If you missed it: Part 1 of 5 (Branding Yourself), Part 2 of 5 (9-part Branding Strategy)

Today we examine the foundation of your branding strategy. Without this focus, you’ll go nowhere.

1. Know who it is your trying to reach. Your ideal client. Your target market. Identify, as specifically as possible, this group. Nail them down demographically and geographically if such exists. And what some call “psychographics” – know well your customer’s likes, dislikes, and what how they live and make decisions. You might call this “understanding your buyer persona.” Know the language and the mannerisms of this group.

When I was a missionary, we worked in a French-speaking country of Africa. In Benin (where I am right now), the common language of all the various people groups was French. It was the common denominator of all groups and it’s what was used on the surface. But you can guarantee, even among the well-educated (where French was well-spoken), when conversations turned to arguments, these Africans would break into their own dialect! That’s where you can draw from a well of emotions and you can best articulate your pain. Even more so, out in the rural area where we worked, French was not spoken by many people. If we had wanted to, we could have chosen to speak in this common “state” language and we might have made inroads into the psyche of certain ones. But we were seeking to change hearts and wanting loyal followers, so we were compelled to go deep. As we learned not only to speak the local dialect but as well we learned to live and act as closely mirrored to this group as people as an American family possibly could – well, I believe we made long-lasting and loyal inroads into the lives of the Aja people.

As you identify WHO it is you are trying to reach, this will keep you from going “generic”. The most effective strategy will always improve if we narrow our reach rather than go for a mass market appeal. If I’m a street evangelist, rather than standing on the street corners in a busy intersection hoping someone will listen to my rhetoric, if I were to determine the needs and pains of a specific group of people and choose to live and dwell among them, my reach would go deeper.

2. Articulate clearly and repeatedly your core message. Once you identify the pain/need of your targeted segment, you will want to identify two messages that will help you reach this group. First, it’s your internal message. “We want to be the #1 choice for (your industry) among (specific demographic). We want to blow away (our competition) by (doing something different than your competition).” This is your rallying cry. It’s posted on your employee breakroom or on a post-it note next to your computer. Secondly, your external message is developed. This is not necessarily a mission statement because those tend to be mostly about ourselves and offer non-resonating generalities (“We pledge to the best service and best quality for the best price.”). Rather, try articulating a message that resonates with the pain/need of your target market (“We will offer the fastest oil change for Moms and Dads who would rather spend time with your kids than have to mess with automotive repair.”) When you do this, you generate a host of key words and phrases that resonate with your target market segment. These are words that include their pain, your specific solution, your differences, and their benefit for choosing you. You will use these in ALL your marketing communication so that these keywords remain associated with YOUR brand (not to mention the SEO benefits which we’ll talk about later).

3 – Compete effectively. As you seek to excel in this area, make sure you know: (a) who you are competing against, and (b) the factors/influences working against you. First, know your competition. For a private Christian university, you might think the most obvious competition would be other private Christian schools. But most institutions likes this will also (and should also) include public schools as well. Secondly, know the forces at work against you. This could be as obvious as the economy or less obvious as some rumor that is circulating about you (Obama has heard a few of these about his religious affiliation). Do your research as best you can. Be in touch and tuned in. Ask around. People love to talk.

If any small business is going to compete effectively, you know the deathnail is being generic. As we discussed earlier, you could spend all day talking to people about how great your service is, how efficient your equipment is, how friendly your employees are, and how great your prices are. John Jantsch, founder of Duct Tape Marketing, does something with his clients. He extracts the first few paragraphs of a business’ website (or brochure) and then snags the equivalent from that of their competitors. He then erases all mention of identifying marks. Like the ol’ Pepsi challenge, he lays out the information side-by-side and typically businesses can’t identify which is there because they all look the same! Be unique!!

One thing we did recently at a coaching clinic seem to bring home the point. First of all, ask yourself, “what is my competition doing BETTER than me?” Then figure out a way to bridge that gap – developing the products or services so that you can compete more effectively head-to-head with your competition. By doing so, you are stripping away their ability to be different! But then the fun begins! This is where we spend time with clients brainstorming – DREAMING! Dream outloud (with duct tape applied firmly over the mouths of naysayers and critics) about what you could do that would WOW your customers! What could you do/offer that none of your competitors provide? DON’T YOU DARE GO GENERIC! Whatever you do, it’s got to pass this test: does it cause your customer to stand at attention and ask, “Really? You do that? I’ve never heard anyone do that before!” Then set your sites on achieving this goal. It may take months or even years, but unless you’re dreaming about it NOW, you’ll never differentiate yourself. Could you be the ONLY one in town to offer _____? Could you be the only ______ distributor in your county? Could you offer the _______ guarantee – the only such guarantee of its kind in your industry?

That’s the foundation for an effective branding strategy. Know who you are trying to reach. Consistently speak your core message(s). Be different so that your customers have a reason to look your way.

Ready to showcase your brand to the world? In Part 4, we’ll look at establishing your branding elements, including how to not only have an exciting ONLINE presence, but as well to engage in traditional branding strategies that will go a long ways in enhancing your reputation and credibility among your customers and prospects.

GO TO: Part 4 of 5 (Your Branding Presence)


p.s.  This is your LAST CHANCE to register for our next FREE Double Take LIVE Broadcast with Sheila McDoniel.  The call is tomorrow (TUESDAY, 9/9) at 12:30 CST and I’ll be attempting to call in LIVE FROM BENIN, WEST AFRICA so don’t miss it.   We’ll also be making an exciting announcement on that call regarding a future interview we have planned so you don’t want to miss out!!  Here’s a HINT:  What do the Marketing Twins and NBC (yes, the TV network!) have in common?  Find out tomorrow at our Double Take LIVE Broadcast so register now!