Do-it-Yourself Mini Workshop
7 Steps to a Unique Brand Message
The Quick & Easy Way to Wow your Prospects and Clients
with a Clear & Convincing Brand Message
By Steve Kellogg
© Copyright 2010-2016, Steve Kellogg, All rights reserved
Whether an individual, solo-preneur or business, the way you present yourself to others and the marketplace creates an instant impression. It is up to you to make it a good one.
Your message may reflect your “brand” or your USP – unique selling proposition. It is what makes you stand out from the crowd – either as a personal statement or as a means to differentiate your business.
This workshop covers factors needed to create your own unique message, including…
- Using problem solving in your message
- Focusing on the perspective of the listener
- Benefits vs. features
At the core of creating your message is personal integrity, that which is the essential you or the core mission of your business.
You will find this is finding the critical words that are meaningful, brief and descriptive.
While the concepts are extraordinarily simple, they are challenging for most to implement effectively. What we are after is your core message that can be used in all modes – written, verbal and online.
Let us begin…
The late Howard Shenson, known as the consultant’s consultant, developed the single most important message for anyone in business.
The Client’s Perspective
The value of your services and those offered by others
will be perceived as being equal by the client,
unless someone explains the differences.
It’s very simple. All of the same type of service providers appear the same. Recall a time when you moved to a new town. You need a new dentist or doctor. You go to the yellow pages or on-line to see who’s available. You end up with a list.
They all seem the same as there is little way to differentiate them. A dentist is a dentist. A doctor is a doctor. You are able to get information that may help you make a decision, such as location or specialty (in the case of the doc).
So what to do? Most of us ask a friend or neighbor – someone who can vouch for and provide a testimonial. We just want to be assured we find someone capable. In time, after direct experience, we can make our own judgment.
This process is a powerful clue to how you want to position your business – and the value of referrals to getting new clients or customers.
The use of referrals or testimonials is known as “social proof,” in which we are assured of a level of competence by a peer or reliable source.
So it is up to you, to find a way to stand out in the crowd.
The balance of this workbook is to help you do this for yourself. No one will do it for you, unless you show him or her how.
Get out your paper and pen. Time to start…
Using the worksheet at the end…
Step 1. Write a brief description of your business and what makes you different, unique or special.
This is only a starting point – not your final result. When finished, go to the next page.
A key step in differentiating is to understand to whom your message is directed.
This is moving from the shotgun approach in which you try to appeal to everyone. Fact is, you can’t – your message will be diffused and likely irrelevant.
Start with identifying your ideal client.
An individual: Male, Female?
Age, education, location, interests?
A small business? (describe by revenue or number of employees)
A large business?
What problems do they have?
What makes them unique?
Other vendors they use?
Your competition they have used?
Best way/place to locate them?
Organizations they belong to?
Using the worksheet…
Step 2. Describe, with specifics, your target market.
One of the most common terms used, and misused, is branding.
Many established companies created formidable “brands” before the term was fashionable.
In many cases, the logo or colors may be as recognizable as the name. Think “golden arches.”
When you see these companies, you know what to expect. You may not care for McDonald’s hamburgers, but wherever you are – around the entire world, you can walk in and get what you expect.
It is more than a small company can do to create a recognizable brand, but your need to work on it from the standpoint of establishing an “identity,” which is that for which you are known. By making it easy to be remembered, you can achieve recognition in your arena, which also makes it easy to be referred.
Some helpful terms…
Brand – How you differentiate yourself in the marketplace. The “essential” you.
Marketing – How you convey your brand to the marketplace.
Sales – How you actually convert business by obtaining clients or customers.
Your purpose in thinking “brand” is to create a simple, memorable message. To be effective it must be…
- Clear & Concise
- Simple to Understand
- Implies a Benefit to your Target Market
- A Promise
- Used with Repetition & Consistency
Finally, don’t confuse your “Brand” with your “Brand Identity,”
Brand is your differentiator, the essential you. Your essence.
Brand Identity is the form it takes such as logos, letterheads, cards, brochures, colors, etc.
Now the question is…
Do you want to go to all of this trouble?
