Breaking away from the competition is as easy as conquering branding and clearly defining your story with a comprehensive content marketing strategy. You don’t need to have better products or services. You don’t even need to sell at a more competitive price point. These are but minor details in the grand scheme of things. What really matters when it comes to separating yourself from the innovators and market leaders in your industry is storytelling.
Storytelling is how you differentiate yourself from competitors. Your target audience needs to have a clear understanding as to why the unique value propositions of your company better align with their inspirations and aspirations better than a competitor.
One of the best ways to differentiate yourself from competitors is to focus your storytelling efforts on a new and unexploited value curve. When you can fulfill a niche interest that your competitors are missing, even if your products are similar, you will gain traction for being able to fill the void.
For years, high growth companies have entered markets by first catering to an underserved niche market. Netflix started by mailing cult classic films that you couldn’t get at Blockbuster, Vimeo focused on professional videographers unlike YouTube, and Tesla started making luxury vehicles instead of competing with electric low-end hybrids. This strategy of differentiation is key for disruptive start-ups and established companies.
It is important to communicate these differences to consumers. Branding is key to successful customer loyalty. To resonate with your customer, you have to speak their language. If you are targeting corporate clients, your branding and messaging should align with this persona. Your entire brand: logo, name, print, ads, web, and media should push why you are different and thus better than the competition.
Consider the following elements which impact how effective your branding strategy is:
- Recognition: Chances are, there are many local and international companies offering similar products and services to you. To be recognized in what could be a very crowded landscape is to choose the right name, logo and visual identity. When your brand has recognition, your target market is already connected to your messaging and influenced by the things you have to say.
- Trust: When the people who interact with your brand, feel that they can trust you, they are comfortable spending money with you over and over again. They are also highly likely to want to champion your brand and refer new customers to you. When your brand is trusted, your target market can rely on your products and services.
- Demonstrated Value: A strong brand is sustainable when it has earned the recognition and trust of its target market while consistently demonstrating value to them over time. This means creating conditions for scalable success. When your brand has demonstrated value, your target market continues to be engaged with your communications strategy.
- A Culture of Inspiration: Your culture of inspiration is as important for your target market as it is for your employees and organizational culture. When your brand is responsive to challenges and forward-looking, even setbacks lead to victories.
In the modern landscape of business, branding happens 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Your customers, competitors, suppliers and the general public are constantly online and this is a tremendous opportunity. In the past, brands spent what they could on advertising and it either succeeded or failed to lead to the results they were hoping to generate. Today, content marketing has completely transformed business and created immense opportunity for brands to communicate more effectively with the people around them.
Now, the most effective brands focus on building relationships with their audiences. Across social media, blogs, and many other channels at the heart of digital marketing strategy, they focus on creating the most effective content marketing strategy possible. Taking your success to the next level is easy when you focus on building a relationship and providing value to your target market.
The Power of Branding
Branding is the art of positioning. It includes everything from the name of your company, to the promise you make to your customers when they decide to purchase your products. It refers to the way you communicate with your target audience and the things that they find meaningful about your products or services. In essence, branding refers to the total experience consumers have with your company.
It is just as powerful to understand what you are missing when it comes to branding as it is to have an idea of what you think is working correctly. What I mean by this is that it is equally as important to understand why you aren’t influencing people as it is to think you understand what is leading to sales conversions and driving profits. The thing about business, as in life, is that it’s easy to think you are right and often impossible to know all the things you are getting wrong.
Content Marketing Strategy: Taking the 40,000ft View
80% of consumers trust companies that take the time to create custom content as opposed to simply churning out generic content. Taking the time to produce original and meaningful content helps to demonstrate that companies
Company blogs generate 70% more leads per month than companies that do not take the time to produce blog content. Producing a blog that is relevant to your products is one of the easiest ways to generate leads and convert readers into satisfied return customers.
Marketing messages are opened 565% more when shared by employees rather than a brand itself. People are far more influenced by people that they are by faceless brands. To capitalize on this, bring human faces and stories to the forefront of your content marketing strategy.
80% of consumers completely tune out advertisements on the sides of websites and search results. These advertisements are seen as being more spammy and less trustworthy. Place advertisements seamlessly in text where appropriate.
90% of consumers purchase products because of a referral. Recommendations and reviews are extremely important to the decision making process modern consumers make. Incentives to generate useful Yelp, Amazon and Google ads could be a very worthwhile investment for your brand.
95% of consumers expect that their experience will be similar across all platforms and devices. Of course, you need your websites to be optimized for the mobile web. Take things a step further by spending the time to ensure all graphics, colors, flow, and quality translates well across the different devices and platforms your customers use.
Selling the Story, Creating the Dream
When you sell your brand’s story with effective content marketing strategy, every piece of written, visual and downloadable content helps to build a relationship with your target market.
For your content creation strategy to be effective, every piece should have a well-planned purpose.
Consider the following elements as you design your content marketing strategy:
- Which segments of your target market you are aiming for
- The problem it’s going to solve for that audience
- How it will add original insight and value
- What formats you’ll focus on
- Which communications channels you’ll promote it on
- How you will manage content creation, publication, and repurposing
The answers to the following questions will help you to design an effective content marketing strategy:
- What are the “buyer personas” of your target market? It is important to know who your customers are, what types of content they gravitate towards and which themes will be most influential to them. The more you know about the people you are seeking to reach, the easier it will be. As you construct personas and archetypes you will get a better sense of where your strengths lie and what area you might consider outsourcing.
- Which marketing and other organizational goals can we realize or improve by better using content marketing? Traffic building, conversion optimization, event marketing, lead generation, email marketing, social media marketing, customer service and so many more things can all be improved with content marketing strategy. Focusing on organizational goals with your content marketing strategy allows you to neatly define where you are going and measure the success of what you accomplish.
- Which content marketing metrics and KPIs do we need to gauge success? It is really important to define content marketing metrics that align with your overall marketing and business strategy. Traffic volume, engagement, subscriptions, downloads, content effectiveness and many other measures can be used to adequately gauge how successful your content marketing strategy is.
- For which other marketing goals and even business purposes – on top of the usual suspects – can we use content marketing? Content marketing strategy is about aligning your communications in a way that support your organizational goals. You can and should use your content marketing to support your customer service team, empower sales, and to optimize website conversions, etc
Get Out of Your Own Way: There is No Competition
The best competitors don’t waste their time agonizing over their adversaries, instead, they focus on refining the artistry that helps their talents to shine. In business, this translates into capturing useful insights about performance and constantly working to improve on them. Choose any metric and simply work on besting it.
Of course, from time to time it might make sense to scan the field and watch what other top and up and coming players are doing. You absolutely want to be well informed about your industry and any advancements which could change the scope of play in the coming years.
Focus the bulk of your efforts on understanding the way your brand plays, the way your target audience responds to your messaging and how impactful your storytelling is to the people you are hoping to influence. There are only 24 hours on any given day. Spend your time focused on understanding and improving your business.
The “competition” is an illusion that could hold you back in the short, medium and long runs. Your competition could be seen as allies, assets or adversaries.
Why chose just one?
Your business is not succeeding or failing because of what other people are doing. Take ownership and step up to the plate. Take responsibility for the success of your brand. Stop worrying about what other people are doing and start focusing on how you can improve.
When you finally get out of your own way and realize that the only competition is the one you face every day in the mirror, you will be amazed at the results.
Be personal, be social and build a relationship. Storytelling is the key to branding and branding is the key to differentiating yourself in a crowded market.