“What is your business about?”

It seems like a pretty straightforward question, but a strong answer can be a bit tricky. The web has entirely changed how people find products and services. Generic propositions fall flat in the same way that describing yourself as “loyal and hard-working” does nothing for your resume.

In that example, employers expect employees to be loyal. No one wants to hire a lazy worker, so working hard is a minimum price to enter. What else do you offer?

Businesses make the same mistakes when they decide the core of their branding should represent things like integrity and quality service. Integrity is important, but it’s also a given. Every customer expects quality service, and no one wants to work with a con artist. Every one of your competitors will also claim they operate with integrity and offer quality services, so if that’s the core of your message you’ll never stand out.

As Chris Lema points out in an Office Hours podcast, competition is high and it’s not enough to make comfortable offers. One point in particular I liked while listening was when he called out folks that specialize in Facebook ads, never trying to learn more or offer more.

“What happens when Facebook ads are over?” Chris asked.

Great example: the companies that built separate mobile websites years ago when mobile sites were first becoming a thing. They built their entire business around providing this service, but once responsive designs came out and everyone saw how much more efficient it was to maintain one website that worked both ways, that entire model collapsed. Folks that only built mobile sites had nothing of value to offer.

Think of your brand as a solution to a problem.

What are your customers struggling with? What’s important to them? What brings them to you in particular? Or, how would you want to be remembered?

This is why so many companies ask customers to complete surveys. Answering these questions can entirely change your marketing message. Being open to new answers helps your company grow and change with your customers, and answering these early on prevents missed opportunities.

Think of this industry as an example. Every other web marketing business in our local area builds websites, offers SEO, and promises to do a good job. These are not things to focus on since we could never distinguish ourselves simply stating “us too!” It’s why when we talk about SEO we don’t focus on rankings and “getting people on page one”.

Everybody says that, and whether it’s even true or not it tells readers nothing about why us and not someone else.

Anybody can build you a website, but not everyone understands buying decisions, the psychology of language, and conversion-oriented design principles.

You get the idea.

Your unique selling proposition (USP) — the thing you offer that sets you apart — should be an answer to a specific challenge. How is what you’re doing different from your competition in a real way? If ex-customers of your competition come your way, what was it they felt was missing before that you can provide?

For plumbers, it might be a specialized emergency service, or maybe you have tools to do certain niche jobs no one else in town can handle. Maybe you’re a sedation dentist that caters to patients with dental anxiety. Everybody has a way they like to work and a type of clientele they prefer. Even if you see yourself as a generalist, there are probably more ways than you think to segment your market.

Michael Hyatt says the following of branding strategy:

“Forget me, what’s important to my audience and why should they care? The most popular radio station on earth is WIIFM – What’s in it for me? So as soon as you can tune into that, everything changes.”

Further reading for branding tips: