
  • Curious
  • Humble
  • Researcher / Explorer
  • Organizer / Leader

For you, these could be attributes of a product, or your service, or personality traits that you or your team present to your customer. Try to come up with three to seven. If you come up with more than that narrow it down to the ones that are most unique to your organization. 

Essence

What does a customer get out of the deal when they work with Ben? What is their motivation for seeking out his services? What are the customer’s goals?

Essence connects to the goals of the customer. It should be as short and sweet as you can make it. 

For Ben:

First try: Analysis and planning focused on growing your business.

Trying to shorten it: Business strategy that creates growth.

Do the same for you or your company. What are customers looking to get when they come to you? 

The Positioning Statement

Starting with your essence and attributes, helps get you in the right mindset to do the rest. You can always go back and tweak things, but it’s a good starting point. The overarching goal of this statement is to find your FOCUS, and narrow it the best you can. If you keep things too broad it won’t help, so keep that in mind. 

Target Market

Who is your customer? No, I mean really, who is your customer? Who is your ideal customer? Who is the customer who becomes an advocate for your brand?

Another way to look at it, when you talk to (or market to) your customer who are you talking to? If you say, “everyone is a potential customer”, I say “nope, you’re missing the point.”

Remember, we’re focusing. 

Ben could very likely help anyone with a business in someway, but that’s not his target market. Who is he going to help the most? Who needs his services the most? Who does he actually want to work with?

His background is in privately held businesses across a variety of industries, to narrow it down more he put a range based on business revenue in this case:

Privately held companies with sales between $X and $X.

I’m not going to tell you the revenue range for privacy reasons, but you get the point. 

A target market can be a type of business, a group of people based on age, sex, etc. or it can simply be a project type, if you are servicing a very specific industry.  

Other examples:

Freelance Designer: “Startups and companies with Startup Cultures” - A type of company

Illustrator: “Product Illustration and mockups” - A type of project

Product: “Women ages 21-35” - A specific group of people

Setting a target market doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t take work or sales from people outside of that range. It means that when you put things out in the world and when you post things on the Internet, this is who you’re talking to. 

Category

Figuring out your target market can be hard (sorry about that). Here is an easy one. What industry are you in? What do you do?

Ben is a Business Consultant. I’m a Designer. If you run a company that makes shoes, your category is Footwear. If you have a startup that makes software, your category is “Software Development.”

Easy. Done.

Brand Promise

This one is real important. It’s what makes you DIFFERENT, REALLY DIFFERENT. 

Ask yourself some questions:

  • ‍What do you do that is different than what your competition does? 
  • ‍Why do you do it?
  • ‍What does your customer want from you?
  • ‍What do you give them?
  • How do they feel about it?

Occasionally this ends up being somewhat similar to the essence you already completed, but other times it can be more connected to why you do what you do. 

Simon Sinek, has a popular TED talk called “Start with Why” in it he says:

PEOPLE DON’T BUY WHAT YOU DO, THEY BUY WHY YOU DO IT. 

The first attempt for Ben feels too generic to me:

Solid information and constructive advice allowing companies to grow and be successful by providing them with accurate information, delivered in a usable format and in a timely manner.

The revised version added some of the personality:

Enthusiastic, thorough analysis and constructive advice, created by defining the problems your company is facing and developing solutions that lead to business growth. 

I’ll admit, I wish it sounded sexier, but it’s business consulting. Sorry Ben.

Reason to Believe

Another easy one. Why should your customer believe your Brand Promise? Typically this is just facts, your credentials, or your experience. 

For Ben:

Over 15 years in management and financial oversight for privately held companies. 

Put It All Together

Once you’ve defined your target market, figured out what makes you REALLY different, and given us a reason to believe it. You’re ready to throw it all together. Here is Ben's business Growth Distilled:

For privately held companies with annual sales between $X and $X, Growth Distilled provides enthusiastic, thorough analysis and constructive advice, created by defining the problems your company is facing and developing solutions that lead to business growth. With over 15 years in management and financial oversight for privately held companies Growth Distilled provides Business Consulting in an approachable and engaged manner.

Basically, you take the pieces and add some words to fancy it up as you see fit, In this example I threw some more description into the end that was influenced by Ben’s attributes. You can tweak your previous answers to make it sound great, just don't forget to focus.

That's Brand Positioning

After you’ve struggled through the process, go through it again. See if you can narrow the focus even a little bit more. Remember that focused brands are trusted brands. Also, remember that the more focused you are the easier it is to talk about what exactly you do and to do so in a consistent and authentic way. 

If you get stuck or want to talk through the process

Feel free to email chris[at]openco.space with questions, or if you are in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area lets grab a cup of coffee.

www.openco.space

Need a business consultant?

You can connect with Ben Borisch at ben[at]growthdistilled.com or visit growthdistilled.com

About the Author

Chris Fredricks

chris@openco.space

I am a Graphic Designer with a focus on building and managing brands. 

While working as the Art Director/Designer for the sun care brand Sun Bum for four years I saw first hand the impact a brand can have on people and the relationships that can be cultivated when a strong brand strategy is in place. It's what connects every part of the design process; from a business card to product packaging and everything in between.

I apply that past experience and knowledge to the work I do for my clients, and as an educator. As an Adjunct Professor at Kendall College of Art & Design, I encourage my students to look at themselves not only as designers but as entrepreneurs who have the ability to design an experience, creating brands that extend beyond just a pretty logo and make an emotional impact.

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