Here’s your choice. You can be a…
You peddle a product or service that is like others in the marketplace. You usually compete on price, for people are looking for the cheapest that gets the job done most of the time.
Or, you can be a…
- Brand builder
You inspire the market to choose you. You do great work or have excellent products. You are usually not competing on price, and you deliver more than the minimum. You build customer loyalty because you are reliable, trustworthy and take the hassle out of doing business with you.
If you chose the former, stop here. No point in wasting your time.
If you chose the latter, keep going. The work and fun is now beginning.
Oh, by the way.
Don’t plan to use “service” as your differentiator. It is no longer unique. Everyone promises it, although few really deliver. With most people promising service, it is difficult to differentiate with it, unless you create a remarkable, memorable and absolutely consistent program (or other way to “package” it).
Your USP is your “Unique Selling Proposition.” This is often used interchangeably with your “Brand,” except that the USP is the form that your brand “message” takes.
It is what communicates your difference.
It is a simple statement that describes to the world, in a few short words, how you stand out from others of the same or similar type of service provider.
A few examples:
Rather than: “Family Dentist”
Use: “Sedation Dentist” (if, in fact, you use this technique)
Rather than: “Business Coach”
Use: “Small Business Success System”
Rather than: “Nutritionist”
Use: “Food Life-style Advisor”
Rather than: “copywriter”
Use: “Words to grow your business”
Rather than: “astrologer”
Use: “the baby-boomer’s astrologer”
Now, before you decide these are dumb ideas, look at the intent. Don’t focus on the specific words, for they are just preliminary examples. The goal is to show how you are different from someone else. So you need to change-up the way you describe your service or business. And, as we’ll see below, you need to put it in terms that have meaning to the client or customer.
Always be authentic, this is no place for unwarranted hype, but it is a time to really look at what you do and how you either do it, package it, or present it differently.
Also, you will find that the more you differentiate the more specific you will tend to get.
An old story is about a beer promotion. The writer of the promotion received a detailed tour of the brewing process. Along the way, he learned that the water used to make it was “coal filtered” for purity. He also found that most other beers were prepared the same way, but no one was claiming it. So the promotion focused on “coal filtered.” It was unique. It was different. It was a great success.
This description became a differentiator, even though it was not significantly different that others. Its just that no one had claimed it. Plus, no one could say with much effectiveness, “Hey, we’re cold filtered, too.”
So, getting to the market first with your differentiator, even though it may not be entirely different, may be enough.
The next big idea is…
Singe this into your mind.
- I. I. F. M.
Simply stated this is “What’s In It For Me.”
It is the perspective of your prospect or lead. When you interact with others, you must keep this in mind. Those who may be interested in your services are looking for the benefit they will receive. All else is likely tuned out.
They don’t, as a rule, care about you, what you have done, or what you do – at first.
They will want to know about you later, once they know you can help them in ways they want to be helped. All else is irrelevant.
Therefore, all of your messaging must lead with a benefit for your target market.
It’s time to discuss benefits and features…
Listen as others describe what they do. They often say “we provide these services,” then go on to give a list.
Such as, a hair stylist (just heard yesterday): “We do perms, dyes, rinses, cuts, etc., all for reasonable prices.”
These are features, not benefits. An example:
Cadillac recently ran an ad. It described how the car had 340 horsepower, went from 0 to 60 in just 6.2 seconds, and several other “features.”
The benefit came at the end of the commercial. It was, “But the real question is, when you turn your car on…does it return the favor?”
THERE IT IS!
The zinger. This goes to the “feeling” you will have. Cars sell lifestyle. They sell how you will feel. Or, how you will command the road. Or, how you will protect your family. And so on.
Benefits are more emotionally based. They give someone what they want or aspire to. They go to basic motivations.
In your marketing efforts, you are better off speaking to the needs and problems of your target market. They won’t care what you do, until they believe there is something you can do for them.
The features of your service or the qualifications you bring to the table are important only after the prospect believes you can help them in ways they want to be helped.
An architect helps a client by creating plans and specifications so that the project can be approved and then built. Plans and specs are “features.” But to the architect they are ends in themselves, realized by a finished building.
