This article has been written by Aaron Chichioco. Aaron is the chief content officer (CCO) and one of the web designers of Design Doxa. His expertise includes not only limited to Web/mobile design and development but digital marketing, branding, eCommerce strategy, and business management tactics as well. For more information about Aaron, visit http://designdoxa.com/about-us/.

Being a new entrepreneur, one of your initial actions is to make sure that your brand is correctly positioned in the industry, as well as knowing how your customers perceive you.

Reaching the correct target market will allow you to analyze your competitors and apply SWOT analysis to gather data to create a strong brand positioning strategy.

The Importance of Brand Positioning to Startups

As a startup, it’s easy to get caught up with things like product development, crafting marketing strategies and brainstorming on unique ideas to capture a wider audience. But one mistake most startups make when it comes to brand positioning is doing it too late.

As a new player in an industry, startups need to get a quick start on identifying exactly what their message is and how it fits in the marketplace.

Once this is set, they can then work on the product to back up the branding claims, and the necessary marketing strategies to spread the word around.

Branding Statistics and Trends

Before we dive into the branding techniques, take a gander at these notable branding stats.

  • 60% of people decide whether they’re attracted to a branded message based on the color alone. Additionally, how a brand uses color affects the visibility and reinforces brand recognition by up to 80%.
  • 90% of purchases are influenced by visual factors. As a side, the brain processes images 60,000 times faster than it can words. This is the reason why a significant number of companies choose a visual for their branded logo.
  • An Instagram stat shows that 70% of US brands are using the platform.
  • Brands with consistent branding expect to earn 23% more annually than those that are inconsistent in their branding.
  • 64% of consumers say they trust a brand more if they share the same values. In a similar vein, 13% of consumers say they would pay 31-50% more for products and services if they were under the impression that a company is making a positive impact on the world.

Now that you’ve got an idea of how branding can impact consumers’ minds, let’s move to define exactly what brand positioning is.

Brand Positioning Defined

In its most basic sense, brand positioning is the conceptual space you want to own in your target market’s mind. The main idea is to identify and attempt to own a marketing niche for your brand, with the goal of creating a unique impression in customers’ minds so that they associate something desirable and specific with your brand that’s distinct from the rest of the market.

To achieve this, a company can use strategies that include pricing, promotions, distribution, packaging, and differentiation from the competition, among others. Speaking of which…

Types of Brand Positioning Strategies

Arm Wrestling

This type of strategy is applicable when there is a well-established market category, but no clear market leader that is way ahead of everyone else. Here, a brand attempts to take on the market leader and, essentially, beat them at their own game.

This was the case in the early days of Coke and Pepsi, where the two brands had to constantly compare themselves against each other to try to gain market share. One advantage of this strategy is that audiences already have a clear frame of reference for what it is you’re offering.

Big Fish, Smaller Pond

Here, the idea is to focus on a smaller sub-segment of an existing market. This strategy works best if there is an underserved market segment, for which you can create a niche. This is what a lot of marketing agencies are doing, positioning themselves as a specialist of a specific service instead of being a full-service marketing firm.

Reframe the Market

In this strategy, brands make the benefit highlighted by previous market leaders are irrelevant, or even obsolete. For example, you can do this if your product or service features an innovation previously absent from the market, or if there has been a recent shift in market needs and expectations.

This is what the iPhone did when it first came out – which turned out, not just reframed the market, but completely changed the industry.

Speaking of which…

Change the Game

This is reserved for when there is no market category for what you’re offering. This is also applicable when what you do doesn’t exactly fit into an existing category or if a new need that isn’t yet served by existing market categories emerge. This was the case when Uber first came out.

5 Brand Positioning Techniques for Startups

#1. Come Up with a Unique and Value-Based Positioning Idea

To truly claim you own space in the minds of your target market, you need to identify a position that’s not only unique and distinct from the rest of the marketplace, but also one that gives consumers a reason to buy based on the value of your products.

Of course, the key to this is providing evidence that you can actually back your claims. You can do this by presenting customer reviews on your website, or providing a more detailed look (via case studies, for example) into how your products/service actually operates.

Providing evidence of the value you’re offering enables you to build trust right off the bat – a crucial element for startups.

#2. Craft your Positioning Statement

Speaking of stating your value, your positioning statement is a one or two-sentence declaration communicating your brand’s unique value to your customers relative to the competition.

A simple way to do this is by identifying the following things:

  • Target Customer – A concise description of the attitudinal and demographic group of customers.
  • Market Definition – The market category you’re competing in and in what context your brand is relevant to your customers.
  •  Brand Promise – The most compelling (either emotional or rational) benefit you’re claiming to provide.
  •  Reason to Believe – The most compelling evidence that your brand can deliver on the promise.

Once you’ve figured out the above, you can fill it in as such:

For [target customers, [company name] is the [market definition] that delivers [brand promise] because only [company name] is [reason to believe]. 

In 2001, Amazon had this:

For World Wide Web users who enjoy books, Amazon.com is a retail bookseller that provides instant access to over 1.1 million books. Unlike traditional book retailers, Amazon.com provides a combination of extraordinary convenience, low prices, and comprehensive selection. 

#3. Research your Competition

In its most basic sense, this should entail being able to identify:

  • What products your competitors are offering.
  • What their strengths and weaknesses are.
  • What marketing strategies they’re using successfully.
  • What their position is in the current market.

Understanding the above will give you a clear enough idea of how to position your value offering in a way that makes it truly stand out from the crowd.

#4. Analyze your Customer’s Perspective

A great way to position your value offering as unique from the marketplace is by putting yourself in your customers’ shoes. What motivates them? What are their pain points? What are their needs that aren’t being met?

When you’re able to empathize with your customers, you’ll have a better idea of how to convince them that what you’re offering is the solution to their problems – a solution that you can best provide.

#5. Test and Measure

As a startup, you won’t get your branding strategy spot on right off the bat. This makes it paramount to evaluate your positioning strategy, especially early on. You can do this by simply asking your team the following questions:

  • Is the positioning differentiating today?  To make sure that it is, during your research process, you can map various positioning directions. This will help identify where there is whitespace in the marketplace.
  • Could the positioning be sustainable long term? Because of the market dynamics and customer behavior change, you’ll need a positioning statement that forward-thinking enough for it to be relevant in, say, five years’ time. It not only has to be right for today, but it also has to be sustainable for tomorrow as well.
  •  Does the positioning align with your vision and strategy? This is crucial if you’re going to be able to fully commit to your positioning and have it resonate with your target audience.

There are plenty of other questions you can ask your team to help evaluate your brand positioning strategy. The important thing is to understand that you need to do this regularly to ensure that yours remains relevant to your customers.

Final Words

As alluded to earlier, while there are a ton of things you need to pay attention to as a startup, you should never neglect the importance of working on your brand positioning early on. You can keep working on your products, but you’ll only have the chance to make a great first impression once.