You’ve decided to do some marketing to highlight how your offering can help customers achieve their goals. And you’ve decided –  rather than using charts, facts or statistics – that you want to show people the impact you can bring with case studies. 

So how do you make your case studies a great read?


First, the case for case studies.

Case studies are far and away the most compelling and effective communication tool to convert prospects into buyers. Over 77% of B2B buyers cited testimonials and case studies as the most influential type of content in their decision making. B2C businesses show similar results as well. And they’re not just helpful for businesses; university students learn subjects faster and retain ideas longer when material is presented in a case study form.  

Why? Because case studies are essentially stories, and our brains are wired for story. 

Case studies tell a success story, walking the reader through a real-life scenario they can relate to. Readers get to meet their peer (the customer you’re highlighting), and see the challenges that customer is facing (challenges that should be strikingly similar to the challenges your readers are facing). They get to see how your offering helps solve the problem and the benefit your offering brings. They can grasp the impact your offering has had on the customer –  saved them money, improved their productivity, reduced downtime, accelerated production…whatever results you have to share. 

So how do I write spellbinding case studies?

Just like a story, good case studies have a beginning, a middle, and an end, as well as a protagonist – your customer – overcoming a problem and achieving their objective, just like the main character of a story. 

With a good case study, by the end of the story the reader should be able to visualize themselves as the hero of that story. They should be able to relate to the problems of your featured customer, and see themselves achieving their own goals by using your product or service.

The most compelling approach involves the hero narrative structure, constructed by famed mythologist Joseph Campbell. The hero narrative almost always follows the following formula:

  1. The hero is going along great, until s/he suffers a loss / experiences a serious problem.
  2. S/he attempts to resolve issues via the usual means, but fails time and again.
  3. The hero goes on a journey of sorts, and along the way, discovers an ally or new approach.
  4. With guidance from the ally, the hero overcomes tremendous odds to resolve the problem.
  5. The hero returns triumphant, having learned something powerful; life is better than before.

Why this model works: 

The hero narrative is a classic way to take your reader through a formula that lays out how your product is the solution, in a way that your brain likes. The order of events and the process by which the information is revealed not only makes sense to us, our brains anticipate and desire and expect stories to unfold in this order.

This formula can work for technology companies offering digital transformation solutions and it can work for Consumer Packaged Goods companies selling laundry detergent. And, this is the formula for every major action / thriller Hollywood movie. From Diehard to Mission Impossible to Aquaman, the whole Marvel Superheroes series and Jason Bourne, they all follow this formula for a reason: it works.

How to make your case studies more compelling:

  • Make sure the reader can see themselves as the protagonist;
  • Numbers / statistics to cite impact;
  • Customer testimonials or quotes;
  • Clear before and after transformation impact.

Watch outs:

  1. While it’s tempting to think of your case study as basically a company press release, it’s not. A case study is also not an advertisement. Good case studies are about your customer’s journey, not your company. Most case studies out there are instantly forgettable crap because marketers harp on about how great their company is and they forget to actually follow the formula.

  2. When it comes to effective case studies, show, don’t tell. Your goal is to place the reader as the protagonist (The Hero) and narrate what transpired, so don’t slide into claims. Show how your product impacted the customer problem. Doing this boosts the credibility of your case study: it’s not about you, you’re removed from the story and simply describing what happened and the impact your offering had.

  3. In your case studies, your customer is the protagonist. Which means your customer is The Hero. So you cannot be. You are the guide who helps them along on their journey to succeed. But don’t be bummed; being the guide is a really powerful role. You’re Dumbledore in Harry Potter. Morpheus in The Matrix. Jack Dawson in Titanic. Nigel in Devil Wears Prada. The Terminator in T2. You get my drift: you’re the enabler, the one who incites transformation and helps the protagonist succeed (which is what you want your business to be seen as, as well). 

Over to you: how compelling are your case studies? We hope this post gives you some ideas for how to make them work harder for you. We also write case studies for our clients, so if that’s of interest, let’s connect and set up a time to chat. 

