Building Your Brand. Part 2: How to Write a Brand Positioning Statement

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by Web Marketing Today. Practical Ecommerce acquired Web Marketing Today in 2012. In 2016, we merged the two sites, leaving Practical Ecommerce as the successor.

Every time customers experience your brand, you want them to remember what you do, why it is important to them, and why it is unique to you. By developing a clear expression of what is important to your customers and unique to you — and reinforcing it with every customer interaction — you will help your customers remember what your brand stands for. This starts with developing a brand positioning statement.

Developing a brand positioning statement involves four steps:

  1. Describe your customers
  2. Define yourself in terms of your competition
  3. Explain your greatest benefit
  4. Put it together into your brand positioning statement

1. Describe Your Customers

You start by examining your customers. Who buys your products or services? How would you define them as a group? They sound like an easy questions, but they deserve some serious thought. What do your customers do for a living? What is their income and education level? Their marital status? Gender? Religious and cultural background? Do they use your product or service at home or at work? If your customers are businesses, how would you describe those types of business as a whole? Make a list. Now determine what do your customers, as a group, have in common? How can you describe this group in three or four words?

Your goal is twofold:

  1. To create the broadest description of your target audience possible, while simultaneously.
  2. To keep it narrow enough to be relevant.

Few companies can actually describe their customers as “anyone,” but some good examples of broad descriptions with a defined focus are “business travelers,” “retired homeowners,” “working parents,” “small business owners,” “farmers,” “creative professionals,” “frugal people,”  or “anyone with an e-mail address.” When you’ve established who it is you’ll be talking to, and what they have in common, you can start to define what’s important to them.

2. Define Yourself in Terms of Your Competition

Every business, product, or service has competition. Even if you are introducing something completely new, you still have to compete with the “old way” of doing things or whatever it is people are already spending their money on that you now want them to spend with you instead. Blu-Ray discs compete with DVDs — and once upon a time, DVDs had to compete with VCRs. We tend to think of things in terms of what we already know and understand. Blu-Ray and DVD didn’t have to redefine home entertainment altogether, just the technologies that were currently available. VCRs, of course, were “like tape recorders, but for TV.”

For many businesses, defining this category is simple — a plumbing company competes with other plumbing companies, and law firms compete with other law firms. But in today’s world, many businesses are based online, and offer services that aren’t easy to understand on their own. So it’s important to frame what you do in terms that people can understand based on what they already know.

For example, if I were to explain Twitter to a friend, I would say, “It’s like a blog that is limited to 140 characters.” By saying, “It’s like a blog,” I have explained it in terms many people can understand, but I have far less to explain that way. Who do you compete with? When you’ve figured out how to describe what it is you do (in terms of your competitors), it will be easier to explain how you’re different and more beneficial.

3. Explain Your Greatest Benefit

Now comes the hard part. Once you’ve determined who your customers are, and who they’re likely to compare you to, it’s time to focus on how you’re not only different, but better. What can you deliver with excellence that your competition can’t touch because delivering it is baked into the very core of your business? This is often the promise at the core of your brand — a commitment to service, or quality, or safety, or having fun, or saving money. Think back to who your target audience is. How would they describe the quality that makes it better in a way that’s important to them? It’s often different than the way you might describe it internally.

There may be several things that make you different, but people will only remember one, so choose the best one: the thing that is most important to your most important customers. If you offer guaranteed overnight delivery service, it will be hard to compete as the cheapest delivery service as well. People will eventually discover your other qualities, but build your brand around the very best thing you always provide, no matter what, and you will not let them down. Now you’re ready to put everything together and build a brand positioning statement.

4. Put It Together into Your Brand Positioning Statement

When you’ve figured out what you do, who you do it for, and how you’re different, it’s time to put it all together into a sentence that states this concisely. This is can be structured as “For (target audience), (company name) offers (competitive frame of reference) that provides (greatest competitive advantage). For example, Web Marketing Today‘s brand positioning statement might be, “For small businesspeople, Web Marketing Today is an online information resource that offers weekly Web marketing advice from experts.” With that in mind, Web Marketing Today can focus everything it does around delivering this promise with excellence.

Your brand positioning statement may sound familiar:

  • It will be similar to your mission or purpose statement, but takes into account your customers and competitors.
  • It will be similar to your unique selling proposition (USP), but takes into account your target audience.

Once you have developed your brand positioning statement, you’ll be able to develop consistent communications and customer experiences to support it, and use it as the basis for developing a brand personality, which we’ll discuss in future articles.

By defining a brand positioning statement for your business, you can focus on your best customers, help them understand what you offer more easily, and create a consistent brand that they will remember. Why not schedule a few hours during the next few weeks to create a brand positioning statement for your business?

Dan Wilson
Dan Wilson
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