|Positioning Your Brand During Economic Changes
By Michelle Adelson, May 14, 2009
Every sector has been affected by the economic downturn from products to services. Small companies have had to close down their doors and large companies are looking to restructure and reposition themselves to become profitable once again and gain back the trust of a now, more skeptical market.
Seems grim? Well it certainly does not have to be. With great challenge comes great opportunity and as a small business there are many advantages to surviving and succeeding during recession. Small businesses are agile and able to move and respond to the times much quicker and more efficiently than larger businesses. The question is where to focus first and what to do as a business owner.
First of all, and this certainly holds true during any economy, before looking into how to position and rebrand your business and offerings, ensure you have a solid understanding of your primary customer. This does not mean stop at the surface by understanding general trends such as geographic reach and general household income, but take the time and effort to understand what your customers face during this time, how they are affected and how their habits may have shifted and changed. With this insight, you can reach out to your customer in a much more meaningful way and gain increased awareness of how you can position your business to stay relevant.
Avoid the common pit falls in going through this exercise where the primary customer is not the focus. If you are too general or try to include all potential markets––secondary and tertiary reach––you may lose the focus and therefore the understanding of your core customer.
Don't assume you know––ask! By engaging your customers, whether it is direct conversations, online questionnaires or surveys, or email or blog threads, people share. This valuable insight will only help your business strategy and direction.
Now that you have this knowledge and information, you can look internally into your business to determine the gaps in what you are offering and what the client is experiencing. Are you providing relevant products or services? Does your messaging, packaging, website, and marketing collateral speak to your primary market trends? Chances are there are both obvious and subtle gaps.
Common trends we have identified in this market are that customers are looking for key fundamentals. Does your brand offer integrity and trust? In today's market place there is a high level of skepticism and an underlying current of mistrust due to the reported excessive greed in businesses. If trust and transparency are premises throughout your business practices, highlight and communicate this to your market. Let people know how you manage these virtues and how they are ingrained in business. It matters.
Another common trend is stability and certainty. With companies closing, people are hesitant to engage with the unfamiliar. Share your story and how long you have been in business and what your growth entails. This does not mean you have to share internal growth strategies and business plans but communicating solid roots with a focus on the future, shows that you have no plans of disappearing mid transaction.
Finally, a trend common across multiple industry sectors is delivering value. It is assumed that people will not spend money once the “R” word defines an economy. That is not necessarily true. It is not that people always need a bargain basement, it is more that customers make decisions with a focus on value and therefore willing to pay for value. From complimentary gift wrapping to added customer service to help solve a problem or answer questions, additional value lends itself to a lasting brand impression.
With increased visibility into your market, you will also be able to identify common trends that may be specific to your market place. Relating these insights to how you are marketing your business, will allow you to identify opportunities to re-position your offering and architecture to deliver a meaningful brand promise.
The next step is how to communicate your message. First and foremost, ensure the messaging does not waver from your companies brand platform. If your company has always stood for high performance, or innovative products, or a high degree of customer intimacy, there is no need to change who you are. In fact, if you waver too far from your brand's meaning, you will disconnect with your customers and create mistrust or confusion. The key is that you relate your brand to the current market, you highlight the practices and elements of your business that matter to your audience, and you build from what has been successful in the past and re-invent what has not.
Once your messages are finalized, ensure you are consistent in all communication channels from phone, web, print, etc. If you are delivering one reliable message to the market, the retention value will increase. Considering your messages are backed by dependable business practices, your market should gain a reinforced brand experience from initial engagement through post sale. Finally, pay attention to the communication channels you rely on to ensure they are the channels that your customers use and care about.
Businesses in this market who are taking action to stay relevant and connect with their market are poised for success. Please do not sit back on the sidelines or wait to see what competitors are doing. Engage your customer, understand them, and position your business to respond to their needs, concerns, and habits. You customers and your business will thank you.