I’ve been working with one of my small business marketing clients on how to position their company in 2017 (and of course, create content marketing that impresses). The topic of competitors sparked an interesting discussion about market differentiation when my client told me that they want their marketing materials to sound similar to the “big dogs” in their industry so that prospective customers will think of them as a good alternative.

What do you think? they asked me.

My answer? Never be afraid to stand apart from your competition. Figure out what you do that is different and better, and communicate that unique value proposition to your audience.

At the start of our work together, my client’s initial reaction was that they don’t do anything all that differently…that everyone in their industry essentially does the same thing. They referenced their exceptional service and the fact that they are big believers in transparency when it comes to building the tools that they offer. Otherwise, they and their competition are all the same, they told me. They just want to be in the mix when prospects are considering working with someone other than Big Dog Competitor ABC.

You are different: figure out how.

They said it themselves: they are different. My client admitted that their service is better (and they had several solid reasons to back up the claim) and they always share their process with their customers instead of building tools for them in a vacuum and presenting to them in a box with a pretty bow on top. Companies that want a solution built for them and really don’t want to know how it was done or have much to do with it might like the other guys. But those who like to understand…who like to “pull back the curtain” will like working with a provider like my client.

Don’t underestimate your marketing strengths.

Something I see often is companies marketing themselves blindly without first figuring out what makes them unique from the competition they’re going up against. Worse, I see companies dismiss their strengths as if they aren’t worth talking about. Too often, companies look around at their competition and nod, as if to say, “Yeah, we do that too.”

This is problematic for a lot of reasons, but mostly because you cannot expect your customers to recognize your strengths and points of distinction if you don’t! And if don’t know already, those elements are a huge part of how you market yourselves effectively.

Build a brand foundation first, then a marketing plan.

The bottom line: in marketing, you must know thyself before you set out to market thyself.

Can I craft your business, service, or product a well-written brochure (or newsletter or website)? Sure. Can I write much more powerful, effective website copy if I have a good understanding of your brand pillars, your points of differentiation, and your desired “what we want to be known fors”? YES.

If you’re going to go to the trouble of creating anything like a website, brochure, or monthly newsletter to market your business, do it right. Don’t wing it. Even a little time invested at the front end into discovering what makes you (or your product or service) special and how you want to share that with your current and target customers will make a big difference in 1) how effective your materials are and 2) how consistent they are in  articulating your desired message and telling your story.

And in case you’re curious, we’ve built a solid brand platform for my client that is going to help them take 2017 by storm. It outlines who they are, why they’re different, what they stand for, and who their target customers are. It also lays out the message we want each of their customer verticals to take away from their marketing materials. Going forward, we won’t create a blog post, press release, or anything else without first making sure that its messaging supports their brand.

You can’t build a house without first building the foundation, after all.

Need help marketing your business in 2017? Contact me about developing a market differentiation strategy for your business and creating content marketing and copywriting that shines.