The next section of the Building Your Freelance Writing Brand series is about positioning your brand and comes in two parts — 9 and 10. Part 9 teaches you about the three most basic positions a brand or business can hold in the market place, which I’ll expand on in Part 10 next week.
In simplest terms, your brand position is the place in the market where your business sits in comparison to your competitors in consumers’ minds. Knowing where your brand is in relation to your competitors in the eyes of consumers is a critical part of developing the overall marketing plan for your freelance writing business.
At the most basic level, there are three positions that your brand can hold in the marketplace — market leader, market challenger, and market follower. Each position is described in more detail below so you can determine where your brand is positioned today and where you’d like it to be positioned in order to reach your goals.
A market leader is creative and innovative and offers a new solution that no one else is offering. The market leader is often called the pioneer brand because it is the first-to-market. In other words, the market leader is first to come to market with a product or service and typically that business holds the majority of market share in its category (meaning, the market leader is the most popular).
Later entrants can compete against the market leader, and they may even surpass the market leader’s market share as they steal customers over time. However, the pioneer brand will always be perceived in consumers’ minds as the market leader. In fact, some pioneer brand names become generic names to describe an entire category or product line (think of Band-Aid, Kleenex, and even Google). Something drastic typically has to happen for the pioneer brand to lose its stronghold in its category.
Market leaders need to invest a significant amount of resources and funds to build awareness, recognition and sales, but if they’re successful, market leaders can reap big rewards. A perfect example of a market leader is Microsoft. Of course, a negative effect of being the market leader is becoming too big (or too arrogant) to be able to shift strategies and respond to consumers’ changing needs and wants (a good example of a company with this problem is AOL).
A market challenger is innovative like the market leader but in a different way. A market challenger recreates the product or service first brought to market by the market leader. A market challenger brings something new to the table and reinvents the category.
Market challengers promote their brands and products as completely different from the market leader and often attack the market leader by calling attention to the leader’s weaknesses. This strategy requires a significant investment in advertising and promotion to drive awareness, but the strategy of differentiation used by market challengers can pay off very well. For example, Apple has been very successful in taking a market challenger position with its Mac computers. There is a reason why the Mac Guy vs. PC Guy commercials work so well.
A market follower nearly copies the market leader. In other words, a market follower simply jumps on the bandwagon and tries to get their piece of the action in a category that has proven to be successful (a Sham-Wow or Snuggie knock-off would be a good example of a market follower). Market followers use a strategy of differentiation where their products are positioned just far enough away from the market leader so they appear to add value while still delivering what customers who are familiar with the market leader expect. This is the least costly position for a business to pursue in brand positioning because the market leader does the majority of the work. The market follower simply goes along for the ride.
Before you commit to pursuing one of the general brand positions described above, it’s important to understand that your business can shift from one position to another or you could offer a variety of products or services that hold different positions within their respective categories. What you need to determine as the owner of your freelance writing business is what your brand position is now relative to your competitors and if that’s where you want to be in the long-term. Consider your long-term goals for your business then decide which market position will best help you meet those goals. Once you know where you want your business to be, you can make the necessary changes in your marketing plan to get there.
Keep in mind, there is nothing wrong with any of these brand positions. What’s important is to determine which position is right for you and your freelance writing business. Once you make that decision, you can develop a plan to meet those goals and then be sure to stick to it. Remember the three key steps to brand building that you learned in Part 1 of the Building Your Freelance Writing Brand series – consistency, persistence, and restraint. Apply them to your positioning strategy, too.
Stay tuned for Part 10 of the Building Your Freelance Writing Brand series in which you’ll learn about building a stronger brand position through focus and owning a word in consumers’ minds.