A business plan. A marketing plan. A financial plan. All kinds of planning goes into starting a small business. We’ve got one more to add – planning your brand positioning. For entrepreneurs with their plates already full with the logistics of starting a business, establishing a “brand” seems like putting the cart before the horse. But it’s not… your brand should be positioned alongside with your business concept, and perhaps it could even help inspire your other business planning.
What is a brand? A brand is the emotional connection forged and then continually perpetuated between a customer and a product, service, company, individual or organization. That being said, as an advertising and marketing agency focused on small businesses, we’re not particularly fond of using the “brand” terminology with start up companies. Branding is a critically important concept to understand, but it is misspent energy for most entrepreneurs. There are entire textbooks devoted to defining and giving examples of brands if you’re interested in branding fundamentals.
Now brand positioning on the other hand… that is a far easier to grasp and a better use of an entrepreneur’s time to master. Every small business should have its brand positioning down pat and the earlier the better.
What makes brand positioning or brand identity such a big deal? In simplest terms, every purchase has some degree of emotional motivation – whether it’s the carpet cleaner, where you hold a child’s birthday party, or which accounting firm you trust with your business finances.
Branding positioning is creating that emotional connection. Emotions develop a sense of loyalty, even if it is perceived. Loyalty results in increased or repeat purchases. Creating the right emotional connection between a customer and a company results in greater sales. And there you have it: your brand positioning impacts your bottom line.
Brand positioning is far easier than you think, and much easier than a business plan (you’ve already created your business plan, right?). Set a brand expectation (your biggest company asset) and continually meet that expectation. It’s almost that simple to develop a brand position.
For example, let’s say you promise to deliver your product or service within a specific amount of time. At a time of two-hour delivery windows, even narrowing it down to 15 or 30 minutes can be a competitive differentiator. Deliver the product or service on time, every time. You’ll become known for reliability – in other words, you say what you do and do what you say. That’s brand positioning because when customers think of your company, they automatically associate “dependable” with your name.
Branding is not creating an identity, a logo design or writing a tag line. Your brand positioning (your biggest asset) is the cumulative effort of delivering the product or service that the customer wants while meeting or exceeding expectations. It is the promise that you make and keep.
Too often businesses mistakenly think that by creating a logo or tagline they have in fact created a brand. The tagline, “best in the business” does not make it so. Continually delivering on your promise to customers makes you “best in the business” regardless of what your tag line says. That establishes the kind of brand value that stays with people even after locations or logos change, and it’s what will keep them coming back for more year after year.
*The preceding was written for KCsourcelink.com and originally posted 10-29-13.