Today I’ve got a post for you written by Susan Long – a professional marketing consultant! She’s written a great article about how to choose and position yourself in your niche – written for indie biz owners like you and me.

***

Why does a Prada Handbag cost so much more than a well made, mall shop, no name handbag?  They’ve probably got comparable quality leather, both are well made, the only real difference is that little Prada logo…..  And that is what makes the REAL difference.  The brand is what you pay top dollar for, so when you start your business, be true to your brand because one day, it might just make you your first million!

Know your product and your customers:

To know your product, you need to figure out if it’s a Prada or a Mall Shop (or a market stall) bag.  Who is buying it?  What is their motivation?  Do they aspire to have something exclusive or do they just want a good reliable handbag?  Maybe, they’re the type to want a cheap and cheerful vinyl one?  If you know the answer to these questions (the right answer) then you can find yourself amarket position.

Know your competitors:

Take a close look at your competitors’ websites or stores.  Make a few quick notes on each.  If you think back through your research, some will stand out to you – maybe one sticks in your mind because it was the only one who did matching purses and handbags, or one is easy to recall because everything was displayed very tastefully and the bags looked expensive, or maybe one carried patent leather, or you could order custom bags, or only one stocked crocodile skin bags? Or maybe, for some reason, the website just “spoke” to you (that’s copywriting, and a whole other issue!) These stand out to you because they have a point of difference – there are probably ten on your list with nothing memorable about them – well, by the end of this article, your small enterprise will already be ahead of those!

Know your industry:

Is there anything big going on in your industry?  Are people making greener choices?  Do your customers want handbags made in fair trade factories?  Can you see any opportunities or threatsto capitalize on or to avoid?

Find your place:

Imagine all your competitors as part of a big industry jigsaw puzzle – is the top end of the market full of one big piece (like Coke) or lots of competing ones (like all of the take out food chains)?  Are there a hundred exclusive little designer bag shops out there or just one very popular one?  Where does you bag fit in the puzzle – top, middle, bottom or does it have a special place off to one side, a niche of it’s own?  Is your price right for your place in the puzzle?

Next comes the tricky bit – why you:  What is so good about you?  Why would a customer choose you and your bag over any one of the other bags in the puzzle?  Why are you special?  What need can you meet that not one, single other competitor can meet? What is your point of difference?

Depending on your business, that question could take two seconds to answer or it could have you heading back to the drawing board.  If there is no place for you, the marketplace could be saturated, in which case, you need to find new products or new markets.  If the place for you is very limited, can your piece get bigger?  Think about what it would take to make more people want your product – is it something feasible like “all those cheap handbags keep breaking, they will recognise my quality and want it” or does getting more sales require a lot ofexpensive advertising?

Position yourself and stick to it:

So, you know your product, your customers, your competitors and your industry – you’ve found a place where you can stand out and now you are ready to develop yourself a brand!  Let’s say, you are the only maker and seller of faux fur handbags and they come in a range of colours.  Your product is mid priced and “fun”.  Your buyers are 18 -30 year old single women, with a moderate amount of disposable income, who have a fun, hip, funky image and make aspirational purchases to re-enforce this image.  They like smaller than average handbags and often take their handbag to nightclubs and bars.

Are there any features you could add to the product to really grab that market?  Perhaps a durable, waterproof base or secret, hidden money pouch?  Is there a colour she’d really love to buy?  Could you find a way to make it smaller without losing too much carrying capacity?

Once the product is exactly what the buyer wants (if it’s not, you either need to rethink the brand or the product) become the buyer – speak her language, walk in her shoes (with her new handbag) and really target her and her alone.  There’s an old advertising adage that goes “Speak to everyone and nobody will listen, speak to one person and everybody eavesdrops” – your potential customer must look at your brand and think “that is exactly me and exactly what I need”.

So now you need a Positioning Statement and/or Tagline.  Everyone has an opinion on how a Positioning Statement should be written – and depending on who your buyers are there are plenty of different approaches to take – Google it and try a few different methods to see which one best fits your product.

In a nut shell, a Positioning Statement says what you do, who you are, what you stand for, who shops with you, your point of difference and your market position – in just one or two sentences.  Ideally, you’ll get it down to a few words and make them catchy and memorable too – that way your Positioning Statement becomes your Tagline as well – if not, your Tagline is a few very memorable words that stick in your customers minds.

Think back to your competitors, you remember that one of them did customer orders – this has stuck in your mind because it is something you might like, and you saw it clearly on their site, so their brand stands out.

So, finally, it’s time to position your bags.  The brand is young and fun – so you don’t want any old fashioned wording (unless your retero!).  Gen Y love to hear it as it is, no faffing about:

So, your Positioning Statement might be:

We make funky faux fur bags for clubbers.

(Pardon me if I am not down with the lingo – I am a grand old Gen X – pushed aside to the scrap heap when it comes to young and funky!)

Now decide if it is memorable enough to stick in the heads of potential buyers.  If not, you’ll need a Tagline too:

Furry is more fun.

This is a bit cheeky (with sexual connotations – they are clubbers after all!), it says what you do and explains the benefits of your product to your potential buyer.  It’s short, it’s succinct and it’s memorable.

Once you have it, stick it next to your fun funky logo, write some fun funky copy (remember to always focus on the benefits, not the features and the buyer, not yourself) and watch your brand come to life!

***

About the Author:  Susan Long is a freelance writer and marketing consultant.  See some of her work at Sell Property Quickly