BRAND POSITIONING: THE TRAGEDY OF THE SPECIALISTS. THE DRAMA OF THE LEADERS. THE GRAVEYARD OF THE EXPERTS.
It doesn’t take long to come to the conclusion that self-proclaimed market leaders or specialists are often companies which portray themselves as if they were leaders and specialists, but in reality are far from being where they wish to be.
Self-proclaimed specialists and leaders are the everywhere of companies that are nowhere in the mind of their audience.
What entrepreneurs (not all of them, fortunately) seem to be ignoring in today's overcrowded marketplace is that defining yourself as a specialist or a leader doesn't differentiate you anymore.
If in your niche there are five operating companies and all of them define themselves as leaders or specialists, you do not need to be Einstein to understand that unless you differentiate yourself further with a noteworthy attribute that makes you stand out of the crowd, your target audience will be interested in only one thing:
And guess what…
At the moment when it is asking you that question, your target audience already knows the prices that your competition will be suggesting.
Thus, you can no longer compete by being the only one offering a specific service or by being perceived as the best in doing what you do.
Instead you will be compelled to lower the price of your service until it is the lowest to be offered, threatening the stability of your business.
Selling by competing on price alone is a long term death sentence.
All those margins you are losing because of undifferentiated brand positioning are equal to money being wasted to sustain your business and implement it.
In the marketing war, intention is insufficient.
To win you need a strategy which is methodological by definition, and the first step in the direction of a winning strategy is increasing the perceived value of your offer.
I'll give you a tangible example of a very specific niche in the UK: the Broadcast PR industry.
Below you can find the players and how they position themselves:
Besides these, there is one other Broadcast PR agency that could exploit a niche without any doubt because it is already differentiated, but it doesn’t express that in a powerful way: Redleaf.
Redleaf is a broadcast PR agency which specialises in Capital Markets, Financial Services, Corporate and Property communications.
But they seem to be very shy in communicating their positioning.
They do not even have a positioning statement following their naming.
Come on guys, let’s dig that rock a bit further!
A part from this rare case of specialism represented by Redleaf, how would your purchasing process be in this industry full of experts, specialists, and leaders?
I am sure you know.
Let me describe it to you.
You will start making phone calls claiming to have a 10k budget (while in reality you have 15) asking for a 15k service.
The first victim would start saying:
“As it’s the first time we work together, I am more than happy to offer you an additional 5k value as a chance to show you that you can rely on us in case of future opportunities.”.
You agree by answering:
“OK, great. Let me talk to my colleagues and I’ll give you a call back after the meeting. Let’s say the day after tomorrow.”
That meeting never really happens.
The decision- maker is you, but you need time to call five additional companies to determine the most cost-effective way to save your budget.
Thus, in an undifferentiated arena, the one who wins is the one who offers you the lowest price for the same service.
If they are all Specialists, Leaders, and Experts, there is no need to create hierarchies.
They are all generally good at doing the same thing.
When I do my research, I often end up thinking that some niches are crowded with self-centered narcissistic entrepreneurs who lack the ability to relate to their target audience.
If they started thinking about how their target audience perceives them and took appropriate action, 90% of their problems would be solved.
A leader is someone who is recognised as a leader, and the only way that can be appreciated by the other members of the niche is because while he is eating the biggest slice of the cake, he is also making the cake bigger for all the eaters.
As a matter of fact, the Broadcast PR industry in the UK is suffering for lack of a real market leader.
Yes, there is someone who is making more money than everyone else.
But there is no one who is leading the industry.
The broadcast PR industry in the UK is plenty of businesses and empty of brands.
You need to be a business to be a brand.
You do not need to be a brand to be a business.
It’s easier to be a business than to be a brand.
Anyone can be a business. Not every one can be a brand.
However, it’s much harder being a business than a brand, even if the opposite seems to be true.
Brands last longer than businesses.
Brands sell a reason that shapes and/or reinforces the sense of identity of those who use their products; businesses simply offer a service.
Customers never discuss the price of a brand. They are willing to pay ten times more for the same service just because it is branded. They will never admit it to themselves or others, but they are.
On the other hand, services provided by a business will always be too expensive.
The real value of a business is its differentiation that comes from its ability to clearly and specifically answer the three following questions:
Very few people will actually ask you these questions, so you will need to be very quick at answering them before all the money of your target audience gets deposited on the golden plate of your competition.
In business, being good isn’t enough.
As Al Ries has stated multiple times in his masterpiece book FOCUS:
To be the best you must be perceived as the best.
It is as simple as that. Although it isn’t that simple.
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Founder and Managing Director at POWER BRAND. PR that Sells for Startups and SMEs,
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Brand Positioning. Broadcast PR. Brand domination.