For a small business, carving out an effective brand identity in 2022 is no small feat. Stats provided by Lawnstarter show that there is over 32 million small business in the US alone! What's more, almost 43k had opened their doors for the first time in 2020. So, not only the niche is already large, but it'll just keep on growing, year after year. How do you stand out in the crowd, then?
Thankfully, out of this ocean, only a chunk are your competitors. But, even a fraction of the 30 million-plus is an overwhelming number to deal with, especially when they are all vying for visibility through digital marketing and advertising campaigns.
So, it’s safe to say that if you want to stand out, rather than drown in a sea of brands, you need to carve a niche or set a precedent that ushers your brand in a league of its own.
What is Brand Differentiation?
Brass tacks! When potential customers vet your offering, they should not think, "This is just another brand, doing what that other one does." Brand differentiation is a conscious and planned effort towards making your brand stand out among a pool of similar offerings.
Customers should see your brand as unique and superior to competitors. That sounds like common sense! Not so fast. Differentiating your brand is a commonly accepted philosophy but not a routinely deployed practice.
No wonder a host of brands dissolve into the white noise due to lack of differentiation.
Ensuring your business stands out from other competitors will entice a steady stream of customers. But, how you can reach the elusive state of brand differentiation.
How to Make Your Brand Stand Out?
Know that brand differentiation is a process and not a quick fix, so there is no one elegant equation that works here. However, you can get this process rolling by using the following steps to grab an edge.
Understand Your Target Audience
Time and again, this mantra holds true! The better you comprehend your target audience's need gaps, the bigger your chance to stand out. No wonder several articles on the internet start by stressing this point for most brand engagement practices.
Your customers will mostly not be direct in telling you what they want. It then becomes your prerogative to find out. Begin by compiling and analyzing data and segmenting your clients based on primaries like gender, age, occupation, geography, income, interests, and education. After which, move on to understanding their behaviors and lifestyles. Only after figuring out these parameters can you focus on personalizing your brand messaging.
Do Not Mimic Competitor Brands
In a nutshell, do not underestimate the value of originality. When you attempt to emulate a popular competitor closely, you rob your potential customers of a compelling reason to choose you. Also, stay away from cliché messaging and hard selling an offering. Your potentials lose interest when you push too hard.
Instead of a run-of-the-mill sales talk, find a unique approach, voice, and image that is entirely yours. Doing this is easier said than done, as it may require oodles of brainstorming and introspection. But, it is, indeed, a sure-shot way of letting your honesty and originality shine through.
For a more comprehensive guide how to tell your brand story, read our post here.
Don’t Go Missing on Customer Interaction Platforms
A great way to make your brand one-in-a-million is by displaying sincerity. How? By responding to all customer queries on social media and various other interactive forums. However, do not make the mistake of copy-pasting the same response across queries. Doing this can hamper your brand's image.
Show up for your buyers and don't come across as a profit-churning machine. Talk to them the way you would talk to a friend. A sincere effort of staying in touch with your customers will help you forge stronger bonds, which will organically lead to brand differentiation.
Don’t be Risk-Averse! Take Them Calculatedly
Believe it or not! Outcomes of calculated risks often lead to rewards. Iconic brands are the ones who don’t shy away from presenting their innovations through unusual marketing techniques. They also assert a stance on controversial issues within their industry.
Being entirely risk-averse and playing it too safe could alienate an entire portion of your target audience, whose loyalty you could have won by offering them something exciting. When you don't take calculated risks, you run the 'risk' of blending in with a horde of brands.
Incentivize with Value, Not Only Worth
A cash incentive can surely aid with short-term conversions, but will your brand stick in your present customers’ mind or not is an entirely different story. Therefore, provide a better product and even better customer service - something that trumps your competitor's offerings.
For instance, look at Amazon Shopping for a minute. It is a conglomerate that dabbles in various products – from socks to computers. However, this brand ensures value to customers by offering different programs like Amazon Prime that offer overnight shipping and free pick-ups.