I was speaking to a business leader recently about A/B testing for branding. (A/B testing is the process of coming up with two different communications assets to test with -mostly online – consumers, to see which performs better.)

“It would be so great,” he mused. “We could figure out what elements really resonate with our target audience and then build our brand according to what our customers want. What do you think?”

There’s a lot to love with A/B testing, particularly for marketing. It’s incredibly results-oriented, very accurate, promotes flexibility and rewards performance. In general, I like and advocate strongly for A/B testing when it comes to advertising, marketing content and the like. But.

You can’t A/B test brand. 

Brand is about who your organization is and what you stand for. The exercise of branding addresses fundamental business questions, such as:

What are your values? 
What’s your reason for being?
What do you promise every customer with every interaction?
What do you do extremely well that few can emulate?

Brand comes from within, not from your customer’s opinions.

Brand is your stake in the ground, what you promise your customers day-in and day-out, never vacillating or wavering in belief. It’s your North Star, around which product, development and marketing revolve. Brand is your company’s reputation, and you don’t A/B test your reputation and see what resonates better with your current customers… and then change it up in a few month’s time for someone new.

You don’t waiver on your principles, values, beliefs and business model. 

Your business’ reputation is made up by a series of first impressions, and you only get one shot to make a first impression -> use it wisely.  Develop it thoughtfully and strategically.

Brand is Your North Star

As an example, I was listening to a podcast recently with the CMO of Harley Davidson. Harley has been around for 116 years, and they have never wavered from their true brand purpose: to help people fulfill their dreams of personal freedom. They live into that brand purpose and promise in every brand touchpoint, in every piece of advertising, with every bike that comes off the assembly line. Everything they do goes through that filter: does this help fulfill dreams of personal freedom? And in staying true to that North Star, they have made (and continue to make) Harley into one of the most iconic brands in the world.

So when it comes to branding, it’s very much what your company stands for and what you deliver on. It can expand over time, but at its core it always has the same values and principles. Those can’t be agile; they can’t shift to accommodate certain customers and then shift to accommodate others. If you do this, you run the risk of standing for everything or anything – which means you stand for nothing. 

Now, A/B testing for marketing? Absolutely. A new website, or online ad campaign, content, posts: go, go, go. But something as foundational as your brand should never be in the hands of an external source to determine. If you’ve got questions about this topic or branding in general, let’s connect and set up a time to chat.

You’re busy running your business and not always thinking about branding. In this piece, we’re highlighting some brand fundamentals and how to use them, so you can become a better brand steward for your business. It can also help you communicate the value you bring customers more clearly so you can drive your business forward.

What is brand, anyway? The word “brand” gets thrown around a lot and seems to be a catchall for all manner of things. For instance, I’ve heard brand described as:

  • The logo for your company (“The Tesla brand is so sleek.”);
  • Colors & font (“I love your brand, it just pops off your business card.”);
  • Website and copy (“Your brand is so smart”);
  • Advertising (“Every time I see that brand it cracks me up,”);
  • SEO / AdWords (“We totally do branding! We do SEO and AdWords”);
  • Packaging (Wow, that skin care line has great branding”), and even 
  • Product or offering (“OMG I can’t live without that brand!”). 

Friends, I’m here to tell you: brand is all this and so much more. Logo is part of your brand, as are your colors and fonts. Website? Yep. Packaging, product? Check. What about your customer experience, SEO tactics, advertising, font, tagline, your business’s personality, and even the color of your employee’s uniforms? All part of brand. 

Brand: A Working Definition

Brand is the interconnected web of what your business means and how you deliver that meaning. It is the expectation of an experience that you create in the minds of your customers, and all these touchpoints work together to deliver that experience. Brand is everything you say about your business, but also your actions behind your words to back up your words. Jeff Bezos famously said brand is your business’ reputation, and what people think, say and feel about you / your business when you’re not in the room. 

