Pick Your Lane

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When it comes to crafting your ad campaign, you must differentiate yourself from your competitors. Pick a lane, preferably one that is not occupied by someone else.

While there are many lanes to choose from and ways to add distinction between you and your competitors, consumers often see three lanes: The top, middle and bottom.

Top level companies are those who offer exceptional products, services and unprecedented customer satisfaction. Nordstrom immediately comes to mind. Bottom level companies are those who offer their goods and services cheaper than anyone else. Think Wal-Mart.

The middle is where most companies reside. Products and services are of decent quality, customer service is OK and competitive pricing is loudly proclaimed.

In his book, "Selling the Invisible," Harry Beckwith calls the middle lane potentially dangerous if you can't distinguish yourself. Unless you create a brand awareness that sets yourself apart, consumers have no more reason to choose you than they do your competitor. This holds true for both B2C and B2B companies.

There are ways to set yourself apart and distinguish yourself from your competitors. Consider Target as an example. Their business model is close to both Wal-Mart and K-Mart yet they present themselves in a very different light.

Target's current ad campaign, "Brand New Day," has hit the economy head on and inspires people to have fun while saving money. It ties in perfectly to their overall positioning statement of "Expect More, Pay Less at Target". You can buy the same stuff at Wal-Mart and K-Mart, but you'll have a lot more fun shopping at Target.

Finding that unique position that will set you apart from your competition is hard work. You need to be honest with yourself when assessing how good you really are at whatever it is you think you're good at. You'll also need to commit yourself and your staff to this position.

Before you buy a single ad, spend time picking your lane and developing your message. Consumers don't care how many ads you run, they care about how your goods and services will benefit them.

Listed below are four steps that will help you pick your lane and create a unique brand awareness:

Ï First: Decide which niche or service you are capable of fulfilling. What are you really good at? What can you do better at? What product line can you provide and be the very best at?

Analyze if this market is important to consumers. You may be the best widget maker on the planet, but if no one wants your widgets....

Ï Second: Demonstrate your superior position from the execution, operational and marketing standpoint.

Pretend you want to be the sofa-king in your market. You might need to offer, stock and display more sofas than anyone else. You'll also have to provide faster delivery than anybody else. Being the lowest priced guy can only help. Your advertising strategy will need a budget large enough to cut through all of the clutter and cause consumers to take note. You can't just say it; you have to prove it.

Ï Third: If you can't find a unique position, attack a larger players' strength.

Why attack their strength? Because attacking a weaker area impresses no one. If you do this, be ready to go the distance. Larger players are bigger for a reason. Be prepared to strike harder with each response the king makes.

Sticking to the sofa-king example: If the king claims the largest selection and displays 16 sofas, you should show 30. If the king offers delivery in 3 days or less, you should provide same day / next day delivery.

As a smaller company, take full advantage of being able to act quickly. The current king is probably bigger and more bureaucratic.

Ï And fourth: Put together a quick-response marketing team that will build an on-going assault. Empower your team with the ability to make quick decisions. Make your smallness and quick response time your competitive advantage.

Businesses in the middle can reach new markets and new customers by doing things better and getting everyone in the organization on the same page. More than anything realize you cannot be all things to all people. Your long-term viability as a company depends upon you choosing your own lane.

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Ronald Heider has 1 articles online

Ronald A. Heider is the Director of Client Services for the Primm Company, a full-service advertising agency headquarted in Norfolk, VA. As a 20+ year veteran of the ad business, I and my team have served advertisers across a wide range of industries. Contact me at 800-292-0299 OR e-mail rheider@primmco.com

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This article was published on 2010/04/03