Back to Basics – 2

The previous entry in this series addressed defining target markets as the first step of “Branding Smart from the Start”.
Step 2, competitive evaluation, is also a foundation activity upon which a successful brand can be built.
Here we are identifying and evaluating your anticipated competition.
Now, I’ve been told by at least a dozen entrepreneurs that “They don’t have any competitors”. I say poppycock! I say that’s a cop-out.
And I’m not speaking about the old saw that says you’re competing for a piece of market members’ limited resources. No, I suggest that your competition is probably the product, method or system market members are using today in order to cope with the need or desire your offering promises to address. So the horse and buggy competed with automobiles in the pioneering days of the auto. Bookkeepers compete with Quick Books. Faxes compete with e-mail. Fresh vegetables compete against packaged salads.
Yours may be a more speedy, cheaper, thorough and elegant solution to a problem. But because people in general are reluctant to change – they get comfortable with the way things are – the old ways need to be addressed and acknowledged as you develop your branding strategy.
No one has addressed this need better than Geoffrey A. Moore in his ground-breaking book, Crossing the Chasm. On page 154 of the soft-cover edition he presents a formula for a positioning statement, or elevator speech, to introduce a product that is going to replace a traditional product.

For (target customers)…
Who are dissatisfied with (current market alternative)…
Our produce/service is a (new product category)…
That provides (key benefit/solution)…
Unlike (product alternative)…
We have assembled (key features addressing the application).

For new products in which you are inventing a new product category (as I advised a new dry cleaner who offered all type of clothing care products to do by introducing the company as a “Clothing Care Center” rather than a “dry cleaner”.) and for products entering an established category, identify each major and each up-and-coming competitor and perform a SWOT (strength, weakness, opportunity, threat) analysis.
This will allow you to position each competitor against the attributes important within the product category. I suggest you go to my web site and review the positioning research example I’ve presented there concerning the restaurant business in a hypothetical small town in southern Colorado. Click Positioning Research Example.
You may not need to actually poll people about the competition if you have other sources of market intelligence. The idea is to at least roughly place competitors in the “pecking order” for each important attribute. Now you’ve established a map of your playing field, and can better see where your offering will fit within it.
Next time it’s on to Step 3 in the next blog when I’ll address the need for “classic” positioning.

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