There are many parts to brand, and all of them play an important role in what, when, how and why you communicate to your customers. We won’t cover all of them but let’s explore some key brand tenets. 
 

Brand Promise

A core brand fundamental is your brand promise. When you sell a product or service, your business makes a promise to your customers. You deliver on that promise with every single interaction and at every single customer touchpoint. It’s not just what you say; it’s what you do, how you do it and why. 

How to use Brand Promise: 

Your brand promise should always be in your / your team’s mind when interacting with customers. It’s your North Star, and you should always be focused on communicating your promise and making good on it. Domino’s brand promise is hot pizza within 30 minutes. Every employee – from the CEO down to the store managers, kitchen staff and drivers – knows the brand promise, and that every one of their jobs is synced to live up to that customer promise.

We’re all familiar with this brand’s promise.

Nordstrom’s brand promise is to deliver exceptional customer service. Volvo’s brand promise is to make cars that are reliable and safe. When you create a promise that’s meaningful to your customers – and then deliver on that promise consistently and robustly – you earn loyal customers who are willing to pay and return time and again for your services. 

Brand Mission

Another key brand fundamental? Your brand mission. The brand mission sees your brand promise through. It’s how what your brand stands for & promises comes to life. In the Domino’s example, their mission is delivering on their brand promise of “hot delicious food within 30 minutes…or it’s free.” If you look under the lid at Domino’s you’ll discover they’re as much about food as they are about logistics and ensuring they can deliver hot delicious food to your door within 30 minutes. Their extensive supply, manufacturing and distribution chain is built around delivering logistically on their brand promise.


How to use Brand Mission:

Once you know your brand promise, your brand mission is reverse-engineering how to bring your brand promise to life. It’s thinking through the steps you and your employees need to take to live into your brand promise and writing them down as a roadmap for how to achieve your promise every time.

Brand Values

Brand values are fundamental to bringing your brand to life; they are the principles and qualities you stand for that help you live into your brand promise and brand mission. What behavior and qualities do you stress to your employees to act on that helps live into your brand promise? And what characteristics are central to your brand promise coming to life? At Nordstroms, one of their brand values is exceptional customer service, no matter what. This value led a salesperson to once famously accept used car tires that a customer brought in to return (and Nordstroms does not sell car tires). It’s a legendary example that shows the extent to which Nordstrom empowers its staff to deliver exceptional customer service. 


How to use Brand Values:

Values are the qualities that define your brand and help you deliver on your promise. Spend some time thinking through your brand’s values and what your qualities are that enable you to deliver on your brand promise. Imagine you are hiring a new employee; what qualities must they have in order to carry out your brand promise? What guidelines do you want to instill in them? Remember your employees are your front line and represent your brand; they manifest your brand promise to life. So what must they embue?

Brand Positioning

Brand positioning is another fundamental element of branding. Positioning is how you position your brand against your competition, in the process targeting your ideal, or target, customer. If you are Volvo, your brand positioning is that you make vehicles that are reliable and safe. Your ideal customer is someone who values reliable and safe cars. You’ll position your brand far away from sleek sports cars (BMW, Porsche), muscle cars (Ford Mustang), trucks (F150), luxury sedans (Mercedes, Lexus), economy cars (Kia, Hyundai), family minivans and SUVs, and other vehicles. 

A Volvo, with its seat-belt looking logo, reinforcing its brand promise of safety and reliability.

How to use Brand Positioning:

Brand positioning is the foundation of your brand because it not only distinguishes you from your competitors, it also appeals to a target market that deeply values the benefit you bring (that others do not). You can read at length about UVP and brand positioning here. 

Target Market

Your target market is a critical brand fundamental; it’s about determining that market segment that derives extreme value from your offering. In the case of Volvo, their target market is anyone concerned about safety and reliability; for instance, parents with small children; those who live in climates with poor driving conditions; and other demographic segments who value safety and reliability over other car qualities like mileage, handling, acceleration, and so on. 


