Branding 101: Specialization and Differentiation


You Can’t Be Everything to Everyone and Be Successful (Branding 101)

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One of the biggest mistakes made among small businesses is trying to be everything to everyone – taking on too broad a range of services or products. We’ve all done it, especially in the early days of the business. It is all too easy to say yes to a project that is “within your range” of skills when money shows up, instead of focusing on what you are absolutely the best at delivering. When we overextend into arenas outside our core competencies, we end up paying a high price for time lost on such a divergence.


Counter to the novice small business owner (trying to be everything to everyone) is the person who has already made this mistake and learned from it. Companies highly focused on delivering that one incredible product or service are the most likely to be successful, and they outlast any fluctuations in the economy. If you haven’t already learned this tough lesson in your business, then be prepared to recognize when it’s happening.


Acknowledging your business “super power” is branding 101. What do I mean by super power? Well, it’s simple…  what makes your customers and competitors say, “How do you do that so well?”   Knowing that truth is at the heart of your marketing strategy.


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Branding is all about knowing what makes you unique or special. Brand strategy is about using your specialization to differentiate the business from competitors. When you know what makes your business special and how to differentiate the business, tackling your brand strategy is easy.


Note: Branding is different from Reputation Management, but the two are closely tied. Read more here. 


What makes your business so unique? What’s your specialization?

As small business owners, we should be able to answer these questions with one meaningful sentence. Your answer is the reason that customers choose YOU. This answer could be your tag line or your company cheer. It’s one part passion, one part purpose, and results in your business’ specialization.


Even if people are beating down the door to work with you or get their hands on your product, your messaging should make it very clear what your specialization is and how you’re different. This is the first step towards designing a brand strategy for your marketing.


Not yet convinced that you need a little branding 101? I challenge you to continue on before passing judgement. You may get some value from the next section. If you think this post is useless or is missing something important, then tell me about it by commenting below or emailing me.

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Brand Differentiation

Differentiation is a continuous process of evaluating both your business’ core competencies and the market. This process helps to confirm that you are positioned for growth. The businesses with the highest growth year over year appear to have a similar strategy. They are specialized in a particular area, have a narrow target customer, and have clearly defined their differentiation.


Do you want your business to grow? Would it be nice to have confidence that your business can sustain itself even in a poor economy?  I certainly want these things. That is why I am finally giving some attention and care to my the branding of Beckmann Collaborative (instead of giving everything to just my clients, students and partners).


Helpful Stat: According to the McLean Group, the average high growth business has an average of 130 employees across 4 locations. (Source)

Get the Free Guide to Branding and Specialization

Taking My Own Advice

Over the coming weeks, you may see me writing about brand strategy and brand voice more often. Over the years, I’ve supported many other small businesses with this process. However, I fell into the trap that so many others have discussed in books, blogs, and podcasts … not taking care of my own business first. That trend is coming to an end in 2018.


Lesson 1: Doing it on your own sets you up for failure.

I’ve reached out to a few of my wonderful strategic partners for support with my branding. As always, they stood up tall to contribute to me just as I have for them in the past. That is the beauty in collaboration. I’m receiving support from a brilliant performance consultant who specializes in organizational behavior and company culture. She will help me translate some of the ideas and values into solid wording.


Lesson 2: Don’t try to be a graphic designer if you are not one.

This is a laughable lesson, but at least I know I’m not the only one. While being creative is so much fun and really important to our development as individuals, graphic design requires an actual skill set practiced over time. I will not be trying to create a new logo myself, because that is a poor use of my time. Instead, I will get support from two of my incredible partners with brand design and defining brand guidelines. I love having an Art Director to call me out on ugly images. It’s so refreshing to be using better visuals.


Lesson 3: Be consistent in messaging and visual design.

For the most part, I’ve been doing this already using my makeshift branding. However, the entire business will be leveled up when I apply branding 101 lessons to my own business. One of my personal super powers is that I’m very coachable – I can take feedback, really learn from it, and apply it to my life (and business). A lesson I learned early on is the importance of consistency in marketing, so that has flowed through my business.


Ready. Set. Let’s Go Brand!


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