What Makes Your Business Attractive To Customers During COVID-19 and beyond?

Editor’s Note: This blog was originally published on June11, 2018. It’s been updated as of the current publish date to reflect the most recent insights. This article is also part of a series that explores the impact the COVID-19 crisis is having on the business world. Each article is designed to help you navigate your marketing strategy during this time.

The last few months have been extremely difficult for the entire global community as we adjust to a new normal amid the coronavirus pandemic. From a personal point of view, many of us are practicing social distancing by staying inside, cancelling plans, and avoiding crowded spaces. From a business perspective, the majority of people are working from home, uncertain of when we’ll be allowed to return to our usual place of work. Businesses are facing a multitude of challenges from changes in demand, retail closures, supply chain issues and staff retention to name just a few. Importantly, now is the time to consider the impact this pandemic is having on our businesses and what adjustments need to be made, in the short term at least, to ensure survival.

This process involves a review of our marketing strategy, beginning with target market definition (see previous article) and now the next step which covers….

What Makes Your Business Attractive to Customers During COVID-19 and Beyond?

Being attractive to our customers is a matter of perception and perception is determined by our brand positioning.

To appreciate how to adjust your brand positioning during times of a crises such as COVID-19, it’s important to firstly have a good understanding of the strategic concept called brand positioning.

Brand Positioning is about creating the perception in the minds of your target customers that your brand/business can satisfy their needs and wants.

Immediately after the selection of your Target Markets (see previous blog for Target Market Definition), brand positioning is the second most important strategic marketing decision for your business.

If target market definition is about deciding who you want to target with your brand, business and marketing resources, then brand positioning is about determining how to be attractive when you reach your target customer groups.

“No point spending money reaching your target customers if you don’t know what you want to say to them when you reach them!”

Brand Positioning is not only a critical part of your marketing strategy, but it can also sometimes be one of the most difficult and most subjective concepts to grasp.

To help simplify the complex, the core essence of brand positioning is;

  1. Associated with clearly and uniquely identifying something
  2. Intended to communicate information about the branded item

Implications for Brand Marketers?

So as marketers the implications are that we need our brands to be:

  • Clear and easily recognisable as our brands, i.e. as unique as possible
  • Effective in communicating what is unique about our brands, i.e. in keeping with the needs/wants of our primary target markets

Brand Awareness versus Brand Positioning

An important branding concept to get right is the difference between Brand Awareness and Brand Positioning.

The differences are pretty obvious but getting the marketing linguistics right will help ensure you spend your marketing resources effectively.

What is Brand Awareness?

Brand Awareness, as a concept, relates to the proportion of a population that remembers or recognises your brand. In other words, brand awareness measures the portion of a community that is aware that your brand exists.

There are numerous methods and criteria for measuring brand awareness levels within a population which I will cover in future blog posts. However, the main point is that Brand Awareness measures the proportion of a population that is aware of your brand.

Of course, we are most interested in the proportion of our Primary and Secondary Target Markets that are aware of our brand and what we can do to increase that outcome.

What is Brand Positioning?

Brand Positioning, on the other hand, relates to the perception that is created in the minds of the target market.

In other words, brand positioning is about the personality, style, values and qualities; that is communicated on those occasions where your target customer is made aware of your brand.

Brand Positioning is by far the most subjective of the two concepts and the one that we must strive to get right and then protect so that we communicate a compelling and consistent message to our target customers.

How to Define The Best Brand Positioning for Your Brand During COVID-19 and Beyond

The most critical steps in defining your most attractive, or ‘ideal’ brand positioning for your brand rename the same, COVID-19 virus or no COVID-19 virus. These steps have been identified below and will be discussed in some detail.

  1. Brand Audit
  2. Customer Needs Analysis
  3. Identifying Your Point of Difference
  4. Prioritising Key Attributes
  5. Protecting your Brand

Why this critical strategic element needs to be explored or re-explored during times of crises, such as pandemics, is that two key factors in your marketing environment may have very likely changed;

  1. Your target market (as discussed in the previous article titled ‘Target Market Definition’)
  2. The needs of your target market

If your target market has changed, ie you are now forced to do business with people with a different profile and set of needs, or your existing target market’s needs have been affected by the pandemic, then your brand positioning should be adjusted accordingly.