How to use your Target Market:

You’ll want to consider your customers and zero in on those who deeply love your offering. You’ll want to probe: Why do they love our brand? What is it about our service or offering that makes them choose us? In Domino’s case, it’s the people who value convenience, not the artisanal pizza lovers who will travel great distances and wait for hours to get amazing pizza. For Nordstroms, the target customer is the person who loves getting what they want and is willing to pay extra for it. Think through your offering and who disproportionately values you, and why. For more on discovering your target, this article can help. 
 

Functional & Emotional Benefits

Both of these types of benefits are fundamental in branding but they serve different roles. A functional benefit articulates the problem your offering solves and the benefit your customer gets from using it. For Domino’s, it’s hot food within 30 minutes. Nordstrom? Their functional benefit is satisfying the customer’s needs and wants. For Tide with Bleach, it’s getting your laundry clean and your whites whiter.


The emotional benefit is an extension of your functional benefit: what customers get as a result of that benefit. For Domino’s, the emotional benefit is being able to spend your time doing what you love (not focused on food prep).  Nordstroms’ emotional benefit is feeling surprised & delighted. Tide’s emotional benefit of clean clothes and whiter whites means you look your best. Functional benefits reinforce emotional benefits, and emotional benefits are the real reason people choose your product. Yes, people want their laundry clean, but lots of detergents promise that. People choose Tide because Tide makes them look their best.  

Domino’s emotional benefit: never miss a moment of the game.

How to use these benefits:

Think about the immediate, tangible benefit your brand provides to your customers. What problem do you fix? Then think about the bigger emotional territory that you play in, as a result of fixing that problem. What emotion does through your customer feel when they’ve interacted with your brand? Knowing what functional and emotional benefits your brand provides gives you a smart platform to talk about why you are different and why offering matters to your target customer. 

What are Reasons to Believe? 

For your promise to really take root in your customer’s mind, it has to be credible. Give customers reasons to believe in your brand promise. These reasons should be specific attributes and features that allow your business to deliver on your promise. For example, LensCrafter’s brand promise is that it helps people see better. Their reasons to believe include: 

  • Optometrists on site to administer eye exams & update your prescription;
  • Lens labs so they can cut and fit your glasses within an hour;
  • Convenient store hours, including late evenings and weekends;
  • Knowledgeable staff to assist in finding the ideal lenses for your needs.

These reasons to believe instantly support LensCrafters’ brand promise and makes it resonate in customers’ minds. 

A LensCrafters advertisement


How to use Reasons to Believe:

Spend a moment to think through the attributes that helps support your business’s brand promise. What do you deliver that supports your brand promise? You’ll want to talk to these points frequently as support for your brand promise, and help your customers fully understand and integrate the value you bring.

Brand Archetypes 

Archetypes are another fundamental part of branding that brings your brand its distinctiveness. A brand archetype is a persona that embodies your brand, kind of like if it were a person come to life. Nike, for example, is the Hero archetype who asks you to give it your all, never give up, and just do it. Coca-Cola is the Innocent, encouraging you to leave your troubles behind, relax for a minute, take a break from your troubles and just… open happiness. And Harley Davidson is the Rebel, helping you fulfill your dreams of personal freedom while bucking the status quo and being utterly, unapologetically in-your-face independent. 

While nothing is typical with Harley, here we have a typical Harley ad.

How to use Archetypes:

Archetypes can come to define your brand (as in the case of Harley Davidson and Nike). Consider your brand: does it have a strong personality? Is it humorous and self-deprecating (Geico, the Joker), or is it more authoritative and in control (AmericanExpress, the Ruler)? How about: approachable, friendly and good-natured (Bud Light; the Guy-Next-Door)? Archetypes can enhance your brand’s relatability and likeability factors, particularly with regards to tone and how you communicate your value proposition to your customers. For more on archetypes, you can read this article.


Wow, that’s a lot! What do I do with all this? 

