I'd like to share my latest thoughts and findings on brand positioning with you. This post is about the process of creating a brand positioning strategy, which I'm currently doing for myself.
My idols for personal branding are (amongst others) Chris Brogan, Gary Vaynerchuk, and John Lee Dumas. If you just read their names you know exactly what they stand for and what business they're in. Chris owns Owner Mag and is a (multiple times) bestselling author, Gary is a thought leader for almost any topic related to online marketing and socia media, and John runs his famous Entrepreneur on Fire podcast.
But how could you build a personal brand, that's as thriving as the one's I mentioned?
What does brand positioning look like and what actions are required to make yourself stand out in your market? Why are some brands more successful than others? I think that it’s all about brand positioning and branding strategy. You'll never build a thriving brand if you don't create a clear strategy for your brand positioning.
Being a freelance web designer and restart strategist, I need to make sure that I leverage my technical skills and opportunities the most I can. People getting in touch with me - or my content - should be able to grasp immediately what I’m doing.
That's why I'm sharing the process of developing my new strategy for positioning my personal brand with you in this post.
If you’re in an entrepreneur, you should ask yourself the following question:
Do people immediately understand what you’re doing?
Regardless whether they read a guest post written by you, visit your website, engage with you on social media, or listen to an interview of yours, do you get your message across clearly?
That’s what personal branding and positioning your brand is all about.
Your brand is about making yourself known for your skills and talents. More than that - your brand is about what you stand for. - Michael Port
Creating a personal brand lets you control how you are perceived by others, especially how you're perceived by your target audience. It lets you decide what you want to stand for, what values your name will be associated with, and most importantly, it gives people an idea of who you REALLY are.
Therefore it’s ok to not be liked by everybody! Your brand needs to be consistent with who you are and how you behave, it’s not about pleasing everybody. In fact, trying to do so will result in being liked by nobody. It limits you because you’re afraid to speak boldly of what you do.
So far, that’s probably nothing new for you. You know the theory about personal branding and since so many successful entrepreneurs are talking about it, you’ve understood that having a personal brand is important.
But do you have an actionable strategy for brand positioning? Are you able to clearly define your personal brand and do you know the next steps you have to go in order to grow your brand - and thus grow your business?
After all, how is brand positioning tied into building and running a business?
Brand positioning is what decides whether your business gets new clients or not, whether you're getting referrals, whether people engage with you, and whether your audience trusts you.
It doesn’t matter if you’re selling services or products, every business needs to win the trust of its audience.
So, what makes a lead choose your business over your competitor's? Your brand. (tweet this)
It’s how you are perceived by others, whether you’re telling stories that align with the values of potential clients, and whether your „brand“ makes potential clients feel comfortable when doing business with you.
Positioning is not a statement about you – it’s a statement that captures who you are. It’s not a factual claim; but rather, an emotional reason for people to want to be around you. It should capture the essence of who you are and how you have defined your personal brand. - Jim Joseph
In my case, daily business ran amazing for a few months. Most of my clients referred me to their friends and business partners, which was a comfortable situation to be in.
But this also made me crucially neglect my brand. I didn’t update my blog as regularly as I used to, I didn’t work on the design, and I didn’t network with entrepreneurs as intensely as I used to.
Realizing this situation hit me like a rock. I had to think through my personal branding strategy and the positioning of my brand again.
We all know that branding is being active in social media, having a nice website, and good looking business cards.
But what is the most fundamental element of a brand? What do you actually need to do to stand out amongst your competitors?
I’m sick of the squishy advice that most so-called experts give.
„Get active on social media and engage with your target audience“ or „Create a persona for your ideal client and align your brand with that persona“ aren’t helpful for anyone.
In the end, a personal brand is meant to get your message across to strangers, give them an idea of your personality and your mission, and last but not least get you in touch with potential clients.
He says that „Having a strong personal brand identity is crucial. It’s how you distinguish yourself from everybody else.“
His book is given incredibly actionable advice, which helped me a lot to redefine my brand.
