When you intentionally differentiate your brand, you get clear on what makes your brand special so that you can best serve your audience.
I think it’s a pretty safe to assume that you’re in a saturated market/space/category/industry, especially in today’s digital-heavy world. And it’s probably also safe to assume that the question of how to differentiate your self/brand/business has probably crossed your mind.
From a high level, you understand the importance of setting yourself apart from others and that you want to have a brand that’s recognizable. But, the question still remains: How do you differentiate your brand?
Before you can choose how you’re differentiating, you need to understand what else is out there. What are you competing against? And I use that term loosely because there is absolutely enough to go around. However, it’s important to get a clear picture of the market. What other options are you competing against? And not just direct competitors but also indirect ones. Remember, you’re not just differentiating against other businesses but also other options the potential client may take, like learning how to do it themselves.
By understanding the overall space and the lay of the land, you can see where there is a gap in the market. You gain an understanding of how your direct competitors are operating and then use that to showcase what makes you different. The key, though, is to find something that you kick ass at while simultaneously being something that is not easily replicated.
Which leads me to the most important statement of today’s post: please do not differentiate yourself solely on price. What I mean by that is, do not put all your differentiation eggs in the lowest price [whatever service you offer] basket. Because, at the end of the day, there will always be someone who is willing to offer the same service for less money. And that’s not a battle you want to be the winner in. As a business owner, your goal is to make a sustainable income so that you can continue to serve and have a positive impact on your community. If you aren’t making any money, you can’t sustain your business – and how does that benefit your audience?
Now, all that being said, there’s a difference between positioning your brand as an affordable option versus the lowest price. The first is open to interpretation and doesn’t lead to a price battle. Plus, if you’re going the ‘affordable’ route, I’d imagine you’ve done some market research to know that by talking about your services as an affordable option, you know there’s a gap in the market that needs to be filled.
Okay, circling back to the main idea of this post – I’m going to walk through three common ways to differentiate your brand. If you’re in the beginning stages of your brand building, pick one. As you start working with more people and getting more clarity around your brand, you can bring in another differentiator. Eventually, you’ll create a brand that stands out in all three categories.
Ideal Client Differentiation
One of the most common ways to differentiate your brand is to hone in on a certain ideal client. Perhaps you’re a personal trainer and you only work with postpartum mommas. Or, maybe you’re a food photographer and you specialize in farm-to-table restaurants. You’re picking a specific area of expertise and owning it. You’re differentiating your services from others in the space by specializing in a certain type of client.
If you’ve been around here for any length of time, understanding who you serve is always, always the first step. If you’re brand new, no worries. Go off of assumptions – who you think you want to serve. And please for the love of all things, do not say, “everyone.” If that is your response, pause and click this post on why you need to choose an ideal client. Then, come back here and read on.
Service or Offering Differentiation
Another way to differentiate your brand is through your offerings and how you work with each client. For example, you’re a business coach and have noticed that others in your space focus on short-term programs, so you changed your offerings to be a minimum of one year. Or, maybe you’re a technology expert and realized there was a need for launch support, so focused your offerings around various technology needs around launching a program.
The benefit of focusing on offerings is that you don’t necessarily have to hone in on one specific ideal client. Instead, you’re specializing in a certain type of work. Yes, it’ll end up attracting a certain type of person, but you’re first niching down based on how you want to work.
The third way to differentiate your brand is by providing a unique-to-you solution. As a service provider, it’s pretty likely that there is a tried-and-true method for success in your space. For example, in my space, there is a standard of deliverables that a client can expect when receiving their visual brand. Whether they work with me or another designer, there is a 99.9% chance they’ll receive a logo, a submark, brand colors and font recommendations. However, what they won’t get with anyone else is the process for getting there. What’s unique to Witt and Company is the behind-the-scenes work we do to get clear on a brand strategy and then use that strategy to create a brand identity that my client loves and is excited to share.
In another example, I have a client who is in the food development space. There is a four-step process that all food research needs to follow. It’s common knowledge in her industry. So, what she’s done is add to that standard four-step process to make it unique to her. There is no one else in her category that will get the same results as her company because of the unique solution she provides.
Think about the common knowledge in your own space/category/industry and see how you can put a spin on it. How do most people approach the work and how can you do something different to stand out?
When you differentiate yourself against competitors, you’re being intentional about how you want your brand to be perceived. You understand you’re not the right fit for everyone but that’s okay. You have clarity around what makes your brand special and how to use that to best serve your community.
Differentiation, like everything else in the brand-building process, isn’t something that you will necessarily know right out of the gate. Be mindful of what you’re current clients are saying about you and what makes you different from their perspective. And, it’s okay if your key differentiator changes over time – as you grow and evolve, so will your brand. A key part of your brand strategy is how you position yourself in your category/space/industry. Of course it will update along with the rest of your business.
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