All these various parts build together to form your brand. They help your stakeholders better understand what your company is all about, the value you bring, and how you are different from the rest. If you really want to develop your brand more fully, consider how you can bring these elements to life for your business. And if you have any questions and/or want to turn this over to someone who knows this stuff inside & out: let’s connect. We’re here for you and happy to help.

Every marketer wants a powerful customer profile in their toolkit. A well-designed customer profile provides a powerful snapshot of buyer needs and desires, pain points, and motivations.

The customer profiles I create for my clients include all this plus behavior & beliefs that get at the psychological reason for purchase or hesitation. Let’s explore how to make your customer profiles high-value, and how you can use them to boost your marketing efforts.

Customer Profiles: Your Brand’s Sorting Hat

Start by laying out all the information you have on your customers. Explore any existing customer data you have, including customer feedback, survey responses, market research, and the like.

Start to build customer profiles based on why customers buy from you. Ask: What do your customers value that you offer? Why do they return to you? What kind of customer benefits from your offering? And what kind of customers do you most value? Sift through your customer data for answers and patterns; you should start to see some emerge. 

These patterns are the formation of your customer profile(s). You’ll want to separate profiles that seem different. Study customer attitudes towards your category, and any differing needs and desires. Look at customers that are your regulars versus those that are occasional. What’s the difference?

Add demographic information about your customers – like age, income, gender, lifestage, and, as relevant: company / industry, years in the industry, their direct buying power, and what their major work responsibilities and activities are. Ask yourself: what do they have in common? How are they different?

(If you don’t have this information, consider investing in customer research to learn more about your customers. Understanding your customers is vital to designing a brand & experience they will love.)

Include media habits. What social platform are they on? Think through the kinds of conferences, forums and networking events they attend. Think about traditional media they consume, and explore new media like youtube channels, apps and podcasts. This will help you understand where you can “meet” them with your marketing efforts.

Needs & Desires

You’ll want to get clear on customer needs & desires. In looking at how they approach your brand, ask:

  • What are they trying to accomplish?
  • Why are they unable to accomplish this goal? What’s holding them back?
  • What motivates them?
  • Why they come to your category? Is it proactive or reactive behavior?
  • Why do they buy from you – what do you offer that they deeply value?

These questions are so important to your profile, so take some time, here. These answers can yield key insights into how your customers act, and how to capture their attention and gain mindshare.

Behavior & Beliefs

About behavior and beliefs: right. This might come as a shock (!) but people are not always straightforward. They often say one thing but act completely differently. So it’s important to study how your customer actually uses your product, versus what they tell you. Ask:

  • When does she need your product?
  • Why does she use it?
  • How does she approach your category: with joy or agony?
  • What does he believe about your category?
  • Is he receptive or resistant to it?
  • What are the beliefs underneath that receptivity or resistance?

As an example: if you have a plastic surgery practice, think through the beliefs a customer might have around plastic surgery. If you have a fitness center, think through your customer’s receptiveness – or hesitancy – towards your category. If you have a tax service, think through your customer’s beliefs he might hold around taxes and money. This can reveal what’s holding him back. As a result, when you design your marketing, you can address those concerns. 

Also, investigate what other products they use. Many might not be using a competitor product, but a substitute product. In lieu of a fitness center, they might be doing online fitness classes. In lieu of a tax service, they might be using an application. By studying substitute behavior, you can learn a lot about your target’s motivations and true desires, and the effort they’re willing to go through to address their needs.

Compile the Customer Profile

With all this information on hand, compile your customer profile. You can use use a template like the one above – a one pager that summarizes your customer. Focus your profile down to a key insight that crystallizes what drives your customer – or holds her back. This is what you’re working towards.

Congratulations! You finished your first customer profile. Do this exercise for each customer segment you discovered in the sorting exercise at the top. 