The first step in recreating my brand was to work on three statements:
Brand positioning is not just having a fancy website, it’s way more complex! (tweet this)
You need to know the fundamentals before you can create a consistent branding strategy that helps your brand positioning and grows your business.
How will you tell your designer what the new website shall look like if you’re not sure what message you want to get across and how you want to market your offers?
Everything ties in to your branding strategy, so defining the fundamentals is definitely worth your time!
Let me give you some examples of the statements I mentioned earlier.
My „Who and Do What“ statement:
I help entrepreneurs create systems that grow their business online and scale by leveraging technology.
My „Why I Do It“ statement:
I want entrepreneurs to overcome technical obstacles, so that they can benefit from today’s connected society.
I help you create a systemized business that leverages technical capabilities and lets you focus on the business rather than on technique.
Since conversations and interactions with strangers take place in various situations and contexts, it’s a good idea to take justice of this fact in your brand positioning. So I created three versions of each statement - a short, middle, and a long version. Send me an email and I’ll happily send you all versions of the statements.
Knowing these statements and actually writing them down with pen and paper gives me a feeling of consistency and security.
I now know exactly what message my brand needs to get across to my target audience, thus I know exactly what kind of actions I need to take.
Defining the essential ingredients of your brand let’s anything else fall into place.
Now that we know the fundamentals of our brand, the next is to actually create our brand and to make it accessible to our target audience.
In order to make your brand resonate with your target audience, you need to know who they are. Though this is incredibly important, it’s not the topic of this post. Read this post to find out more about target audience analysis.
Knowing your target audience is mandatory, because your brand needs to appeal to them and make them feel comfortable in approaching you.
Brand positioning hereby has one main purpose, it tells your target audience what you can do for them and what benefits your clients experience when working with you.
So far, this is the same squishy advice that you’re hearing all over. So let me get into the nitty-gritty of brand positioning and share some actionable tips from my own process.
Did you remember the question I asked right in the beginning?
Do people immediately understand what you’re doing?
Since I started to analyze my brands at the very roots, I recognized that I needed to change my website drastically.
My old website showed the latest posts on the landing page. This means that when someone visited jkoch.me, they saw my posts instead of a special message.
Since the latest posts don’t give a clear idea of what I’m doing and what benefits I can deliver for my clients, that had to change.
On the new website design I’m using a static landing page, that welcomes each visitor and gives a clear definition of what I’m all about.
This screenshot shows you my new website in an early development phase, but the direction is already clear. I needed to have a block on the website that serves several purposes:
All this needs to happen ABOVE THE FOLD, so that visitors see the most important contents immediately and can decide quickly whether your website is relevant for them or not.
Remember that you shouldn’t try to please everybody with your brand! Neither should you try to do so with your website.
Speak boldly of what you’re doing, what kind of persons you work with, and what benefits you can deliver to them. That’s what resonates with your target audience, stop worrying about those people who wouldn’t pay you anyway!
Stop worrying about those who wouldn’t pay you anyway!
Having a website will most likely result in having a blog, as blogging is a great way to build a relationship with your target audience, showcase your skills, and answer popular questions in your market.
The mistake most bloggers do is to create way too much content. Yes, I said too much content.
Did you ever examine how the most successful bloggers create their content? Their posts are well researched, usually longer than 1.5k words, and they rarely publish more often than twice a month.
What the most successful bloggers do is, promote the sh*t out of their contents.
So what do we learn from this for our own brand positioning? I learned that I’m going to write only two posts a month from now on and rather promote them in various ways.
It’s time to overcome my shyness of self-promotion and to make sure that the content I’m creating gets attention!
And that’s what I’d recommend for most businesses. What’s the point in creating the posts that show „The Top 10 Ways to do…“ if they’ve been done over and over again?
Blogging is about publishing relevant information for your target audience. It’s about showing that you actually CARE for your audience and that you’re willing to do the work that’s necessary to answer their questions.
Social media is a part of your content strategy too. Remember that social media are not for content distribution, but for social storytelling!
Make regular updates on your social profiles part of your branding strategy, because this is you can directly connect to your audience (at least most businesses can).
