Startup Competition in a Crowded Eco-system

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People used to think that consumers have mind-space for only three brands in any given category: the leader, the challenger, and the one other company lucky enough (or hard-working enough) to be noticed and considered. The rule of three may still be true, but the sheer proliferation of brands flooding a truly congested sector can starve every brand for oxygen and make it difficult for any brand to stand out.

We deal with a lot of clients in crowded, complex ecosystems: technology companies, software companies, professional services companies, media companies, etc. B2B companies rarely have simple value chains. A messy B2B2B ecosystem is more typical, sometimes extending into B2C. In especially jam-packed categories, it’s doubly hard for a company to stand out.

Today, it’s actually normal to have hundreds of companies in your category. Categories like AdTech, MarTech, Big Data, Analytics, SaaS, the list goes on. In your case, you still want to know how your brand can stand tall enough to get a steady flow of oxygen, recruit the very best talent, and remain healthy.

In these over-crowded categories you may find yourself fighting against forces greater than direct competitors. Sheer clutter can be a more powerful distraction to potential customers than any competitor’s offering. Your brand and how it connects to the people that matter to you is a key in differentiating yourself from your competition.

A few guidelines from the world of brand strategy:

Be true to yourself and your purpose

At the brand level, you’re not competing product vs. product. It’s not a feature vs. feature game. Your brand needs to have a relevant place in your customers’ hearts and minds. So be true to your brand and the promise you make and bring it out in everything you do. Leading from your authentic vision and consistency of purpose will help your brand mean more to people. And that alone will make you more memorable.

Turn your back on competitors

Yes, ignore them. They aren’t running your business. You are. So instead of focusing on your competitors, focus on your customers. Be empathetic. Know them inside and out. Learn what makes them tick, how they feel, what they need. This may sound like basic sales training, but it’s vital at the brand level, too. If you know what matters to your prospects, you can structure your brand offering with the confidence that it will connect.

Don’t chase your tail

It’s tempting to try to react to competitors. Some companies consume excessive quantities of precious time and resources tweaking their positioning, their marketing, or even their products to fend off competitive threats. If you have a well-conceived brand strategy to begin with, your brand will have a strong connection to people who matter on an emotional level. Your brand will be founded on what you believe. Knowing what you believe makes you stand out from the crowd.

Live your brand promise

Brands that are meaningful and stand the test of time — the ones that stand out from competitors — are driven by the behavior of people who are committed to living up to the brand’s promise. Every single interaction people have with your brand needs to reflect the brand strategy in order to solidify the brand’s position in their minds. How you go to market, the look and feel of your branded communications, how your brand speaks and what it says, the way your brand makes people feel, and how your brand behaves at every brand touchpoint. No interaction is unimportant. Everyone needs to be onboard with living the strategy. So don’t keep your brand strategy bottled up deep in a file cabinet. Socialize your strategy from top down and bottom up so everyone in the company knows the story and lives it.

So if you wake up one day and find your company surrounded by hundreds of other companies clamoring for oxygen in your category, you’ll know it’s time to take a deep breath and take a fresh look at your brand. Focusing on a brand strategy can help you can better articulate “why you matter” and better articulate your true differentiation, and create a strong and compelling go to market strategy. A brand strategy will help you cut through the clutter and stand out in an over crowded eco-system.

Emotive Brand operates in a crowded category with many other brand strategy firms. We stand out by knowing what we believe in and by sticking to our promise to transform the way brands reach out to people and the way people respond to brands.

Read more about how to differentiate your brand.

Learn more about an AdTech brand we helped create true differentiation for here.

Originally published at www.emotivebrand.com on January 19, 2016.

Emotive Brand is a strategy and design firm: We work with executives to drive growth in revenue, brand, and culture #b2b #tech #b2c #product #growth #branding

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