If you run your own brand or lifestyle business, there is no denying that in saturated markets you need to make sure that your business is competitive enough. Good branding, products and customer service are no longer enough. The more saturated the market is, the more challenging it can be for you to stay ahead of the competition. The way you position your brand impacts not only immediate sales and revenue but also the longevity of your business. So what can you do right now that will turn your business into a stand out brand that is ahead of the curve?
FIND YOUR “IT” FACTOR
One of the biggest problems I see independent brands lack is that they either haven’t found or don’t communicate the “it” factor. In the sea of sameness, what makes you different? What is your brand associated with when customers talk about it with friends. Drawing inspiration from fashion and design worlds, successful brands have managed to build their own “brand meaning” stemmed in either unique product element, visual language or design signature. For example, what words come to your mind when I say -Missoni. For me it’s their chevron design (design signature) in their unique colour combinations. It’s not about the style or specific type of product or market, it’s something they invented to differentiate themselves from the competition. As a result, they have managed to build a “memorable” brand with loyal customer base. No other brand can satisfy customers in this special way like Missoni, whether it’s a product for their home or wardrobe.
TASK: Look at your product and value proposition against your competition and ask yourself, “What do we have, they don’t have?” “What sets us apart from the rest?”
DEVELOP AN IMAGE OF YOUR BRAND
After you identify your “it” factor, the next step is to start building an image of your brand online and offline. Promote your brand and create a corporate culture which encourages communicating your unique image. One brand that does it well is a lifestyle shopping platform Collagerie. Their strong brand identity and image which are carefully weaved in every marketing touchpoint make the brand instantly recognisable and memorable. But what can you do if your brand doesn’t have such strong brand identity? One way to go around it is to have a “face of the brand”. I do understand the reasons of independent brand founders who hide behind their brands but you have to acknowledge the fact that for you to stand out, you have to do something quite bold and brave to rise above the sameness.
TASK: Think about your brand image and how to create one? Is it going to be through strong brand identity or a face of the brand?
FOCUS ON YOUR STRENGTHS
Another way of how to stay ahead of the competition is to focus on your strengths. I know, this might sound so obvious but you’ll be surprised how many small brands miss this point. Every business has its own strengths and weaknesses; small, big, well-established or new entrants to the market. Whether your competitors have more staff, more money or more customers, better website or better warehousing and distribution recognise that they have weaknesses too. These are the areas which you can outperform in. I find that in particular small independent brands don’t invest enough time and money in deeper market research and competitors analysis. I completely understand that you can’t do everything, but sometimes you have to invest in your business for you to move it forward. In this case hiring a marketing consultancy or freelance consultant, who will spend time analysing the market and spotting the gaps for you to explore, might be just the right answer. Unexpected strengths reveal themselves in these reports to you, some of them you took simply for granted.
While talking about competition, another mistake I see small brands make is that the competitors they think they compete with are not their direct competitors. They worry too much about what the big guys are doing. In some cases it’s other small brands and new entrants they need to worry about rather than the big, well-established players. So ask your researcher to analyse ALL relevant competitors to your brand.
Then, once you uncover the gaps and unique strengths and understand know what makes you different, not only shout about it from the rooftops but also think ahead. While you’re watching them, competitors are doing the same, they’re watching you. Create a strategy that put your strengths at the centre but consider a wider effect. Create innovative stories and angles, which are unique to you so they become harder to copy.
Remember: Strengths are an important asset to your brand. Communicate them with your customers. Let them know why these are important and why your brand is a better option for them. Innovate in terms of messaging and communication, maybe even develop your own brand language which cannot be copied easily or at all.
TASK: To stay ahead of the competition, do SWOT analysis a least twice a year or in fast moving markets every quarter. You’ll be surprised what you will find.
OUR FIRST FREE MASTERCLASS OF 2021
If you want to stay ahead of the competition in 2021, feel free to join our FREE Masterclass next week. Dessy Tsolova from Fashion Insiders and I will be sharing 3 secrets to creating a stand out brand, discussing specific case studies who have successfully built strong brands and you’ll also walk away with a helpful checklist to refer back to.
Do not miss this, reserve your place here.