A brand positioning strategy isn’t an afterthought for your startup. Here’s why you need it now.
Have you ever heard founders and entrepreneurs describe their startups as their “babies?”
I totally get it. They work day and night to nurture their big ideas. Everything else falls by the wayside so they can give their fullest attention to their startups.
These are the ventures of their lifetime. They want nothing more than for their companies to succeed. Or, even become a legend… a unicorn.
They go through the emotional rollercoaster. They endure the pain, the hard work, and the 24/7 grind. Many compare starting a new company to giving birth — which for some part is true.
However, thinking about your startup as a baby could derail your progress.
Your Startup is NOT the Cutest Baby on Earth
I’m a parent to three beautiful children. My kids are smart, funny, athletic, artistic, polite, and [fill in your favorite positive accolade.]
I believe they can do anything they put their minds to and whatever the outcome, they’re the best at it. I can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t love them and I know they will turn into the world’s greatest [fill in an admirable profession] when they grow up.
Ok, I’m a mom and moms are allowed to say these things. However, entrepreneurs who describe their startups as a “gifted child extraordinaire” that can do anything and please everyone are stifling the true potential of their “babies.”
Unlike a baby, successful startups don’t try to be the best at everything and appeal to everyone. Instead, they focus — on their core competencies, their ideal customers, and their unique value propositions.
But how? With so many ideas and possibilities, you need a rigorous filter to help decide where to invest your time, energy, and resources.
This filter is your brand positioning strategy.
Brand Positioning Strategy — the Guardrail for Your Baby to Grow
Developing a clear brand positioning is the best way to focus. It helps you articulate where and how your venture is going to succeed as you answer these essential questions:
- What business are you in? (Frame of reference)
- Who is interested in buying your product or service? (Target consumer)
- What unique benefit do you provide? (Competitive point of difference)
- How do you provide that benefit? (Brand purpose, reason to believe)
There is a misconception that startups don’t need a branding strategy until they’re ready to make an investment in marketing.
However, brand positioning isn’t just about sales and marketing. It’s the foundation of a breakthrough business.
It helps you identify the big idea that will resonate with your ideal customers. It helps you clarify and articulate what drives your business and rally those who will influence the growth trajectory of the business behind your “why.”
In fact, your brand positioning strategy isn’t just about your customers. Here are the key audiences you need to address:
Living in the Boston area, I have encountered many running enthusiasts who train relentlessly for the Boston Marathon through snow and freezing conditions. I often wonder what motivates them to push the envelope day in and day out.
The most common answer I hear is, “I’m running for [someone important in my life/a cause that’s meaningful to me.]” They’re driven by a bigger vision that they believe in.
The same goes for your employees. To work in a startup isn’t all about the free lunch and “bring your dog to work.” People who are attracted to entrepreneurial endeavors want to be part of something bigger and build something meaningful.
Your employees have to put in the work, wear many hats, and often forego a secure corporate career path. They need to know that they’re working for a company driven by a vision they can stand behind.
Your brand positioning strategy will allow you to not only articulate why you’re in business but also why your business matters to those that you serve — giving your employees a clear sense of purpose and empower them to do the right things for your business.
For most startups, getting funding from investors is a critical part of their growth and success.
One of the things that investors look for is an unbiased frame of reference (e.g., target market, competitive landscape.) You’d harm your chances of getting funding if you enter a conversation thinking “no product is like mine,” or “this widget can help everyone.”
In addition, investors look for brands that have clear value propositions because innovative and consistent brand positioning communicates reputation, integrity, market standing, and vision.
For example, Autumn Adeigbo received funding for her fashion brand because she was able to articulate her vision and the products’ relevance to the market. She was able to attract investors who stand behind her visionary approach.
Of course, your startup won’t take off if you don’t have the right customers.
Successful startups focus their efforts on building a fiercely loyal following (even if it’s small) that will tell the world about their products or services.
A strong brand positioning strategy will help you stand out, gain the trust, and rally the support of your fans. Make them feel like you are designing products for them.
Your startup can’t be everything for everyone. Identify an audience that will disproportionately appreciate your offering and you’ll build a loyal fan base that supports your growth.
No matter how small your company is, every time you interact with your audiences is an opportunity to communicate your vision and build a brand image. Having a brand positioning strategy from the get-go will ensure that you’re strengthening your brand identity at every touch point.
Crafting a Brand Positioning Strategy Doesn’t Have to be Complicated
Many startups we work with are reluctant to start branding work because it’s perceived to be time-consuming and labor-intensive.
However, it doesn’t have to be this way if you know the right questions to ask and have access to the right skills to peel away the layers so you can reveal what’s going to make your employees, investors, and customers tick.
Over the years, we have developed and refined a simple framework that helps our clients nail their brand purpose and positioning. This approach is tailored for the fast-pace and creative startup environment to help you win hearts and minds while gaining the necessary traction… without the fluff.
Learn more about our brand marketing solutions and how we can help you tell your story.
Yes, a brand positioning strategy is very important for any company. Because this will be the "brand image" of the company itself, which makes it unique and different. Where consumers can be loyal to a particular brand, especially if the brand's motto really can reflect the company itself.
Interesting information you've got here! You need a successful brand positioning the brand and company to be successful. We need to maintain a certain image for our brand for it to sell in the market. Without a brand positioning strategy, the brand and company can suffer in several ways.
It takes time to transition from the old ways to the new ways. For example, we do have a concept of dwelling much on the physical growth of a business. We forget to grow a business from within to. If we follow your advice, we will surely move to a greater height. I really like you points; very strong ones.
It's nice to hear the distinction between real babies and "marketing babies." I agree with all the points you listed. If you really stand by your product or business then you know how like-minded people think and who your target audience is. I think you could even take a step further and create a questionnaire before starting your business and see what your customers are looking for.
A good positioning strategy achieves superior market position indeed. This is a good read.
Yes that is true that Brand Positioning shouldn't be complicated. Determine how your brand is currently positioning itself. Identify a specific target audience. Understand your competition. Create a brand positioning statement. Evaluate your brand positioning statement. The language describing your positioning is important because it helps differentiate your brand from competitors. Your goal is for the target audience to think of your company as the top provider.
Great way to keep brands simple and straightforward. This piece also lists how to build a proper foundation for the employees, customers and investors. Thanks for sharing.
Always having the "why" in mind is very important. If you want your brand to have a big influence, then you have to know who your targeting and how it will affect society on a global scale. Thanks for sharing.
Typo- please delete
I definitely could see why being selective with your brand is important for the development process. For your brand to grow, you definitely need to scope out the competition and make yours stand out in some kind of way. I also like the notion of leaving out the technical jargon and getting straight down to business.
Good to distinguish between a baby and a marketing project. Creating a bond between you and your fans and knowing who your core audience is, is important for any business. Thanks for sharing.
Wow Radha, you definitely have a way with words! Based on this article I wouldn't hesitate to contact you about developing a brand positioning game plan. I will sort my ideas and questions out a will be contacting you soon.
What is in the minds of consumers when they remember the company's brand. The end result of a brand positioning strategy is success in creating a focus in the minds of consumers and a strong reason why consumers must buy the product. Thank you because I really enjoyed getting useful information in this article.
Love what you said about how branding isn’t really labor-intensive. It just really takes the right way to collaborate ideas and the right questions to ask.
For me, the most important factor to consider when it comes to establishing a brand for a startup are the customers. They’re the top priority, and all else follows.