11 Nov 2014

Who cares about competitors? Your customers, that’s who!

Businesses are typically positioned according to the features that set them apart, but a brand should first be established within a frame of reference - the market, and the competition.

Businesses and brands are typically positioned according to the features that set them apart from the competition – the points of difference, or unique sales proposition (USP). They’re why customers buy from you, and not someone else. But a brand should first be established within a frame of reference – the market, and its competition.

Your customers and prospects compare your brand with what they know and what’s already in the market. It helps them establish what a product or service is, what it does, and what’s in it for them. You hope they’ll be able to identify what makes you different, and how that difference will benefit them. But the gap between customers and prospects’ perceptions and what you think they think can be vast.

What is benchmarking – and why is it important?

Benchmarking is one of the most effective things you can do to close that gap. You can use it to map brands and reputations, analyse competitor activity and measure customer satisfaction and retention. It helps you identify what customers want and what they actually get, and pin-point the innovations that can boost profitability and transform your business.

I’ve worked on many benchmarking studies over the years, for big brands including Tarmac, Hepworth, Wavin, Deceuninck, Rixonway, and Brett Landscaping, and small businesses. In my experience there are six key questions brand-owners should ask themselves:

1 What is my brand’s frame of reference? What is the market, and what benefits do customers expect from products in this market eg time saving, durability, good looks?

2 What are my brand’s core values? Brand awareness is only effective if your brand has an established position and clear values. If you don’t know who you are and what you stand for, and you don’t communicate it, how will your customers? Are you known for your low pricing, great service or your high quality? Or high prices, average service and variable quality? For great choices or a limited choice?

3 Do my customers really care about the benefits that I am promoting? Prove it with research.

4 How easy it is it for competitors to copy the things that make my brand different? Claim you’re the cheapest and you won’t be for long. This kind of positioning will only attract competition.

5 How should I respond to competition? You can’t ignore competition: it won’t go away. But it’s all too easy to concentrate on dealing with one form of competition while leaving yourself open to another. Builders’ Merchants, for example, compete with Wickes, Homebase and B&Q, not just other merchants. Builders and home improvement companies (and their suppliers) compete with cars and holidays for a share of the homeowner’s purse.

Making your brand a lasting sustainable success means re-assessing your brand and its message regularly. Markets, competitors and customers are changing all the time. Is your brand still relevant? Has it got what it takes?

For more information contact me on 01453 521621 or lucia@mra-marketing.com or follow us on LinkedIn.

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