Such adjustment is necessary is we are to maximise our brand attractiveness and relevance

So, it’s within this context that we now look at the five steps to defining your brand positioning.

Five (5) Steps to Defining your Brand Positioning

Step 1 – Brand Audit

Understanding how customers currently perceive your brand

One of the first things you need to do is understand what your customers currently think of your brand. A quick way of doing this is to analyse what messages your customers are being exposed to including:

  1. Your logo and branding devices
  2. Your website and social media presence
  3. Your premises, offices, factories or retail outlet
  4. The performance and professionalism of your staff
  5. The tools that you use to reach your customers such as emails, newsletters, advertising, signage
  6. All other elements that are exposed to your customers including delivery vehicles, packaging and even invoicing

While you are completing this process, it will also be useful to complete the same exercise on your competitors so that you can start to piece together the full picture that your customers will be exposed to.

“After all, your customers do not operate in a vacuum. They will be exposed to your competitors as well as your brand.”

If you have the time and the resources, it is also good practice to implement some customer research. (However, to achieve useful feedback and information it may be necessary to gain input and advice from a marketing company such as Baker Marketing or a consumer researcher as customer feedback generated by brand owners can sometimes be misleading for a variety of reasons).

Assess the Current Perceptions of Your Brand

The end outcome that we are after is to complete a stocktake of all the branding factors that the customer is exposed to concerning your brand. From here you can assess the current perceptions that your target customers are likely to hold.

The next step is to assess the needs of your customers in light of current circumstances, to understand where your brand positioning and related brand messaging can be adjusted to maximise attractiveness.

Step 2 – Customer Needs Analysis

Understanding what is important to your target customers

The Customer Needs Analysis is about drilling down, and understanding which needs and wants are of highest priority to your target customers when they are making a purchase decision.

There are two important concepts to consider here, namely:

  • Which needs are most important to your target customers
  • Which needs are most feasible for your brand/company to deliver or satisfy

Customer Needs – Insights During COVID-19

Customer needs come in two basic varieties, practical / rational and emotional / psychological.

Given the fact that consumer behaviour is generally driven by emotional needs and then justified post purchase by rational justification, it’s important to empathise with customers based on current events.

In times of crises and uncertainty, fear is a major motivational influence.
Fear not only of one’s own health and the health of loved ones, but fear also surrounding job loss and financial uncertainty.

It’s fear that created the scenes we’ve all witnessed in the toilet roll section of supermarkets and it was fear that filled the gun shops in the US. (It’s interesting to note the difference in priorities between cultures!)

With customers in this frame of mind, it’s important to understand the brand positioning elements or perceptions that with have the greatest influence on brand attractiveness.

Without being exhaustive, here’s a list of 10 of the most important;

  • Empathy – Showing that you understand and that “we are all in this together”
  • Sensitivity – Related to empathy but showing you care
  • Genuine – Showing that your intentions are based on serving your customer’s needs
  • Strong / Resilient – During times of crises customers are attracted to brands that are solid, have withstood the test of time and are reassuringly familiar
  • Value / Money saving – Helping to relieve financial stress
  • Helpful – Acts of kindness, generosity and support are well received
  • Community minded – Showing genuine community mindedness
  • Positivity – Positive messages giving hope and some certainty are well received
  • Distraction (Fun) – Sometimes people like to have their minds taken momentarily away from their fears and concerns with some fun
  • Easy – Easy to deal with without physical contact

It is essential to prioritise the needs that are important to the customer. This is where the information that you have gathered from your Brand Audit becomes useful.

By analysing the current perception of your brand, you can determine, what gap, if any, exists between your current brand perception and your desired brand positioning. If a gap exists, a key objective for your marketing strategy that will be to close that gap by adjusting your brand messaging.

However, in addition to prioritising your brand attributes based on the most important customer needs, remember:
“It is critical to ensure that it is feasible for you actually to deliver what it is that you are promising.”

