Brand positioning can either make or break your brand in the B2B space. When done correctly, your brand holds a high standing in its category, increasing your brand’s profitability.
We want that.
But, if your brand is positioned incorrectly (meaning, your brand is not different enough in its industry or category) then you risk losing clients to other B2B competitors.
Because people are hardwired to notice what’s different. The better your clients can differentiate your brand from brands in similar markets, the more you will stand out to your specific clientele.
Before crafting your brand’s positioning, design your ideal client. Who are you marketing to? Why will your brand make their lives easier? How does your ideal client prefer to connect with brands? Answering these questions, conducting market research, and holding in-depth interviews will help you determine what makes your ideal client tick and helps you focus and uncover your brand’s differentiation.
Once you have an understanding of your ideal clients, the brand positioning can begin.
First, we need to better understand brand positioning.
What is B2B Brand Positioning?
Brand positioning is the process of aligning your brand in the minds of your target clientele. The goal is to create unique impressions in your clients’ minds so that they associate something desirable and specific with your distinct (different) brand.
When crafting your brand’s positioning, identify a niche that you can “own” and corner that market to increase profit margins and avoid commoditization:
A DOZEN WAYS TO DIFFERENTIATE (Marty Neumeier)
|Our product/service||Unique in our category|
|Our customers||Look who thinks we’re great!|
|Our large size||We’re big because we’re good|
|Our location||No direct competition in our region|
|Our speed/ease||Faster or more convenient|
|Our low pricing||We won’t be undersold|
|Our high pricing||We’re not for everyone|
|Our quality||The best in our class|
|Our wide range||Everything you need in one place|
|Our small size||Personal service from the owners|
|Our people||The best-trained employees|
|Our friendliness||Service with a smile|
Symptoms of Poor Brand Positioning
Poor brand positioning often rears its ugly head in the form of a brand spreading itself too thin. A great example would be an architecture firm that does a lot of work for many different categories: from healthcare to government agencies to small businesses and large businesses.
This architecture firm is poorly positioned because they have no focus. From a branding perspective the healthcare industry clients may not like this firm because they seem too catered towards government agencies, and other clients may not see themselves represented in this firm if they are a small business but see a variety of large business clientele in the client roster.
In this example, the architecture firm has too many identities and can not be well known for one specific thing. They risk losing clients and becoming just another architecture firm with no defining differentiators.
Here are a few symptoms of poor positioning to look out for when crafting your own positioning:
– you often offer your services at discounted rates
– you change your positioning to fit each prospect’s perception
– you give away expertise before an engagement has started
– you let clients self-diagnose and look to them for transactional solutions
– you modify terms for each engagement
Instead of falling victim to the above symptoms, develop your specialization and plant your stake firmly in the metaphorical ground of positioning. When you have a strong positioning, you will begin to attract the clients you want instead of an array of poor-fit opportunities or clients you’d rather not work with altogether. As your experience builds, you’ll begin to become more well known for that particular specialty or differentiation and that’s where higher profit margins and more opportunity come into play.
The key thing to remember about brand positioning is that it will happen whether you take specific steps to cultivate it or not. Clients will naturally associate your brand with something; it’s up to you to ensure that association is positive by actively strategizing ways to position your brand the way you want.
Defining Your Brand Positioning
Before diving into defining your brand positioning, let’s break down what a brand is and what it isn’t.
A brand is not…
- A logo
- An identity
- A product
Rather, a brand is a gut feeling that customers get when they see or interact with a company, product, or service.
Furthermore, a brand is a relationship between the brand and its audience that has both quality and depth. It is something that changes as the market shifts and as customers evolve.
Defining your brand positioning aligns your brand with its target audience, it also serves to unify your brand’s messaging across all channels. And, when all is said and done, you will hopefully have crafted a strong, purpose-driven positioning to guide your brand forward.
Here are five steps to crafting an effective brand positioning:
- Determine your current brand positioning. Look at what your audience associates your brand with right now. Is it an association you want? How can you shift that association to something even better?
- Design ideal clients through in-depth interviews, market research, and profitability.
- Identify your brand’s direct competitors. Who are your main competitors? Identify 1-3 competitors in your industry that truly stand out. How can you come out on top?
- Craft your unique positioning. Based on the positioning of your competitors, carve out a niche market for your brand. Position yourself either in something completely new or find that differentiator that revolutionizes a previously taken-for-granted market.
- Test the efficacy of your brand positioning by running through a few tests:
- Are you charging a price premium? Brands with good positionings can charge more for their offerings because clients want them.
- How often do you turn down opportunities because they do not fit within your positioning? It’s good to say “no,” especially when positioned properly because it means you can focus on the projects you like and are good at instead of taking anything that comes your way even if it’s outside of your scope.
- Will clients go out of their way to choose you even if it’s inconvenient? Test the effectiveness of your positioning by determining whether or not your client will travel (or pay you to travel to them) to receive your offering. This is a direct indication of the demand for your offering and bodes well for you if clients are willing to go the distance (literally) to work with you.
Types of Brand Positioning Strategies
There are many different types of brand positioning strategies that serve some industries better than others. Here is a breakdown of five common positioning strategies:
This positioning strategy works well with professional service brands who highlight their expertise in a specific industry. To be effective in this positioning, your brand will need to have experience and credibility in said industry so that your target audience knows it can trust and rely on you. That credibility can be built through content creation, podcasts, events, or good old fashioned word of mouth.
