Probably the least unique word to describe one’s brand is, well, “unique.” Almost everyone says they are but saying and being are two different animals. What’s more, some businesses and organizations can’t even identify to themselves what’s truly different about them among their competitors.
While we sometimes question our own personal “normalcy” (does anyone else feel/think/act this way, or is it just me?), that is the very self-conscious question businesses should be asking themselves. Does anyone else feel/think/act as we do? If the answer is no, that’s cause for great celebration (at least from a marketing standpoint) because that genuine distinction is the foundation upon which absolutely everything about your brand is built.
But…what if you don’t know how you’re different, or even if you are? Again, there is a lot of ground between saying you’re unique, believing it and, ultimately, proving it. You can almost hear Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders belting out “Brass in Pocket”: I’m special, so special, I gotta have some of your attention; give it to me! But how?
For every not, there’s an “is”
Sometimes it’s best to discover who or what your brand is by knowing what it’s not. For example, if you’re a small company with only a few (albeit dedicated and talented) employees, you wouldn’t make promises or claims that could only be delivered by a large staff. You’re not a big company, and that’s more than okay. It might just be better and exactly what your prospects are looking for.
Staying with our size example, because your company is not big, it is likely nimble, flexible, less bureaucratic and more customer-centric. When you’re assessing what your brand is not, always look on the other side of the mirror to see what it is.
Lead with who you are
While understanding what you’re not is crucial, be sure to meet prospects with confidence in who you are. Make sure that what you share about your brand is memorable and credible. Knowing how to pitch your truly unique brand also means knowing what your prospective customer wants. Easier said than done – not just in determining what they want, but also in knowing what you can deliver. Sometimes we are too close to our brands to discern that distinctive quality that really makes us stand out. A helpful approach might be to poll your current customers about what they like most (and least) about your brand or start insightful conversations online.
Get it on the table
For starters, sit down with your team (preferably away from the workplace) and make a list of your company’s pros and cons, strengths/weaknesses, is/is not’s. Talk openly and honestly about everything, from the clothing you wear to the way you answer your business line, the effort you bring to a client meeting, the quality of your product or service, and the manner and time frame in which it’s delivered. Nothing is too inconsequential in this important time of self-discovery.
Assign roles to your team
In the “mini-retreat” described above, decide whose role will be what going forward, once free discussion has concluded. Some of these roles might include:
o The Research Assistant: This is the one (or more) who identifies prospects and their needs and gathers information about your competitors’ strengths and shortcomings.
o The Sleuth: This is the “secret shopper” who engages first-hand with your competition to investigate what it does well and what could be improved.
o The Demonstrator: This is the person who is most comfortable pitching to potential customers the value of your brand and how it can benefit that particular prospect. This person may vary, depending on what is being presented.
o The Truth Teller: This is everyone on your team offering an honest assessment of what could change or be improved in your company. You can offer your suggestions anonymously, if this is more comfortable. Again, don’t hesitate to solicit your current customers’ opinions, too.
Be experts in a niche area
Many brands specialize in fulfilling a specific consumer need. Take every opportunity through every available means (and there are many!) to let customers and prospects know why you can be trusted as the niche expert they seek.
Focus on purpose
Here’s a great example, provided by author Jesse Lyn Stoner, of focusing on purpose: “When I’m at a cocktail party and someone asks me what I do, I have a choice about whether I want to talk to them or not. If I say, ‘I’m a consultant,’ their eyes glaze over, and they move on to the next person. If I say, ‘I help leaders and their teams create a shared vision and put it into action,’ they’re usually curious and begin to ask questions.” Focus on the end-result or experience your brand makes happen, not the services or products you provide.
Don’t copy, and don’t be copied
While knowing what your competition is up to is always good marketing practice, trying to replicate it will likely result in lackluster results and an identity crisis. Choosing a different angle within your particular industry is a more productive – and distinctive – tactic. For example, when Progressive Insurance developed a tool that allowed adjusters to immediately and accurately provide claims assistance at the site of an accident, it distinguished itself among the insurance giants and has since enjoyed great commercial success.
On the other side of the coin, don’t allow your own brand to be replicated. Once you’ve created and perfected an attribute that is truly exceptional, make sure it’s not something others can just as easily do. Pinpoint what is timeless and time-honored about your brand and ensure that your entire team makes showcasing and strengthening that asset their number one priority.
Our team of experts can help you discover what’s unique to you and, once identified, make the very most of your special qualities.
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