Therefore, closing the gap between brand perception and desired brand positioning may not be as simple as refocussing your key communication messages to strengthen a focus or point of difference.

Closing this gap may well mean returning to your initial offer and adjusting it to ensure you are aligning with customer needs and feasibility to deliver.

Step 3 – Identifying Your Point of Difference

Defining what is most special about you

Many marketing texts talk in terms of:

  • “Identifying your sustainable point of difference”
  • “Defining your Unique Selling Point or USP”
  • “Uncovering your Competitive Advantage”
  • “Defining your Point of Distinction”

“Discovering the Holy Grail of Brand Positioning“

Quite often the reality is that what is special about your brand is not unique. In today’s competitive market environment it is not always easy to identify points of difference that are of high importance to the target customer and that are truly unique or sustainable as a point of difference.

However, we must strive to uncover that combination of high-importance needs that we can satisfy (i.e. possible) and features and benefits that our brands offer that is most special, unique and sustainable as a point of difference where possible.

Sometimes being first to make a claim ( even though others could make a similar claim) can create a sustainable point of difference that’s associated with your brand.

Every time you do this you make it easier for your customers to:

  1. Remember your brand and
  2. Make a decision to choose your brand over competitors in the first place

Step 4 – Prioritising Key Attributes

Defining what is most important and feasible for your brand to deliver
Positioning Attributes Positioning Attributes are simply the marketing term for factors that define and/or describe your brand (see list in Step 2)

After completing Steps 1 to 3, you now have a list of your target market’s needs in relation to your brand that is also prioritised in terms of:

  1. Importance to the target customer
  2. Feasibility to deliver

In Step 3 you may have also uncovered or further defined the Holy Grail of brand positioning (i.e. your sustainable point of difference).

You are now well placed to evaluate the best combination of importance to the customer and feasibility and to define the most effective brand positioning attributes for your brand during COID-19 and beyond.

When working with business owners and operators, we find that this can be quite a complicated process. We find taking a structured approach to this decision making process and using tables and ranking criteria helpful in ensuring that our clients are making the right decisions.

Brand Logic 101

After you have completed Steps 1 to 3, you should have a list of customer needs that are both important to the target customer and highly feasible for you to implement. Logic would suggest that they are both of high importance to the target customer and highly feasible to implement then this is a good indicator of what should be your high priority Brand Positioning Attributes.

Step 5 – Protecting your Brand

Ensuring consistent brand positioning
The desired end outcome of Steps 1 to 4 is a prioritised list of brand positioning attributes which are both of high importance to the target customer and feasible to deliver. In amongst this will also be your most sustainable point of difference.

It is this high-priority list of Desired Brand Positioning Attributes which should be used as the basis of your brand communication. It is now important to protect your brand.

This means you need to consistently communicate an image that reflects your desired brand positioning attributes. If you want your brand to be seen as local/ community minded and caring, you must ensure that all messages to which your target customers are exposed are also local / community minded and caring.

This means that the following marketing tools must also communicate local/ community minded / caring etc., to your target customers:
• Logo/branding device
• Website
• Social media platforms
• Capability statement or corporate profile document
• Brochures and flyers
• Email marketing
• Newsletters
• Promotional items
• Level of staff training
• Standard of premises
• Vehicles, uniforms and attitudes
• And basically every aspect of your brand that your target customers are exposed to!

Brand Positioning in a Nutshell

Although sometimes quite complicated, the concept of Brand Positioning is simply about defining what is most important to your target customers and shaping your brand to communicate that you can satisfy those important needs.

So, you could say that Brand Positioning is about taking more control of the destiny of your brand rather than having your brand image scattered all over the place like a leaf being blown about in the wind.

The team at Baker Marketing have a wealth of experience in marketing strategy and a number of us have lived and worked through times of economic and financial crises.

If you are ready to get strategic about your marketing give us a call on (08) 8352 3091 and talk to a senior marketing consultant today.

Click here to find the next article in the series titled Changes to Your Customer Journey and How to Map Them