The First Step to Good Branding is Identifying the Competition
Knowing who you are as a brand and how you’d like the world to see you is the first step to establishing an identity.
However, more than just knowing your own goals and image, you also need to understand how your customer base perceives competitors.
In a recent survey, experts found that 33% of branding professionals felt user experience (UX) was the one thing that set them apart from the competition.
Why is UX crucial to a positive experience, and how can you change how people perceive you by improving yours?
Before you decide on your unique value proposition (UVP), you must know where your competitors stand.
Only by getting to know other businesses in your industry nearly as well as you know your own will you come up with a take you can call your own.
You might not like the idea of going head-to-toe against another entrepreneur, but you must look at the hard facts if you wish to outshine others in your industry.
Why Is It Important to Know Your Competition in Business?
How do you stand out from others? It starts by understanding who they are and how they market to the same customer base you do.
You may know of similar businesses that sell to different segments of the population. These are not your opponents unless you plan to expand into their territories.
Figure out what your competitors’ weaknesses are so you can step in and fill the gap. Figure out how they market successfully and repeat those efforts.
When you see a gap where they aren’t promoting themselves in the best light, double-check to make sure your efforts fill the gap.
Knowing who your competition is and their strategies give you an edge and let you move out ahead of them.
You can skim off some of their customers or attract a completely different clientele.
How to Conduct a Competitive Analysis
Dig into what makes good branding in your arena tick.
The competitive analysis gives you all the insights you need to stand out from other companies.
Here are the steps to conduct an in-depth dive into what makes other brands tick.
1 – Map Sales Territories
When studying your target audience, you likely look at numerous demographic factors.
However, the location of your customers can be one of the essential tools you have. Seeing the sales territories of your closest competition gives you a huge advantage over them.
One example is an HVAC company looking to gain more customers in their sales territory.
Creating a map of what areas other businesses serve helps you see where coverage is and any places you can quickly break in.
How satisfied are people with the services in their area? Is there plenty of business for everyone?
Many customers in a particular neighbourhood indicated word-of-mouth referrals, which means people are probably satisfied with their service.
Look for spotty areas with less viral advertising.
2 – Figure Out Their Objectives
You may have to guess on some of the data, but take the time to figure out what the goals of your nearest rivals are.
Do they try to steal your customers? Is their goal to grow big, or are they focused on things such as excellent customer service?
When you’re accurate about their goals, you can develop good branding strategies to keep the wolves at bay.
For example, if their goal is to grow and steal customers while driving all competition out of business, they will slash their prices as low as possible and advertise to your clients.
Fortunately, you can counteract this by pointing out the higher quality of your service and follow up.
Send out mailers to your current customers explaining your objectives and why you’re better than the cut-rate services. Include testimonials of happy customers.
Figure out what makes those other guys tick, and you’ll be better able to combat anything they do to undermine your business model.
3 – Study Their Marketing
What are your competitors doing to get the word out about their brand?
Make a list of all their strategies, such as social media marketing, ads in local papers, specials they run, events they host and tradeshows they attend.
You don’t want to copy whatever the other firm does, but you can figure out where your marketing efforts might be lacking.
Take the time to try different tactics to reach your target audience. Have you neglected your online presence?
Perhaps you need to host local events or network with like-minded business owners.
Don’t be afraid to come up with something outside the box that is the opposite of what others in your industry do.
You can always scale back on a marketing strategy and try something more traditional. However, you might just hit on something that defines your brand.
4 – Know Who You Are
While it’s crucial to figure out what makes the competition tick, it’s probably even more critical for you to know who you are and what image you wish to present to the world.
In a survey by Stackla, around 89% of consumers indicated authenticity was a massive part of why they choose to frequent a brand.
Don’t try to be something you aren’t just because another company finds success.
Dig deep and figure out why you started your business in the first place. Did you have an elderly grandmother who had to pay most of her savings for a new HVAC unit, and you felt she was misled and mistreated, so you opened your own company?
Perhaps your goal is to always be upfront with your customers and offer them options, so they spend only what they’re comfortable with.
Share your story. Know your principles.
Run everything through the filter of your company personality and philosophies. Your customers will appreciate your transparency and come to trust that you mean what you say and are upfront and honest.
5 – Estimate Their Reaction
How is your competition likely to respond when you start going after the same customer base?
If you’re competing against big corporations, they can crush you quickly if you aren’t prepared.
Think about their most likely response when you begin eating into their profits. How can you counteract it?