As opposed to industry specialization, this strategy focuses on a specific role within an industry or organization. Maybe your company wants to champion graphic designers and provides a service that makes their role easier. Carve out that specific role and watch as your brand becomes the go-to for that specific role.
Niche service positioning
A brand positioning under a niche service provides a very specific service or product and serves as an expert in that industry. With a niche specialization it can be assumed that no one else is able to serve that specific market and so the brand is successful as the only one out there that is doing it.
Be careful, though! Eventually a niche brand positioning could be met with competition as other brands move into that same industry and the offering becomes a commodity.
Here, the focus is on giving clients the same offering as a competitor but for cheaper. Look at Fiverr.com. They are a digital marketplace for freelance services with relatively low prices. It works for them but is not always a successful positioning route.
Quality of service positioning
Lastly, you can try to position your brand as the highest quality in your industry. Disclaimer: this positioning is difficult to pull off and I wouldn’t recommend it unless your brand can prove its quality is unparalleled. Everyone says their brand has the best quality so it is difficult to claim this and still differentiate your brand from the rest.
Repositioning a brand comes with its own unique challenges. Perhaps you realize that your brand is not different enough from the competition or that the niche you once held is no longer unique. Perhaps sales are trending downward and it is time for a change.
Repositioning your brand is the process of changing how your target audience perceives your brand. It is all about redefining your differentiation. Sometimes this means looking at brand architecture to ensure your different offerings are reaching the right audiences or perhaps a flurry of new competition forces you to reconsider the direction of your brand. This may mean changing your positioning strategy, shifting to a new market, or combining two markets to establish a new, completely unique positioning.
Positioning Statements and Truelines and Taglines, Oh My!
Once you have crafted your brand’s unique positioning it is time to write a brand positioning statement. This statement is a full sentence or two packed with information and details about your brand’s value as it relates to your target audience. It is a concise message to clarify and solidify your marketing strategy.
With your brand positioning statement down, the next piece of content that needs to be written is your trueline. A trueline is also for internal use but simplifies your positioning statement into one succinct line. It is something true that you can say about your brand and that no other competitors can claim (it is unique to you).
Lastly, a tagline should be crafted. A tagline is externally seen by clients and customers. It should be short and snappy and grab your target audience’s attention quickly and be informed by your trueline.
Let’s look at some examples of effective truelines and catchy taglines:
|Adidas makes sports apparel for those who strive to excel.||Impossible is nothing.|
|Audi makes cars for people who take the road less traveled.||Never Follow.|
|Citibank knows that money is only a means to happiness.||Live richly.|
|Disneyland is the world’s favorite amusement park.||The happiest place on earth.|
|Kashi wants the world to eat a healthier breakfast.||Seven whole grains on a mission.|
|McDonald’s is the leader in fast-food convenience world wide||I’m lovin’ it.|
|Nike helps you find your inner athlete.||Just do it.|
|Taco Bell is the leading alternative to hamburgers.||Think outside the bun.|
|Virgin is the airline with a noticeable difference.||A breath of fresh airline.|
|Whole Foods cares about the health of the community.||Whole foods. Whole people.|
Measure Your Brand’s Positioning
Are the right people noticing your brand? How are they interacting with your brand? Is your brand providing a unique offering that no one else has? Are you profitable?
Now that you have crafted a brand positioning and given it a little time to breathe, it’s important to ask yourself those questions to measure the effectiveness of your positioning.
There are two different forms of metrics (hard and soft metrics) that, when looked at in conjunction, create a clear picture of the success of your brand’s positioning.
Hard metrics deal in quantitative measurements, looking at numbers, data, and other calculated results to determine the success of a brand. Monitor hard metrics like web traffic, retention rates, and profit margins against a benchmark to determine how successful your brand’s positioning is.
|Hard Metrics||Practical Applications|
|Web Traffic||More traffic tells you you’re drawing in a crowd. (Tip: Soft metrics can tell you if it’s the right crowd).|
|Retention Rate||Are your clients coming back for more? A high retention rate signifies you’ve found your positioning.|
|Profit Margin||Well-positioned brands can charge a premium because of their specialization.|
On the other hand, soft metrics take a qualitative approach and deal with elements that drive engagement, conversations, and This could look like client surveys, feedback, brand awareness, and sentiment scores.
|Soft Metrics||Practical Applications|
|Client Surveys||Ask your clients what they think of your brand. Their honest feedback will give you direction.|
|Brand Awareness||Take to social media to find out if your brand is being talked about!|
|Sentiment Score||But how do they really feel about you? People may be aware of your brand but to figure out whether that awareness is positive or negative, measure your brand’s sentiment.|
A brand’s sentiment score looks at emotional language in things like comments and reviews and creates a score based on the negative, positive, or neutral language surrounding a brand. Software like Cision and Mention are great tools for sentiment scoring.
The combination of hard data and soft metrics should give you a good idea of where your brand’s positioning lies. It’s a balancing act between measuring profit margins and connecting with your clients in the right way.
At this point crafting your brand’s positioning is advantageous for everyone: clients, employees, leadership, and all other beneficiaries. We’ve covered a lot; from the process of positioning your brand to the reasoning behind having a clearly defined positioning to the importance of differentiation in the eyes of your ideal clients.
Successful B2B brands all have unique and specific positionings that enable them to continue to market to their clients.
Producing content, establishing credibility, gaining a loyal following – it all comes naturally when your brand is properly positioned in the right field. Assess your brand’s current positioning. Are you where you need to be to reach your ideal clientele?
How can you better position your brand to truly stand out in your own unique market?