Things have changed for everyone over the past 15 months. For my business, Covid was the second wave of major shifts that came over a two-year period. All this change left me reexamining many things, including our identity.
This is the story of why and how we — a branding and marketing agency — chose to reposition our brand and what you can learn from our approach.
In early 2019, my two business partners were talking retirement, leaving the fate of the company in my hands. As an overachiever who’s not quite ready to spend all my days on the golf course, it was a no-brainer. I was ready to take over.
We sailed through that first year. With the help of long-time clients, some new ones and my talented staff who picked up additional responsibilities, we entered 2020 with bright eyes and high hopes.
You know what happened next.
For many of our clients, 2020 was a year of reevaluating marketing budgets and investments in technology. So, we all pivoted to the new normal.
By early 2021, we found ourselves looking in the mirror at a reflection that was a bit unrecognizable. Evaluating our own marketing efforts, we took the advice we offer others: start with brand positioning.
What Is Brand Positioning?
Positioning, to be clear, is one small piece that falls under the branding umbrella. It’s not as sexy as a logo, photography and fonts (yes, we find fonts sexy), but one could argue it’s more important.
Without positioning, you’re like a traveler without a road map. You’ve got big dreams to see the world, but without clear direction, you’ll eventually find yourself lost and wondering where you were going in the first place. So, write that positioning and let it serve as your road map to all the things you want to accomplish.
But where do you start?
This formula is a good place:
(Your company) is where (X audience) comes to find (Y service) in order to accomplish (Z goal).
Seems simple. But it takes some effort to fill in the blanks with something that is relevant to your audience, inspiring to your employees and meaningful to your business. A lot to pack into one sentence, but worth doing.
Whether you do it in-house or outsource, the process is the same. There are many questions that need to be asked and answered, conclusions to be drawn, and writing that needs to be drafted, tweaked, approved and presented.
Before putting anything on paper, start with an open mind. Expectations or pre-conceived notions of how your positioning will look in the end will only hamper your journey. Then, organize yourself. Create a workbook with an outline of your approach and use it to compile your data.
There are plenty of approaches devised by smart people on the internet that follow a relatively similar pattern. You can find one of those or download this template we created. Here are some thoughts on completing it:
- Review the element map to understand the four quadrants you’ll need to define. They include: brand values and capabilities, customer needs and drivers, market opportunities and brand vision.
- Ask questions of everyone in your organization to help you define quadrant elements. Don’t be too rigid in the way you present them. Remember, you’re in search of a differentiated positioning, not a recitation of what executives want to say about your business. Give people the freedom to answer in their own way (try an anonymous survey). The more information, the better.
- Review and draw conclusions from these answers to complete your key attributes grid. Flexible thinking is key here. It’s tempting to define your business as “the best (insert product here) you can get.” If you are in a competitive space with similar companies, seek out the ways in which you are unique. If it’s not your actual product, maybe it’s the experience of working with you or the way you approach a problem or your point of view.
- From the value attributes, complete the proof grid, which defines the value you bring to your customers and how you prove it.
- Define your audience, market and competitive alternatives, keeping in mind that your market and audience may be different from the ones you defined in the past. Take a hard look at what you offer and who might really care about the value you bring. You might open up a whole new universe.
- Place key elements into the positioning framework so you can see everything in one place, including your market category, competitive alternatives, key attributes, value + proof and customer segments.
- Complete the element map and write your basic positioning statement. From there, all other marketing copy will come. Also, create sample copy to show how to apply the positioning to each audience you serve. Express your value to each of your stakeholders.
And you’re done.
Well, not quite.
You still need to get buy-in from your organization. This is not a step you want to skip. Those on the front lines are the face of your organization, and if they’re not on board, your positioning means nothing. But don’t worry. They helped create it, so they’ll likely nod their heads as you present your findings. If there’s disagreement, have those discussions and decide which elements should be adjusted before finalizing it.
Then, make it official. Roll it out. Make a big deal about it. Cater a lunch. Throw a party. Do whatever is in your wheelhouse. Your positioning is a foundational, actionable element of your brand. If done right, everyone will be behind it and proud to be a part of it, which can only make your business better. We know because it worked for us.