You have a brand and a business, and you have a product or service to sell. That’s good news. But I’ve got bad news for you, too:  The marketplace doesn’t care.

Yes, your product or service is very important to you. You believe every man, woman and child on the planet should have your “thing.” In fact, your research proves it. The person who actually needs your “thing,” however, has a thousand other things on his or her mind, and you are not even on their radar.

Here’s what the people in your marketplace are subconsciously thinking about you, whether they realize it or not:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you do?
  • Why does it matter?

Too many business owners are unable to give clear answers to these questions because they are unwilling to give up so many things. To find this clarity, you must be willing to quit.

Focus Means Sacrifice

This is counterintuitive to most Type-A business personalities. I hear it all the time in strategy meetings. The well-meaning owner says, “If we give up thisthat and the other thing, we limit our opportunities for profit.” As a result, they refuse to quit.

Actually, the opposite is true. Eliminating things and narrowing your focus increases your opportunities. It makes you a market of ONE — without competition — because you either create your own category or rise to the top of a narrowly defined category.

It makes you KING of that category. The Number One in a category is more in demand, can charge a premium, has higher profit margins and is resistant to becoming a commodity. That’s why Starbucks isn’t just coffee…the iPhone isn’t just a cell phone…and the Ritz-Carlton isn’t just a hotel.

Branding is not about stamping your logo on everything you produce. It’s about developing a relationship with the unique members of the marketplace and giving them the power to own your brand in their minds. That’s how you ultimately end up with a brand personality distinct from your competition.

When you clearly communicate your brand to a prospect, it becomes a dialogue. They receive your message, think about it, and say something back to you (whether that is buying your product or service or not.) If you think it’s a one-way street, you’ve been hoodwinked.

If you were standing in front of a prospect, nose-to-nose, toe-to-toe, they could ask you those all-important questions: “Who are you?,” “What do you do?,” and “Why does it matter?” And they’d expect a response to be your specific answers.

That means YOU have to quit trying to be someone else (namely, your competition)…quit trying to appeal to everyone…quit trying to solve every problem…and quit pretending that everyone should care. That’s how you win in business. Therefore, go forth…and build your brand!

About the Author:

Jennifer is a dynamic brand, marketing and communications expert with a career in successful brand-building spanning two decades. As part of The Brand Establishment, she is one of only 37 Certified Brand Strategists in the United States and the only marketing executive in Northeast Florida to achieve this elite distinction. Jennifer and partner Jackie Weathers developed a proven methodology that grows business—the Holland Helix®. This model integrates a business+brand+people strategy, enhancing a company’s brand persona and engaging employees to live the brand.

Jennifer is a published author and top-rated presenter on branding. She is an Expert Resource Speaker for Vistage International and consistently secures speaking engagements for national conferences and private corporations. Additionally, she was named as the 2015 Women in Business Established Entrepreneur of the Year and as one of the 2015 Women of Influence by the Jacksonville Business Journal.

Bottom line—What do you hope to achieve through marketing? Are you looking for a quick profit boost by the end of the quarter? If so, then go ahead and pour money into another short-term, quick-fix ad campaign. You know the campaign: “We sell the best ‘XYZ’ for less!” Just remember, you’ll be doing the same thing next quarter, and the one after that, because short-term, fast-tracked marketing tactics are just temporary fixes that devour budgets without any long-term return.

In the words of a gimmicky infomercial guy: “There’s got to be a better way!” What if marketing was less about short-term jumps in revenue and more about communicating what makes your Brand truly unique—your Claim of Distinction? While one-off campaigns may do little for Brand value, a consistent Brand experience serves to build this value. Customers will happily recommend your product or service to their business associates or friends and family because you’ve established and built trust with them.

“Short-term, fast-tracked marketing tactics are just temporary fixes that devour budgets without any long-term return.”

That trust can’t be earned during a 30-second radio spot—it must be built over time by demonstrating and communicating a clear message about who you are and what makes you different. To keep that message consistent, every Brand communication should go through the same test—something we call the Brand Lens.

The Brand Lens

A Brand Lens helps to provide parameters everyplace the Brand touches a stakeholder, internally or externally. We call these places where your Brand is touching stakeholders, Brand touchpoints. Our goal is to ensure that they focus and magnify the Brand’s Claim of Distinction and help to make your systems, processes and your people deliver on the Brand. Any communication or employee that doesn’t quite fit – in other words, any touchpoint that looks “blurry” when viewed through the Brand Lens, must be reevaluated. The Brand Lens is effective because it achieves several Brand-building tasks at once:

Using the Brand Lens builds capital over time: There’s nothing distinctive about a vague “excellence in customer service” message. Many of your competitors could claim the same thing. There is something distinctive about your Brand, though—a Claim of Distinction backed by Evidence of Performance. It’s something only you can provide. As you identify what that is and communicate it consistently over time, consumers will identify and recognize the unique value of doing business with you. They will come to you because they believe in your Brand and have seen how your employees live and deliver your Brand at every touchpoint.

It unifies your team with a common vision: Consumers won’t accept even the most clever marketing if your Brand doesn’t deliver at every touchpoint. Remember, many touchpoints occur as interactions with your employees. When you recruit, hire and review employees through your Brand Lens, you build and maintain a culture that supports your Brand.

It enables your Brand to compete on value, not price: By communicating through your Brand Lens, you place the focus on the value of your Brand rather than on price, proximity to consumers, or anything else you can’t easily control. Unlike other variables, Brands stand the test of time. If properly reinforced, Brand value continues to build despite what the economy, your competitors, or any other external factor might do.

When you believe and invest in Brand Development, the success or failure of your Brand depends on your ability to consistently pass everything– from communications to staff hiring–through your Brand Lens. Don’t let your investment go to waste; put this crucial step of the Brand Development process into practice and watch your Brand value continue to grow.


President and CEO of Hult Marketing and Certified Brand Strategist. From Integrated Marketing to ROI-focused Inbound Marketing Programs, Jim Flynn leaves no stone unturned in his exploration of modern marketing. His greatest passion and primary focus is Brand Development