Sales & marketing

Are you a good listener?

As a business owner, being a good listener is critical to your success. You have to keep your ear to the ground with regard to customers and competitors. Both impact on how your brand can thrive, and it is through your ability to hear the messages they’re transmitting that you can position your brand in exactly the right way.

But what does that mean? Aren’t branding and positioning the same thing?

The answer is no, they’re not. However, they are intimately connected.

Branding vs positioning

Your brand is the image you’ve created for your business or product. You build it through various strategies using collaterals such as a logo, tag line, colour scheme, tone of voice, and language.

Positioning, on the other hand, is about ‘owning’ a space in the minds of your customers, which is carefully positioned against your competitors in the marketplace.

So, whilst your brand is something you define, create, and fix, your positioning is something that is closely connected to what’s going on elsewhere and, therefore, is relative. Thus, once you have defined and built your brand, positioning is what gives it strength by embedding it in the minds of your customers and giving it a particular space relative to your competitors in their heads.

In the real world, this means that branding makes you stand out, whilst positioning puts your brand at the forefront of a customer’s mind when they next need your product or services.

Positioning doesn’t happen by accident

The car industry provides great examples to illustrate this. Ford and Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) occupy different marketing spaces and pursue very different messaging in their campaigns.

This is because their target audiences are not the same. In broad brush terms, where JLR sits proudly in the luxury car space, Ford is much more on the practical end. If you’re just starting a family and a career, it’s unlikely you’ll be looking to buy a Range Rover; your budget and needs will point you in the direction of a Focus. However, if you’re blessed with a high income or large bank account and like to big up your status, a Range Rover will do the trick nicely; even if you never plan to take it off road.

How do you create that space in your customers’ minds?

This is where listening, looking, and empathising come in. Whilst you’re using your eyes and your ears, you need to be searching for the answers to various questions. Who is your target audience and what space do they inhabit? How can you differentiate yourself from other players in the market? What is your USP and how does that tap into your target audience’s needs?

That’s quite a few questions already, but there are more. How are your competitors positioned? What does your target audience think of them and where do they excel and where do they fail?

Take Coca Cola for example. See their logo or mention their name and you know the brand instantly. You also have a sense of what it represents too; a tasty and refreshing drink. However, from the standpoint of positioning, where does it sit? It’s not the cheapest on the market, in fact it’s the opposite, so they’re not selling on price. Instead, what the marketing strategies have achieved over time is to position the brand on the basis of quality that you pay for… because you love the flavour and know what you’ll get each time you order it.

So, thinking about your business, where does your brand sit in the minds of your target audience? Or… more importantly… where do you want it to sit and what can you do about it?

Analyse your competition

Taking a deep breath and really reviewing what your competitors are up to will help you to fine-tune your positioning. You’ll need to analyse their messaging and products closely, and then ask yourself a few questions.

  1. What is your value proposition? Why should a potential customer come to you instead of your competitors? How do you solve their problem and make it a no-brainer that you’re the right choice?

It’s critical that your value proposition is prominent in every message you send out. You need to highlight how your product will meet their specific needs by differentiating it from other products. Don’t be afraid to face up to the strengths of your competition; you can learn from them. And don’t forget, they will have weaknesses too, and you will be able to exploit some of those with your strengths.

  1. How can you highlight your expertise in your marketing?

Make sure your target audience know what you bring to the table. You want them to think of you first when next they need your product or service.

  1. Can you tap into a niche?

Don’t fear being in a niche, own it, and don’t worry about excluding sections of your market. Once you have positioned your brand properly, you will realise that those people aren’t actually your target market in the first place. Instead, you’re connecting with people who know how your products solve their problems.

Really get to know your customers

You don’t need to be all things to all people to make a few sales. If you’re targeted, you’ll connect directly with the people who have the tastes and needs you’re looking for. So, ask yourself, what do they value? And how can you tap into that knowledge and own that space in their heads?

One of the best ways to glean this knowledge is to trawl the customer reviews of your competition. See what they’re moaning about, as well as what they love. Check out the five-star, one-star, and three-star ratings. Each level has a story to tell that will help you to position your brand correctly.

Protect your reputation

Your brand and your position in your market hinge on the reputation that you develop. If you make positioning promises that you don’t keep, you won’t maintain that space in their heads for long. In fact, worse still… they’ll talk negatively to their contacts and spread the word. So, once you’ve positioned your brand, take your messages seriously and ensure that everything your business does supports them authentically.

Make good use of your business connections

As the long-in-the-tooth accountants that we are, we’ve seen businesses succeed and fail based on how they’ve positioned their brand in the market. And nothing threatens a brand more than tough times. The short-term economic forecast is certainly turbulent at the moment, but positioning your brand and products correctly will help you to stand out in the right crowd.

One thing to do is work with trusted experts who can help you to anticipate the hurdles ahead

Most business owners understand the kind of focus that is needed. However, when you’re in the thick of it day in, day out, it’s easy to lose sight of how to leverage the theory. So take a few moments to think about that now. Who can you turn to, to get some guidance? If you’re an Essendon client, you’ll know that our network of connections is invaluable. But even if you’re not a client, we’d always be happy to put you in touch with someone who has the specialist skills you need. Because, as small businesses, we believe we’re all in this together.

And did you see what we did there? We’ve started to position our experience as accountants and our helpfulness as supportive experts in your mind… which is exactly what we represent. And it’s a space we’re thriving in.

Originally posted 2022-11-25 11:42:42.

Roger Eddowes
The Business Bulletin

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Roger Eddowes

Roger trained at Edward Thomas Peirson & Sons in Market Harborough before working at Hartwell & Co, followed by Chancery, as a partner. He started Essendon Accounts & Tax with Helen Beaumont in 2014. Roger loves ‘getting his hands dirty’, working with emerging, small-to-medium and family businesses to ensure they receive the best possible accountancy advice. Using an extensive network of business contacts to leverage the best guidance and practical solutions, he has been called a Business Godparent due to his caring, hands-on approach.

Are you a good listener?

by Roger Eddowes Time to read: 4 min