But what stories do you tell? To be honest, storytelling still is hard for me and I most often misuse social media for pure content distribution.
On social media you should convey your brand message (remember the three statements?) packaged in stories that engage your audience to read your content.
These can be personal stories from your life, takeaways from working with clients, stories that you’ve been told, or basically anything that build emotional connections and makes it easy for your audience to relate to you.
Do you know the feeling of „Oh, I know how that feels“, „I’ve been in a similar situation“, or „I know a person with the same experience“? That’s the kind of emotions you want to convey on social media.
Stop telling everyone how great your product is, why your product is the best, and why all your competitors suck. Give your audience a reason to seriously pay attention to your brand and show them that you care for them!
Share stories in which you showcase real-world benefits that your clients experienced after working with you. Take your audience on a journey and showcase the processes in your work.
Prove that you understand the burning needs of your audience and showcase solutions that you can offer. Package this information in stories and stop posting boring status updates.
Probably the most important part is to be consistent in your brand positioning.
Use the same colors, images, and the same wording on your blog, your social media profiles, clothes, or whatever media you use.
You’ll want to create a recognizable brand, regardless of the context someone is seeing your content!
In order to generate this consistency you can go through the following process:
Since we’re all human, we evolve over time. We make new experiences, gather new skills, our interests change. Thus our brands need to evolve with us.
The entrepreneur always searches for change, responds to it, and exploits it as an opportunity. – Peter F. Drucker
I recognized this fact as I took a look at my daily business routines and understood that all structures have grown naturally, rather than being consciously defined by me.
Notice that I didn’t recognize it when looking at my website? A brand is who you are, not what your website looks like. The website needs to align with who you are, your style of business, and your message - but it’s not the best indicator to notice whether you need to work on your brand positioning.
The way I was getting and handling my clients, the way I was (not) publishing contents online, the way I totally neglected marketing my freelancing skills.
These were indicators showing that I needed to work on my brand, to be perceived as web design expert, and to attract new clients.
Businesses grow as opportunities arise and skills grow. Make sure your brand grows with it. (tweetable)
Taking a look way back to the beginning of my business, my main goal was to create residual income, so that I could spend my time with things I love. I was infected with the dream of the 4-hour work week back then, but I soon realized that it is hard to accomplish that goal.
My residual income wasn’t high enough to quit my job, so I switched to freelancing and working as a web designer. Boom, I tripled the income and quit my job within a few weeks. Mission accomplished.
The thing was, that I didn’t update my brand to match the new mission I was on. When you consumed content created by me, you wouldn’t have recognized that I’m a web designer and restart strategist. You wouldn’t have known that „restart strategist“ means that I help people grow businesses on the side to restart their lives into living their dreams.
It wasn’t clear about what I was doing, but instead I put out content without even structuring it to fit my new goals. I had lost the overall vision.
If this sounds familiar to you, keep calm. It’s a natural thing to happen, especially when your business is young and you’re not that experienced (yet).
With the process I described above, you can easily work on your brand positioning and rebrand yourself the way you want to be perceived.
There are signs that show you whether your brand is still on track with your mission and supports your business, or whether you should evaluate your brand positioning and maybe reposition your brand.
This list is some of my feelings that I had when I noticed that I had to redevelop my branding strategy. I’m sure there are more signs and they’ll vary depending on your business, audience, and character traits - nevertheless you should consider redefining your brand positioning when more than one or two statements are true for you:
If you’ve nodded your head more than once, take a closer look at the process outlined in this post and find out what steps you need to take to get your brand back on track.
Why are those signs important? Well, they show the wellbeing of your business. If you’re not getting new clients and aren’t booked solid, you’re obviously not building a sustainable business. If your list isn’t growing and interaction on your website is low, you’re not perceived as expert in your field.
If clients argue on pricing or project details, they don’t value your expertise and the service you’re offering. Chances are, that they won’t become raving fans of your business and won’t refer you to their network.
These are all essential elements that viable business need to become and (most importantly) stay profitable.
A great website is definitely a very important part in this process, but your branding strategy is way more complex than just a website. It’s a system that you need to implement.