Branding and marketing go hand in hand. Marketing strategies built upon a weak brand won’t see much traction. A strong brand stands out from the crowd; while a business can have many things it needs to establish itself in the market—from a valuable solution to a memorable name and logo—if it can’t demonstrate how it differs from its competitors, it won’t gain the attention of consumers.
The first step in identifying a company’s meaningful differentiators is to determine what makes it unique and how that uniqueness is a strength that makes the brand superior to others. When consumers are clear on these distinguishing factors, they are more inclined to listen to a brand’s story and learn more about why it is the better option for buyers. Here, members of Forbes Agency Council explore how companies can identify what makes them unique and then market those differentiators well to target audiences.
1. Focus On What Customers Need From You
Focus on what your customers uniquely need from you. One of the best ways to do this is to start with a simple question: “What can you do now that you couldn’t do before?” This will give insight to what impact you are having. Often, we find that clients miss this truth for another, and actual differentiation is left on the table. – Gavin Baker, Baker Labs
2. Understand How You Solve Your Audience’s Problem
I have a statement that I share often with brands and leaders at the rapidly scaling companies we work with: “Standing out among the competition in your marketplace isn’t about watching your competitors and copying them. It’s about listening to your target audience and understanding how you solve their problem.” If you can do this, then you’ll be able to tell the right story to the right audience. – Arleigh Vasconcellos, The Agency
3. Embrace Your Quirks And Let Your Unique Voice Be Heard
Lean into how you’re different from a product standpoint as well as from a brand tone perspective, embracing those areas where you’re quirky or different. Remind yourself often that when others zig, you zag. The personalities and people within a company are what make it stand out—more than the actual differences in products or services. Find your unique voice and let it be heard. – Scott Harkey, OH Partners
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4. Dive Deep Using A Discovery Process
We use a discovery process that really gets to the foundational pillars of a brand by looking at heritage, personality, strategic intent, marketplace dynamics and ownable points of difference. It incorporates both internal and key stakeholder views. Then, we push those key insights through a funnel to determine what the real essence of the brand is that ignites its differentiating story. – Jim Heininger, Dixon|James & Rebranding Experts
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5. Showcase The ‘Soft Skill’ Values Of Your Customer Experience
Even if a company offers similar services or products as its competitors, the customer experience it provides is likely different. Showcase those “soft skill” values in a marketing strategy to distinguish the unique experience only their organization can provide. – Hannah Trivette, NUVEW Web Solutions
6. Look At What Your Clients Like And How They Express It
Look at what your consumers and clients like about you and how they express it. Is it your customer service? Is it the quality of delivery? Is it the product or service itself? If it’s one of these, which elements can you go deeper into to continue to discover further points of differentiation? I think the best way forward is through the response of your audience. – Christopher Tompkins, The Go! Agency
7. Ask Your Sales Representatives About Your Uniqueness
If a company wants to understand its uniqueness, it should ask its sales representatives. The sales reps are selling the value and uniqueness of the company every day. They know what prospects and clients respond well to and what they don’t like. Your sales reps will almost always have a better pulse on your company’s uniqueness than anyone else. Trust your sales reps; they are the face of the company. – Cedrick Webb, Smart Digital
8. Create A Personality For The Brand
The key to standing out is to create a personality for the brand. What does the company stand for, and how does it demonstrate that? Then, every tool in its marketing mix should embrace this. Over time, it will become clear! – Leeza Hoyt, The Hoyt Organization, Inc.
9. Find Out What Differentiators Customers Find Meaningful
If a brand doesn’t know what makes it different from other companies, then it will be tough for that business to stand out. But often, businesses emphasize the wrong aspects of their products and services. Differentiators are only valuable when they are meaningful to the customers. Talking to your customers is the best and easiest way to find out how a brand stands out. – Yan Zhang, XYZ Advantage
10. Read Consumer Reviews To Determine Competitors’ Shortcomings
Plenty of research goes into figuring out how to differentiate your brand, which informs your marketing strategy. Consumer feedback is a valuable resource for this. Read positive reviews about your own business to find what makes you stand out. Read your competitors’ negative reviews to find their shortcomings in meeting consumer needs and expectations. Which gaps can you fill, and how can you make this known? – Chelimar Miranda, Medical Advantage
11. Workshop Your Company’s Founder’s Story And Origin Story
When you workshop a company’s founder’s story and origin story, you can often uncover some really rich, distinctive narratives about the brand. When coupled with the traditional brand positioning elements, a strong storytelling program will help you to develop really unique messaging that your competitors can’t duplicate in any meaningful, authentic way. – Cooper Munroe, The Motherhood Inc.
12. Try This Hack To Understand What Makes Your Brand Unique
Here’s a life hack for identifying your specialty: Write your company name along with the names of your top three to five competitors on a piece of paper and ask your customers to write one or two words describing each company. Look at the results to see how they feel about each brand. This will give you a foundational understanding of what makes your brand unique. – Dmitrii Kustov, Regex SEO
13. Reflect On Your Brand Pillars And Why Your Business Started
I always advise brands and companies to go back to their brand pillars and remember the reason why they started. Addressing these two questions can help unlock the personality of the business, which in turn will help you find out what makes it unique. – Anastasia Cecchetto, Ace Influencers
14. Offer The Best CX And Focus On Customer-Centric Strategies
Offering the best customer experience possible and focusing on customer-centric, problem-solving strategies are the way to go for any business. Not only do these innovative practices help you maintain your edge in today’s competitive market, but they also set you apart from competitors by providing clients with added benefits and value they can’t get anywhere else! – Kamaljit Singh, AMZ One Step
15. Leverage Social Listening Tools To Shape Your Narrative
Social listening is an invaluable tool not only to identify what makes your brand unique but also to learn how that differentiator makes a tangible difference in your customers’ lives. Implement brand mentions across search engines and leverage social listening tools to keep a finger on the pulse of how consumers speak about your brand, then use those insights to shape your brand narrative. – Jonathan Schwartz, Bullseye Strategy
16. Figure Out The Benefits Your Products Offer Your Customers
Most companies think that their product features make them unique. They don’t. What makes you unique are the precise benefits that your products offer your customers. What your product delivers and how it goes beyond merely delivering it makes your product unique. Once you have figured this out—the unique selling proposition of your product—you can market it with a strong competitive edge that your competitors lack. – Candice Georgiadis, Digital Day
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Author: Expert Panel®, Forbes Councils Member