Not to get sentimental on you, but a new year is quickly approaching. I know, it just sort of sneaks up on you. And with that new year c0kes the perfect opportunity to evaluate your brand, look at the value you’re bringing your customers and recommit yourself to improving upon that over the next 12 months. But before we can move forward, we must first measure where we’ve been, where we hope to be, and what we need to be for our customers.
With that in mind, below are 10 questions intended to help you take a more strategic look at your brand to identify what’s working and where you may want to improve.
Understanding Your Audience
- Who is your ideal customer? What do they look like?
- What needs to they have and what is their budget to address those needs?
- Who do they aspire to be? What Joneses are they trying to keep up with?
As small business owners, this is often where we’re strongest – understanding our customers and their needs. Since we work directly in our business, we can talk to our customers every day to get to know who they are and to understand their greatest pain points. We know who they are from a demographic standpoint and, through our daily conversations with them, we may even know who they aspire to be and who they’re trying to emulate. All of this information helps us to create a complete picture of our customer so that we can better align our business to meet their needs.
If you haven’t created a blueprint or a persona profile for your customers in the past few months, take the time now to create one. This will help you better understand who you’re marketing to so that you can tweak your campaigns directly to the people you’re trying to reach. You won’t know where you’re going until you know where you need to be.
Understanding Your Competition
- Who are your major competitors in your local business area? What makes them unique?
- How are they capturing new clients? What opportunities are they leaving open?
- What about your major competitors in online search results?
- If you had to narrow it down, who is your most dangerous competitor? What makes them so dangerous? How can you get a better sense of their marketing plan/digital footprint?
One mistake we sometimes make as business owners is to believe that we have no competition. We believe that our business is either so unique or so valuable that we’re not competing with anyone for customers. That’s simply not the case. And it’s especially not the case now that we have our keyword-specific search results to deal with. Anyone ranking above you and stealing traffic and eyeballs is now added competition.
Take some time to study your competitors to help you understand where you fit in the market and the opportunities that are available to you. Understanding who you’re competing against and their strengths and weaknesses puts you in a better position to compete.
Understanding Your Own Business
- What is your point of differentiation in the marketplace? Why would a customer select you over one of your competitors?
- What three words would you want a customer to use to describe your business?
- What is the emotional DNA of your business? What do customers get from doing business with you, beyond just the fulfillment of their core need?
It’s a question many business owners don’t take the time to ask themselves – who do you want your brand to be in the market? What are you associated with today and what would you like to be associated with three years from now? This is something eBay is currently struggling with as they try to rebrand from “old” to “new,” as this tweet points out.
Because we’re all so busy in our day-to-day, it can be difficult to stop, take a step back, and really evaluate where we want our brand to go. But take the time to do so. Figure out what makes you different, how you can be strategically authentic, and use it build a stronger brand and connect with customers on a deeper level. It’s not enough to simply sell a great product anymore; you also need to provide a great experience. Your customers need to associate you with something way larger than just the dishwasher they bought from you if you want to develop a sense of loyalty.
As a small business owner, you live and die by your brand. As we wind down 2011, dedicate some thought to thinking about your place in the market and how you can strengthen it in 2012. Doesn’t your brand deserve it?
I know that no importance was implied by the order, but I would suggest SMBs start by knowing their own business, then seek to understand your customers, and don’t focus on the competition until you’ve covered those bases. I’ve seen too many SMBs get paranoid about their competition and become paralyzed by fear.
As always, Lisa, an excellent article. Every one of the issues you pointed out are critial to get SMBs focused and moving toward success. In reality, these things should all be analyzed at start up as a part of the business planning process.