As a small business, one of the most important things you can do to drive interest in your products and solutions is to create consistent, clear brand messaging that helps define and articulate your business proposition in a way that helps you stand out against your competition.
Know your USP
The first step is to know your USP - your unique selling point, or what you believe your business does better or differently than any other business in your industry. Your USP should serve as a guide, or a narrative, for customers to understand what you do and why you do it. It forms the baseline of your messaging:
Unique: What is the biggest benefit to a customer who purchases your product, or does business with you? How are you delivering this product or service? What makes working with you better than doing business with your competitor? What about your products or services is truly unique?
Selling: You have to get people to invest their time, their money and yes, their hearts and minds in your business. What are the price considerations? Even more important, in today’s time-strapped world, are you making the process easier? Or better yet, “frictionless?”
Point: You need to show what problem you’re solving for your customers. Uber, for instance, solves the headache of finding relatively inexpensive transportation as and when you need it.
What does your business do to solve a pain point for your customer? Do you know what yours is? If not, the best first step is to conduct a thorough Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis to help pinpoint your USP. This also may give you ideas as to how to reach new and different customer sets. If you don’t feel confident:
There are many consultancies as well as small business support networks - for instance, startups.co.uk has several tools you can use to create these in a formal setting. However, it can be as simple as finding a napkin and pen during an afterwork session down the pub!
Take a strategic approach Overall, when making decisions about your brand and your business communications strategy, it is vital to articulate your company’s offering as a whole. Focusing too much on the ‘innovative’ nature of your offering risks fuelling the gap between expectations and experiences, so try to think – and talk – about yourself in a different way. By drilling down into exactly what makes you different and unique, and creating great content and stories to bring these benefits to life, you’ll be able to reach your target customers on their level and really show just why they need your product or service in their life.
Setting Your Core Brand Message The best way to find your core message is to come up with some ideas for one-sentence descriptors that play to your strengths and offer you opportunities to get new customers. Each one-sentence descriptor should be a description of one of your “unique selling points.” These one sentence 'elevator pitches' will also come in handy at those all-important business networking events.
Make sure to avoid wording that doesn’t play to your strengths or to attributes you can easily back up; also avoid using negative messaging as a competitive broadside, because you want to talk about YOU, and not about your competitors!
Ideally, you’ll end up with 5-10 one-sentence descriptors that are catchy but also convincing and that tie back to your business in a very convincing way. Write these down, and come back to them 24 hours later. Do they still resonate with you and your team?
Now, it’s time to test! One of the best ways to ensure your brand message is clear to potential customers is to test it against each group of key customers you have. Do you have a model customer, or a “persona” you’re targeting? Find one person from each segment you’re targeting and ask them for frank feedback on the differentiators you have uncovered. (You might want to give them a coupon for a percentage off their next order as a thank you!) After you’ve interviewed your target customers, see what similarities there were in the feedback, and triangulate your sentences accordingly. Sometimes, one descriptor will resonate strongly with one type of customer, but not with another.
Once you have some consistent feedback, streamline down to three descriptors that best target your desired customers - and your marketing department will then be able to use those statements that tested well and build them into fuller campaigns to attract and retain prospects and customers.
And don't forget that these core brand messages will also form the basis of the stories you tell in order to get that elusive PR for your small business - a topic very dear to my heart!