Differentiating startups and SMBs from the competition with customized brand messaging

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Digital marketing and digital branding are two terms often batted around and defined differently depending on who you talk to. Recently, I read 99designs’ definition of digital branding as “how you design and build your brand online through websites, apps, social media, video and more.” I agree 100% and in order to design and build your brand online, you need to begin with a brand messaging platform.

99designs’ definition resonates with me because of two key words: design and build. Your brand has to be designed – intentionally created and curated to authentically represent your values and beliefs, as well as your products and/or services. Equally, your brand has to be built over time by sharing thought leadership on how to solve customer problems through online content.

If you design and build – they will come

street art on a wall within a mirror frame says follow your dreams  demonstrating "the why" of brand messaging for startups and SMBs
Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

To begin designing and building your brand, consider the following:

  • I am solving the problem of __________.
  • I do this by __________.
  • My approach is different because __________.
  • And the reason why I do this is because __________.
  • I believe in __________ .
  • I value __________.

By answering these questions, you’re on the way to customizing a messaging platform, which can be used across any communication channel including your website, email, social media, blog, video scripts, or a one sheeter. I recommend creating a platform in order to ensure consistency and efficiency vs writing website copy and then writing a social media post, which is followed up by an email series. Certain elements of your platform should appear across all of your messaging. Other elements, you can pick and choose from appropriately per channel.

It’s all about the Why, How and What

a speaker tower stands in front of a mountain backdrop to represent the voice of brand messaging for startups and SMBs
Photo by Miguel A. Amutio on Unsplash

To create a brand messaging platform for my clients, I follow an easy and popular messaging strategy created by Simon Sinek. The Why/How/What strategy is an easy way to customize messaging unique to your brand. It also allows you to talk with prospects and customers while leading with value. In a nutshell, Sinek’s strategy includes:

  • Why = Purpose, cause, beliefs
  • How = Actions taken to realize the Why
  • What = Products or services

I utilize this strategy to develop and clarify the following:

  • Why = Positioning
  • How = Differentiating
  • What = Proof points

Why do you do what you do?

a brown skinned man shapes a heart with his hand while smiling
Photo by Langa Hlatshwayo on Unsplash

If I can preach a single message here, ALWAYS start with Why. You’ve likely heard other entrepreneurs and business owners talk about their “why.” It’s monumental to branding because it provides an emotional hook and gives prospects and customers a reason to care. Successful brands create a relationship with customers and give them something “sticky” to connect and hang onto. Align your Why to your passion. Think about Why as the reason for driving your business and the reason for getting up in the morning. If you know who your target audience is and message consistently, your Why will resonate as you build credibility and trust.

How does your business approach make a difference?

the wordsteps is highlighted on a piece of paper to demonstrate the how step for the why-how-what brand messaging platform
Photo by Clayton Robbins on Unsplash

Why leads and How supports. This part of the strategy includes the actions your company takes to bring your Why to life. It’s a differentiating approach or a unique solution. For example, when I shop at a Publix grocery store and need to find an item, any one of the staff members will walk me to the location. It doesn’t matter if it’s “not their section” or they don’t know the location. Across all stores, all locations, 100% of the time. They greet me as I walk by: Hello ma’am how are you today? Can I help you find anything? And at the checkout, the cashier or bagger always asks if I found everything okay. The collective of this customer service level across all areas distinguishes Publix apart from other grocery stores. How defines getting things done in a way that adds credibility to your brand.

What you are selling?

an empty warehouse pallet sits on the floor about 15 feet high
Photo by Watts Roofing Supplies on Unsplash

What messaging serves as the closer by providing details to your product or service offering. It grounds your Why and How with proof points. Almost 100% of the time, companies lead with What. Think about when you meet someone and they ask – what do you do? You probably say something like – I’m in healthcare and wellness counseling. Or I offer an online course that can show you how to scale your business to 6 figures. Okay. But why should I care to learn more? Why, How and What coordinated together gives you a solid, reputable, competitive messaging platform unique to your brand. And yes, you are always messaging so be deliberate and on point. Even when you’re talking 1:1 at a networking event.

Apple’s brand messaging platform

the black back of an apple iphone is shown with the apple ion to connect apple to brand messaging
Photo by AltumCode on Unsplash

Sinek shares Apple as a case study example in his Why/How/What book. Here’s the gist:

What do you do? I help people think differently.

Oh really? Tell me more. At my company, we believe in beautiful design and we define this as clean, light and sleek which translates to an intuitive and easy-to-use experience for our customers.

Sounds interesting. So tell me again. What do you do? I sell laptops, desktops, tablets, phones and music players.

See how this works? This is a greatly abbreviated version found in the book but you get the idea. Pull people in with a statement about your brand that has emotional context. Back it up with how the company actually operates differently in a relatable and desirable way. And close with the actual product offering.

Your turn and perspective

I welcome your thoughts and perspectives. If you own a company, what’s your Why? If you work for an organization, you still have a Why – what gets you up in the morning to get the job done?

Or perhaps you may relate to this strategy through a favorite brand. What brand do you use on a regular basis and why? Share and let’s see if there’s a Why that pulled you in!

If you’d like to know more about how to create your own brand messaging in three easy steps, go here for my free download.

If you want to ask questions about how to best launch or grow your business brand, go here.

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