The benefit to the client is that she is helped to make money on the project, or get ego gratification from the completed project. The architect’s services are a means to an end. Other concerns the client may have is that the construction will come in on budget and that there will be no legal problems, so that the expected financial performance of the project is realized.
Steps 3 & 4. List the features, then the benefits of your business.
Now that you have the foundation of…
- The importance of differentiation
- How your USP represents your difference
- The distinction between features and benefits
Let’s proceed with creating your own message.
First, consider what business you are in.
Using the example of the architect, above.
The typical architect, or other service provider, believes they are in the business of providing plans and other services.
This is a focus on features. It’s what they do.
But from the client’s perspective…
The architect provides a good, functional, error-free and cost effective design to fulfill the client’s objectives. The client’s objectives may be to make money by selling or leasing the project or use the building for his own purposes. Some clients want an award-winning design to either stroke their ego, make more money or use as a brand builder. An example of the latter is the Transamerica pyramid tower in San Francisco.
So, write down on your worksheet…
Step 5. A description of what your business is, in terms that focus on the needs of the client.
One way our architect could state this is:
We delight our clients, meet their needs and protect their pocketbooks through the masterful design of their projects that are both functional and beautiful.
Another way of saying something similar:
Our client’s know us as design facilitators, helping them meet their building goals and financial performance.
Now do it for your business…
It’s worth spending some time on the kind of experience you want your client or customer to have.
Southwest Airlines has created a culture around humor and playfulness. It may bother some, but most enjoy the fact that they will have a fun experience flying on Southwest.
Disneyland is known for a fanatical emphasis on the visitor experience. Staff are called cast members, a title that helps employees play the desired role. Cleanliness is important and those that are constantly sweeping up receive exceptional training, for they are most likely to receive random requests from visitors.
While your message should convey the experience to be expected, it is important to define the experience, so that you can build your business “culture” around it.
The only way to deliver consistently a quality experience is to build it into the business. It’s always easier at the beginning. Once established, a culture is inherently resistant to change, especially by those who created and contributed to the old culture.
Delivering and messaging your experience must be “lived.” Talk, meetings, reports, posters and all of the devices used are of no meaning if not modeled from the top.
This is relatively easy if you’re a solo-preneur. The important thing is to define and decide what you want to be. Then do. This will communicate it better than any words or slogans you devise. But the better you can put it into words, the better it can be conveyed via your marketing materials.
On your worksheet…
Step 6. Describe the experience you want your customers to have.
As a; follow-up, you may need to design your service process to deliver accordingly.
We have arrived…
Now is the time to restate your USP or brand message.
You will integrate…
- Your difference
- Your target market
- Your benefits
- Your real business
- Your customer experience
You are a marketing consultant
- Your difference is that you specialize in getting your client, who are authors, exposure on national TV and radio. (some others do this, but most are generalized. The national opportunity is unique in some markets)
- Your target market is authors of self-help books and products.
- Your benefits include creating massive interest and traffic for your clients.
- Your real business is creating best-selling authors.
- Your customer experience is personal attention so that your clients can reach you or your assistant 24 hours a day, 7 days a week; you package all other publicity so that the client doesn’t have to lift a finger.
Several forms this message can take…
- I make self-help authors superstars. When they receive national media exposure, their sales go through the roof and I hold their hands every step of the way.
- National media exposure creates best sellers. I help my self-help authors navigate the media minefield to build their reputation and turn their content into businesses.
- Everyone has a best seller in them. If you specialize in self-help content, I make you famous using national television and radio and have done it for 10 authors.
There are various ways to state this, often driven by specifics of what you do. Even more powerful is to build in a specific track record – as shown in example number 3.
- Brief description of your business, presently?
- Who is your target market?
- What are the features of your product or service?
- What are the benefits of your product or service?
- What business are you in (client’s perspective)?
- Describe the experience you want them to have?
- Now, restate your new brand or USP?
|About the author:
Steve Kellogg is a marketing strategist and copywriter, specializing in web site content, article marketing and other forms of marketing content.