Your goal is to understand your different customer profiles so you can address each segment, respectively. You might discover that you don’t have one customer profile, but actually a few. That’s okay. Different behaviors and mindsets will need different messaging strategies. You’ll want to deploy different messages to reach different customers – it’s more work, but it will make your marketing so much more effective!

As always, if you have questions, please don’t hesitate to connect with us for a chat. We’re always here to help you with your branding if you need help. 


“If you chase two rabbits you catch none.” 

I once talked to the founder of a cyber-security company who insisted that everyone was his target market. Everyone. From suburban moms to F50 multi-nationals, everyone could benefit from his solution. His goal was to market his software solution to the world. He emphatically rejected the idea that targeting his product was essential to his brand & business success.

(Our conversation didn’t go so well.)

Why Target?  Because It Grows Your Business

This is a challenging topic for small businesses, and I have empathy. As a growing business, you’re susceptible to where your revenues come from. Targeting your business – on the surface – can seem limiting. Targeting means you’re deciding to go after a segment, and therefore NOT go after other potential segments.

And what growing business wants to do that?

As brand strategist Lindsay Pedersen argues in her book Forging an Ironclad Brand, if you don’t focus on your ideal customers, you’re harming your chances of business success:

  1. You’re allowing yourself to get distracted and unfocused; 
  2. There’s a good chance you’ll draw the customers you don’t want; and
  3. You’ll risk watering down your offering and weakening the power of your brand. 

Let’s break these three points down and then circle back to how targeting doesn’t actually shut off other customers; no, targeting actually helps your business grow. 

Targeting Grows Your Business By Preventing Distraction


By choosing not to target your brand to your most valuable customers, you’re chasing after two (or more) rabbits. You’re far better off focusing on a targeted audience who will deeply value what you offer than trying to be all things to all people. 

Let’s take an example: Volvo. Volvo was founded in 1927 to withstand the demanding winter weather conditions of Sweden. The company targeted drivers who wanted a car that could handle and perform in the worst of Swedish winters (reliability). 

A 1930s model in winter. Probably in Sweden.

Volvo Grows Out of Its Niche

As Volvo grew, it focused on drivers in similar climates who were also concerned about reliability. It eventually added “safety” to its benefit of “reliability.” That allowed it to enter more markets and appeal to drivers looking for safety: families, parents with young children, the elderly, and so on. 

If Volvo had started by selling its cars to everyone, it would’ve competed with all car manufacturers. It would’ve had to make many different kinds of cars: trucks for hauling heavy loads; sports cars; luxury sedans; economy cars for first-time car buyers, to name a few. Importantly, its unique appeal – a car designed to withstand brutal winter conditions – would’ve gotten lost in the flurry (Ha! Sorry) of all these different offerings. By targeting a niche audience, Volvo grew by being relevant to a select audience and by dominating their target market. 

Today, targeting is still at the heart of the Volvo brand. It doesn’t try to woo the sportscar fan with a slick roadster. It’s not going to offer hauling capability to compete with the Ford F150, or make an entry-level economy car. It’s focused on people who want and are willing to pay for safety and reliability. By leaning into its target, Volvo is able to compete smartly, grow its audience base and strengthen its brand. 

Targeting Grows Your Business With Your Ideal Customers


When you target your offering, you’re targeting those who are most likely to deeply value what you provide. Doing this frees you up to focus just on them, and to provide them with exceptional service. When you do this, you run the high risk of delighting them and turning them into lifetime customers and evangelists!

Without targeting, you run the risk of landing the wrong customer – the one who doesn’t appreciate what you offer. The customer who’ll battle you on price, overlooking the value you provide – because to her, it’s just not important.

As an example, let’s go back to Volvo, with their fleet of cars delivering on reliability and safety. Imagine that Volvo suddenly starts selling a sporty convertible two-seater for the middle-aged executive who wants to feel young again. Ask yourself: 

How hard would Volvo have to work to close this sale? 
What will it take to convince this customer that a Volvo is the right car for him?
What are the chances this customer will be disappointed?