Cash incentives to your clientele to make the initial purchase will not make your brand stand out for long. Most companies do this already! On the other hand, adding value to different stages of a buyer journey – shipping, after-sales, payment, loyalty programs, etc. will ensure they remember who to buy from the next time.
Understand the Role of Social Media and Digital Marketing
Sure, most brands are on social media, but not all standout. Does that mean you stay away from such an effective medium? Not at all! Given that 2.77 billion users are on various networking platforms, you have a ready base for brand differentiation.
Whether you operate in a B2B or a B2C space, you obviously have a business journey that you must share on various networking platforms. Doing this is a unique way of getting people to remember your brand. Tell them how you got to where you are, the hurdles you faced, and the principles you never compromised on.
For example, the vacation rental company Airbnb wrote a book taking their target audiences behind the scenes. This book was reviewed by many customers on various social media platforms and garnered much attention for the brand.
Besides sharing your journey, leverage social media and email marketing by posting different content types like videos, images, blogs, etc. Arouse customer interest through live Q & A sessions, online polls, stories, and events.
Also, keep in mind that countless consumers put a considerable amount of faith in online reviews and recommendations. So, make sure your happy buyers provide you with testimonials that you can share on your landing pages.
Ensure Consistency across All Customer Dealings
If your brand does not offer consistency in products, services, and after-sales support across industries and geographies, it will never stand out. To steer clear of inconsistencies, have strictly defined practices. Otherwise, different people will end up executing undefined standards to varying degrees. Doing so might end up alienating your customer base.
Give your audiences a sense of familiarity so they stick around and talk you up. Therefore, define your brand service standards and policies and exhaustively train your team members to execute them.
And the best way to do it is to incorporate Pics.io DAM. With this solution, you get a centralized media library where you store all your branding materials – and no one will use an old logo or font anymore.
Your team will always be on the same page, and you will access your branding deliverables and marketing collateral easily. Now whenever your dev team needs an image or typography to add to the website, they won’t bother designers every time. They just go & download the design themselves.
A marketing and sales team won’t lose their materials too – everything is stored in one place & could be accessed easily. And so you will breathe new life into your old presentations, sales pitches, flyers, design leftovers, and so on. DAM will help you reuse your brand-related assets & reduce costs on creating new ones.
For better consistency, you could even create a special guideline for using your branding deliverables right. And then link this guideline to your most important items (logo, mood board, website designs, etc.) as so to make sure that everyone sees them.
Read more on how to ensure brand success thanks to using DAM.
Understand the Role of Influencer Marketing
When a brand says they are different, it may or may not turn heads. But, when an influencer says something unique about your brand, your audience is bound to sit up and pay attention. Remember, one of the best ways of spreading brand awareness is through word-of-mouth marketing.
Earlier, this channel was difficult to tap into, but today, you can get a conversation rolling around your brand with influencer marketing. Influencers and bloggers have countless organic followers on various portals like Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. Followers for whom what brands influencers like and promote truly matters.
These individuals or organizations can influence millions of people worldwide and are often as effective, if not more, than celebrity brand ambassadors. Working with these professionals can truly put your brand in a league of its own.
And, It's a Wrap!
Yes, having your brand stand out requires some serious strategizing, but it is still not rocket science. If you are new, use these tips and tricks as a starter toolkit for brand differentiation, and eventually, you will evolve into your own process.
If you are already a brand, you can use these dictums to consider rebranding. Don't let inertia thwart your brand differentiation drive. If your business is not standing out, audit your current branding practices and make amends using these strategies.
And if you're looking for an excellent digital asset management solution – Pics.io is the right tool for you. Store, organize, & distribute your files the most productively. Don't hesitate to book a free demo with us. Read more about brand asset management with DAM.
This post is written by Rohan Mendiratta. He helps marketers with building an engaged audience and increasing their sales via SendX: Email Marketing Software.