Launching the next never-seen-before category buster? Brand differentiation is probably not a problem.
But more likely, you're in an industry – business services? plumbing gaskets? – with dozens of competitors all offering pretty much the same thing. Setting yourself apart from the crowd is a huge challenge. But it's the best sort of challenge, because it forces you to drill down to the fundamentals of your business strategy.
To get started, here are 5 key questions that should help you locate your most compelling point of brand differentiation:
1. What can we do that no one else in our industry is doing? Identify the products, skills, capabilities, expertise and knowledge that are yours alone and give you your competitive edge. If you do not have any, it's time to get some. Look for service and operational advantages as well as product offerings.
2. What customer problems do we have a unique or superior solution for? Figuring out what the customer's problem is – that's the real key to brand building. Do not assum. Ask, and ask again. And do not restrict yourself to surface-level business issues. Also think about the human motivations and needs of the people you're working with. Your customers' pain points are not always where you expect them to be.
3. What unique ways are there to present or deliver our products and services? Sometimes differentiation can come more in the packaging and delivery than the product itself. Sometimes it's not really your product that matters. It's how your customers experience their interaction with your company in total. Which leads us to …
4. How can we create a customer experience that is like no other? Put yourself in your customers' shoes. What could you do to make them feel great, in a unique or unexpected way? Are there practices or techniques you could borrow (okay, steal) from other industries? Are there current best practices in your own organization that you can push to the next level?
5. How can our brand personality set us apart from the crowd? No, companies are not people. But a strong brand personality can change everything about how customers relate to your brand – for better or worse. Or you can have a bland, diffuse or absent brand personality, in which case nobody will notice or remember you. Do not make the mistake of confusing your brand's personality with customer personas, or worse, your CEO's personality. Think about the style, tone of voice and attitude of all your personal interactions with customers.
Branding is differentiation. Or to be more exact, branding is meaningful difference that penetrates every aspect of your company's operations and customer-facing behaviors. Get that part right and the rest is execution.