Widely attributed, but never proven as an Oscar Wilde quote, there is, nonetheless, no doubt that this message is more important today than ever. In an era where the number of social media users is approaching 2.5billion, getting yourself or your practice noticed has never been harder. Yet, with an audience that large (about 1/3 of the global population) it has also never been more crucial.
In the 1990's (*reveals age somewhat) I worked in a marketing agency. One of my major clients was Pepsi Cola, perhaps the corporate world's longest-suffering runner up. Like any solid competitor, it meant they had to find ways to fight harder, be more innovative and, of most relevance to this post, develop their unique positioning in the eyes of their consumers. In fact, a 1970's Pepsi Cola campaign is recognised as one of the earliest examples of brand positioning. Understanding the difficulties of competing head to head with a global mega brand, they had to create a new niche. Their launch of 7-up as the 'UnCola' was a pioneering play in brand positioning. Read more about it here
As explained by Brian Sutter in the previous link, brand positioning is about your audience's perception of you or your practice. Back in my day, it was all about your brand's USP (Unique Selling Position) and while these two concepts are undoubtedly related, the difference is that your USP focuses on the attributes of your product or service, that is to say somewhat 'sales focused', whereas your positioning is client-facing - that is, how you position yourself so that your clients see you distinctly in the market-place.
I literally think of it as 'what position do you want to occupy in the minds of people'?
When they think of you, what attributes come up? Successful global examples are - Volvo and 'safety', Subway and 'Eat Fresh' and the classic competitor positioning, Avis - 'We Try Harder' .
So, no panics - it's a matter of breaking it down and knowing where to start? Whether you're considering yourself (a personal brand) or your practice, the principles are the same. Ultimately, you need to develop an authentic brand positioning that speaks to your audience and then reinforce it on every level of your communication.
Here's a few tips and resources to get you started.
Step 1: Start with what sets you apart.
What do you continually get complimented on? What do you naturally do that other people think is great? What could you lose an afternoon immersed in? You need to get a bit awkward and ask your family, friends and colleagues what they think are your key strengths, particularly for a personal brand. You could also ask your long-standing clients why they love working with you and your firm. We need to ask others because our talents and strengths aren't obvious to us, it's just part of who we are, it's what we do. You could also try Marcus Buckingham's Strength Finder here.
Look for patterns in your feedback. Are their clusters of words - and how do they flow into your practice? Is it the gentle yet firm way you keep your clients compliant? Is it that you can always be relied upon to get the job done? Do your peers turn to you because of your reputation as a generous mentor? Is it the way you constantly come up with new efficiencies for your clients? Maybe you're just so dang pleasant to deal with?
A recurring theme for me in this exercise from family and friends was ' good dancer' - not that useful, but, hey, good to know!
Step 2: Use information about your talents, abilities and uniqueness to develop your positioning.
Hey, you say, I'm way too small to have a brand - but let me tell you, right now, at this very moment, big multi-nationals are spending gazillions of their marketing budget trying to understand how they can position themselves to appear as a small, niche business just like yours. You see social media, lets us talk to an engaged target market. Whereas, big multi-nationals have historically had the upper-hand in pre-social media channels such as traditional tv ads, social media enables ALL size businesses to have a connection with responsive markets. Greater engagement= greater results.
I love this line from Jason Demers, "Specificity is a trade of volume for significance"
Another way of saying it is, don't try to get the whole world to like you, focus on communicatig to your people, your tribe, your peeps. The part of the market that your positioning resonates with. You can read Jason's article on personal branding here.
So embrace your smallness, consider it an advantage and set about developing and communicating your brand. Knowing some key strengths and abilities - think about what kind of website will support this positioning? What colours? What writing style? Choose a profile picture that you feel captures this and be consistent across all social media channels. Think about what content will confirm and reinforce your positioning? The key words here are consistency and authenticity. There's no need to pretend to be loud and extroverted, if your true strength lies in your introverted and quite persistence.
Branding and positioning distinguish us from our competition. As human beings we are hard-wired to notice what is different. In a world where we are bombarded daily by thousands of advertising messages every single day, differentiation is crucial to your branding success. Click here for another great resource.
As Dr Suess put it, ' No-one is more you than you' .
Find some keywords that capture your or your firm - ideally be able to express your positioning in a sentence or two.
Step 3: Now Get Amongst It!
You can ask around, formulate an amazing brand positioning but ultimately you gotta put it out there so you can connect with your customers.
Share your enthusiasm, demonstrate your skills, abilities and knowledge, keep reminding your audience of your strengths and re-iterating your uniqueness. Ideally aim for weekly engagement, but don't over-think it. You don't have to alter the spin of earth with every single post. It's consistency of new content that is the key, particularly as Google loves frequent updates so it assists with your rankings. Read more about the benefits of fresh content by clicking here.
And lastly, some tips - the ABC of positioning:
A is for authentic.
It must resonate with you. It's not what you wish you were. #keepin'itreal
B is for branding.
Everything you do must support this positioning. From the fonts you chose, the colours on your website, the language-style you write in and the social media platforms you use.
C is for character
It's all about PERSONALITY NOT PERFECTION. Revealing some human-ness, some flaws, some humour and some vulnerability (authentically, of course), helps people to connect with you.
In fact, developing a brand personality including showing some vulnerability and humanness can work to your benefit - click here to read more.
Got you thinking? Let me know your thoughts about positioning statement. And gratuitously, here's me in an apparent strength - having a dance with my family a few years ago!! WARNING: Can't be unseen! Click here.
If you've got no idea, where to start with getting online, click here for a recent post I wrote about getting your business on-line.