And here is the critical takeaway of this section: not all prospects are of equal value. The ideal Volvo customer – someone concerned with reliability and safety – is going to appreciate and value everything about Volvo’s offerings. Our thrillseeker is never going to want a Volvo, because he’s the wrong customer.

When you focus on your target audience, you target the customers you want to have in your business. You avoid landing the wrong customer who will not appreciate your offering. This can be a costly lesson to have to learn. 

Targeting Strengthens Your Offering and Appeal

We’ve discussed what happens when you don’t target: you run the risk of over-extending and trying to appeal to everyone. It makes your work so much harder, and it also strips away any opportunity to play to your strengths. It waters down your unique appeal. 

We’ve also discussed how targeting strengthens your offering and makes you more appealing to the audience you want to reach. And, we’ve talked about it insulating your from the audience you don’t want to reach. Focusing on your ideal customer allows you to delight them, which usually results in very happy and satisfied customers. This in turn opens up opportunities for repeat business and positive word of mouth. 

But here’s another reason you’ll want to target. Targeting also makes you attractive to other peripheral customer segments. That’s right. Targeting allows you to serve other customers who aren’t your core target. (!)

Targeting means you’re focused on your ideal customer.
That doesn’t shut you out from serving other peripheral segments!

Once again, let’s use Volvo. Volvo targets customers who care about reliability and safety and are able and willing to pay for it. Its broader audience is the luxury car buyer. As these evangelists talk up Volvo’s safety, reliability and performance, they gain the attention of other buyers in the luxury car market. Other customers who are thinking, “Hmm.. I’ve never considered a Volvo before… but maybe there’s something to these cars. It couldn’t hurt to have a reliable car, right?” 

In this way, Volvo expands its offering to include luxury car buyers. By targeting your offering to a niche market and offering them extreme value, you’re indirectly expanding your brand awareness and reach to other segments.

Implications for Your Business

You’re not Volvo, but you know those who most value what your offer. So to target your brand towards them, start by thinking about what you offer that they most value. What services or offerings do they love? What keeps them coming back to you? How do you do things differently? I recommend reviewing feedback sessions with your customers and/or your customer satisfaction survey results. Really think through what value you provide and what sets you apart from your competitors.

Once you have this information, build your communications around these points of differentiation. Think about Volvo communicating to Swedish car buyers about how its cars are perfectly designed to withstand Swedish winters. Likewise: think about communicating your most valuable qualities to your target, as if they were the only customers you cared about reaching. Really lean in to what sets you apart from your competition. 

How do you do this? This is where marketing comes into play. Marketing is about helping people buy wisely, you can read more about marketing here. You’ll want to bring your value message into your marketing, at every step in the customer journey.

This is done by being consistent with your messaging across all channels. From magazine ads to social posts to your website, brochures, newsletters: you want a consistent message about the value you bring. In doing this, you are leaning in to those who value you the most, and for whom you are most valuable.  

For more on how to zero in on your ideal target and leverage this in your marketing, connect with us. We’d love to help make your brand magnetic to success.

How to Differentiate Your Business and Build the Backbone of Your Brand Strategy

Your Unique Value Proposition is one of the most powerful outcomes of brand strategy: it gives your brand a true, clear competitive advantage. It answers: “what do you bring to your customers that no other competitor can? What do you do really well that’s very hard for others to do?” In branding, this is known as defining your competitive advantage, or your Unique Value Proposition (UVP). When it’s clearly defined, you know what separates you from your competitors, and why you’re compelling to your customers. That is amazingly powerful! It is the core of your brand strategy and a significant weapon in your Brand Story arsenal.  

But some business leaders struggle to define their UVP. It can feel confining: “We offer so many things! How can we choose only one?,” or difficult to pinpoint: “there are so many things we’re good at.” Some brands doubt they have a UVP, so they stop looking and often wind up talking about the category proposition instead of what makes them unique in the category. That logic that lands you in competitive territory, not competitive advantage territory. And without a sharp UVP, you can’t change the conversation from us-versus-them to the value that you alone bring.  

