Most small and medium-sized businesses start trying to understand their market positions and brand messaging when it’s too late.
They only think about what are perhaps the most critical questions when it’s time to write copy for their websites, an ad or a brochure.
What’s worse is they only take the exercise so far. They tend to ask and answer the easy questions: What do we do? How do we do it? What makes us special?
But the easy questions will only get you so far in influencing an audience to truly care about your company and be motivated to pursue a purchasing decision of some kind. Purchasing decisions are more complex than what you do or how you do it, and every competitor in the landscape too often answers “What makes us special?” the same way.
Here are the questions you forgot to ask about your brand:
1. “Who is our ideal customer?” Is your ideal customer the one that makes you the biggest profit, is your most frequent purchaser, or a joy to work with?
2. “What does that customer look like?” Consider geography, demographics and, perhaps most important, psychographics.
3. “What motivates the customer?” Does he or she make purchases and seek solutions based on fear, opportunity, cost, convenience or something else?
4. “Why are we uniquely positioned to appeal to the customer’s motivators?” Once you answer this, check your answer against your competitors’ messages. Is your answer truly distinct from your peers?
5. “How can we creatively deliver a message that will instantly resonate with such an audience?” Do you remember your ideal customer? Write according to that person in terms of style, length, tone, delivery—everything!
6. “Does our visual brand match that message and the sensibilities of the ideal customer profile?” Disconnects between messaging and image can be disruptive, and potentially destructive. Make certain you connect with that ideal customer on every aesthetic and intellectual level.
7. “Are we trying to push what we have to sell, or do we appeal to what the market wants to buy?” Too often we tell and sell when we should listen and learn.
8. “How clear have we been?” You can’t penetrate limited attention spans with an abundance of confusing and competing messages. Keep it singular. Keep it simple. Make it nearly impossible for the audience to misunderstand how you can change their lives.
Ask all of these questions—not just the easy ones.
Ask them long before you start to tactically execute a website or brochure. Your ideal customer will reward you for your patience.
Tom Nixon is the president of LV8 Communications, a brand strategy consulting firm and integrated marketing agency. A version of this article originally appeared on the LV8 Communications blog.