I was asked recently by an associate to help them with positioning and a messaging strategy for one of their clients. Seemed like a logical request. After all, they are in the process of reworking the client’s website, launching an SEO and social media program, as well as developing a variety of content to speak with potential customers along their buying journey.
Interestingly, the client responded with… “Well I’m just not feeling it.” We don’t see the need to brand the company, after all “it’s not toothpaste or a car,” it’s just a law firm.
A few months ago, I had a similar request from another partner. When I met with the company, an IT services company, they didn’t see the need either. They felt their services were unique and their customer service was stellar. I asked, what services do you provide that are unique? What’s your point of differentiation? What do you have that is “ownable” and not easily copied? Their answer was not fact based.
I have found over the years that smaller companies tend to think of two things when it comes to their “brand,” tactics and cost. They don’t want to spend the time to understand the market, their competition, develop strategies and create a plan. They just want to get to the tactics.
Why spend time understanding what your competitors have been or are saying (communicating) in the market? Why spend time learning about the needs and wants of your target customers and how or why these needs are not being met by competitors? Why spend time talking with customers to understand what they like and don’t like about your products or services? Why spend time figuring out how your target customers consume information and what channels they turn to? Why spend time to find out how you’re perceived in the market -- your reputation, your image in order to determine if this is how you want to be known?
This need to jump to tactics is not just confined to startups or small companies. I’ve seen it too many times in mid-sized companies as well. I was once told by a client that the decision to move in a new direction was the most important decision they were making for their company since its inception. They asked us to jump on developing the overall brand strategy. Oh and by the way, could we have the new the strategy, positioning and all of the initial work done in a week? They wanted to get working on the ad campaign right away!
The moral of this story? Regardless if you’re a startup or well established brand, a medical product, ice cream, restaurant, shoes, or a law firm, you must take the time to define your brand -- strategy, positioning, values, messaging, in order to differentiate yourself from your competition.
Everyone wants to get right to the creative…the fun stuff, but remember garbage in, garbage out. Investing in the necessary strategic work upfront, will ensure your efforts in the market will be more effective and efficient in building a successful and enduring brand.