Looking at the HVAC example again, perhaps you reach out to a neighbourhood where your rival only has sporadic service.
You run a special and spend the time knocking on doors and introducing yourself.
Suddenly, the competitor realises you are gaining steam. They run a cut-rate special to run you out of the neighbourhood.
You can’t possibly compete at those prices. What is your next move?
You may want to point out your satisfaction guarantee, and you might not have the lowest price, but you do the best work and stand behind it 100%.
Try not to insult other brands when pointing out how you’re different.
You should be able to sell your benefits without trashing another company’s reputation.
Also, you don’t know what they’ve done to address any past issues they may have had. It’s best not to comment about your challengers but to turn the conversation back to why you’re the best choice for the client.
6 – Go After One
If you’ve decided to go head-to-head with the competition, don’t try to take on every other company simultaneously.
Choose either the one that takes the most business from you or the most vulnerable one and focus on gaining an edge over them.
You could get lucky and edge out a few others simultaneously, but your sole focus will be on Company A, what their weaknesses are and how you can get ahead of them.
Establishing Your Brand
Once you have a good idea of who your competition is and what makes them tick, it’s time to establish your own brand identity.
Your goal is to become the household name in your industry. When people need a solution you provide, you want your name to be the only one they think of.
Out of all the ways you can accomplish a firm brand name, we have a few favourites. Try these first and then expand into other efforts.
1 – Get on Social Media
According to Statista, approximately 3.6 billion people use social media, but scientists predict 4.41 billion by 2025.
Sites such as Facebook allow businesses to reach a very narrow parameter and create audiences based on where people live, their age, if they are homeowners and even searches they’ve conducted or interests they have.
What is your competition up to on social media? You’ll find that many local businesses don’t fully utilise the platforms enough to make a difference.
However, you can easily tap into the power of targeted advertising and offer a local special they can get online only.
Make sure you track numbers and see how well different tactics work for your marketing needs.
2 – Write a Style Guide
One of the best ways to establish brand identity is by presenting a consistent appearance.
If someone encounters you at a local art fair, they should see the same logo, colours and tone as they encounter in an email newsletter ad they receive.
A style guide helps ensure that whoever works on your branding uses the same fonts, styles and personality.
Develop a persona for your business and showcase it everywhere your business goes.
3 – Establish Your Authority
If you want users to see you as the go-to expert in your industry, you must establish your authority on topics mattering to your customers. What is the pain point driving customers to phone you?
For HVAC, it is perhaps a unit failing on the hottest or coldest day of the year. What is your best advice for dealing with a suddenly dead unit until the HVAC tech comes out?
Publish videos, guides and articles on your website and social media. Give talks to local homeowners about what to do if their system fails.
Explain the best replacement units and why you recommend them. Set yourself up so if anyone has a question about replacing or maintaining a heating and cooling unit, they think of your name first.
4 – Partner With Other Businesses
Whom do your competitors partner with? Perhaps a siding company works with an HVAC company, and they refer people to one another.
A restaurant might come alongside an entertainment venue and offer discounts to one another’s customers. It would help if you had a business complementary to your own.
Once you find other business owners or local influencers, brainstorm ways to work together to spread the word about your companies.
You might work with a local radio talk show host and pay for advertising time for their endorsement of your brand.
Perhaps you team up with a realtor and recommend one another to customers.
If you want to develop a good branding model, you must consider whom you want to refer you and if their reputation is excellent.
You don’t want someone who angers people to recommend your business. The way others see them could impact the way they see you either positively or negatively.
5 – Offer Comparisons
Don’t be afraid to highlight the benefits of doing business with you over the other brand.
You don’t have to insult the other brand to show how you rise above them. You’ve likely seen tables on various websites showing the advantages of choosing a particular cell phone provider over another, for example.
Whatever makes you stand out is what you need to highlight. Use tables and visual models to show how you compare.
It would help if you matched up in primary areas but go above and beyond in others. List them all but highlight the ones where you excel.
Prepare for Changes
While you study your competition and make changes to secure more business, you can be sure other businesses do the same thing.
Identifying challenges and rising above with your own branding isn’t a one-time endeavour.
Ideally, you’ll repeat these efforts every six months or so, making adjustments as you go along.
Know who your rivals are so you can stand out from the crowd with good branding and marketing.
Present your positive points to potential customers and develop customer relationship strategies to ensure you don’t lose your current clients to another brand.
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Author Bio: Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. She was the creative director at a digital marketing agency before becoming a full-time freelance designer. Eleanor lives in Philly with her husband and pup, Bear.