It’s a funny old game, startups.
In the age of e-commerce, where so much is at our fingertips; we take a lot for granted and we sometimes expect results too quickly.
It’s a symptom of our growth-hack minded, business landscape.
Business can grow and move so quickly in the digital age, so naturally our expectation for commercial return has been accelerated and conditioned for instant gratification.
But if you’re looking to build a business from scratch, and you’re yet to acquire any funding; it can be a daunting process — but that doesn’t mean you should overlook basic brand building.
Before those sales can start churning, you need to put in the groundwork to work out what your product should be saying, and who it should be speaking to.
To put that in marketing terms, you need to know your brand position and your target market.
Two pillars of any commercial foundation, but two pillars that are readily overlooked because they require patience, due diligence and, at first, budget.
Back in the days of offline business, founders and entrepreneurs would spend months or even years, discovering who their most profitable customers were.
It took commitment, patience and dedication.
But in the age of e-commerce, some founders expect significant return on investment from the word go —but that’s just not going to fly.
The danger of not investing significant time and money into determining your brand position and target market is that months down the line, your product or service could be speaking to the wrong demographic, in the wrong way.
Yes, for sure, you could seem some short-term gains but if you’re searching for long-term growth and sustainable profit, market permeation takes time and accuracy.
With this 5 step model, you can streamline your way to building a brand on solid insight and real customer data and begin to compile a database of the most valuable prospects available.
This isn’t a sales pitch. And it’s certainly not a cut and paste set of instructions.
You’ll need to use these steps, applied to your own product and market to ensure your startup has the quality foundations it needs to grow and succeed.
1) Analyse the market
First up, you need to build a list of all the brands out there and think about the tone of voice they use, the price points they have and how those brands are positioned — you can only find a gap, if you know what else is out there.
Make a list of all the brand positions out there, for example some brands will be premium and all about the craft; others will be more emotive and lay on the sob story; other will be cheap and cheerful.
2) Set out your positioning options
Once you’ve swept the market, consider all the positions available to your brand; should they extract and showcase the components or ingredients of the product? Should they be focused on the region or location of your service?
Here’s an example of a positioning map for a startup coffee brand:
These positioning maps are a reflection of all the possible brand positions out there.
Caffeine and Accessibility vs Taste and Mass Market, the list is endless but its important to select a few based on what is close to your business objectives and from there determine the messaging.
3) Determine a bank of messaging
Next, use your positioning maps to consider some actual messaging that could be tested in a product or advertising environment.
You might need to consult a copywriter at this stage, because the language that form your messaging bank will be customer facing, so it should be tight and sales-minded.
Again, using the coffee startup as an example, see below for how the positioning options can be manifested into headlines to be tested:
4) Test all messaging options in advertising
Using your headline options, you can A/B test in a chosen advertising environment.
Consider the demographics you want to speak to, this will also inform the channels where you can test your headlines and brand positioning.
It’s not 🚀 science. If you’re looking to speak to younger audience skews, then hit social channels and tighten your targeting by reaching out to specific communities and fan pages.
If you’re speaking to the older generations, those old-school media channels can do the trick but equally platforms like Facebook have an older audience skew.
The less recognised the social platform, the cheaper the impressions; so for initial testing Reddit is always an excellent starting point.
Run your advertising for a set amount of time and test all the messaging options available.
A front-runner will begin to emerge.
The set of headlines and position that drive the most engagement and sales within your testing period will determine your brands position.
From here you can double down on your resource, forget the rest of the headlines and positioning but pour all of your testing spend into the best performing set.
But this is only the beginning.
Your brand position should now permeate through everything.
It should appear in your product, it should appear in your packaging, your comms, your branding and your design.
This brand position has been tested and informed by real engagement data, so you can have full faith that you’re on the right track.