You need a method to arrive at a sharp competitive advantage. 

I help my clients articulate their Unique Value Proposition, and I’ve found the following framework from brand strategist Lindsay Pedersen (see her book Forging an Ironclad Brand) to be incredibly useful in thinking through how to express your differentiation. My goal in this article is to help you define your UVP. Grab a notepad and a pencil, because we’ll get to sketching in a bit. We’ll first walk through the process and then I can take you through how you build your own UVP.

How to Craft Your Unique Value Proposition

The best way to design your UVP is with input from three important factors: your customer (their needs &  wants); your competitors (their strengths); and your brand strengths. 

Figure 1

There are two overlaps in this Venn diagram, and both are important in nailing your UVP. The first one – the lower portion of the overlap – gets at what you and your competitors offer and what your customers are looking for. This is the Category Proposition, and it’s important, because fulfilling this means you’re squarely in your customer’s consideration set. That’s a good thing: you’re relevant and in the running.

The not-so-great news: this is table-stakes. To get to your UVP, we can’t stop here. We need to keep going to ensure your offering is unique and differentiating.

Now consider the top part of the overlap: the orange portion in this second diagram. This is the intersection of what your customer wants, what you deliver, and what your competition does not.

Figure 2

This is your competitive advantage, and what differentiates your brand from the rest. This reveals how you serve your customers in a highly valued way that is unique to your business. This is what we want to get to. So here’s how we do that.

Let’s Build Your Unique Value Proposition

Draw a large Venn Diagram with three overlapping circles. Label the circles “Customer Desires,” “Competitor Strengths” and “Brand Strengths,” as shown in Figure 1.

Customer Desires

Next to Customer Desires circle, write down your customer needs and wants. This should come from research, customer feedback forms and evaluations and other direct customer insights you have about their needs, including your industry knowledge and expertise.

Competitor Strengths

Move on to Competitor Strengths. List all the ways in which your competitors excel. Be honest. List all the benefits and strengths they bring. Why do customers go to them? What do they provide? Think of every detail, no matter how seemingly insignificant. For instance, if you were an upscale coffee house, you might write down “clean bathrooms,” which doesn’t seem to have anything to do with a coffee house. But clean bathrooms are important in delighting customers, especially when your brand is an upscale coffee house that charges $4.50 for a coffee. To not have a clean bathroom is anathema.

Brand Strengths

Now focus on your Brand Strengths. List everything your company delivers. What is special about your business? What are you better at than anyone else? List all the ways you delight your customers, thinking through the details of your customer-brand interaction. What is your business model strength? From what do you draw purpose or passion? Be exhaustive and consider all aspects of your brand. This could be your technology, your family recipe, your culture, your heritage, your intellectual property, your customer service, your brand’s personality, and so on. 

Explore the Overlap

Now let’s go back and explore the overlap sections. In the lower overlap section, distinguish which of these are category propositions and which of these are unique to your brand that your competition does not offer. Delineate the category propositions, and review them. This list should be a perfect match up of your customer’s desires and what you AND your competitors both bring. It should feel accurate… but not ownable, not exciting. 

What’s left over is the best part. Explore these fully, because these are your brand strengths: the areas where you meet your customer’s needs & desires AND you excel at AND no one else can come close. Explore the attributes you’ve found. Is there a single one that rises to the top? You’ll need to pick 1. It should feel big, like it defines your offering. It should feel ownable, like this is something that is unique to your brand. 

Pressure-test Your Unique Value Proposition

How do you know you’ve landed on a great Unique Value Proposition? The following criteria can help you evaluate how strong your UVP is. You’ll want to explore if your differentiator is:

Big: is it big enough to matter? Does it drive a customer need, will your customer be moved to engage with this benefit? Does it allow you to grow and expand your offering?
Narrow: is it narrow enough to own? Can you dominate this strength?
Ownable: Can you and you alone bring this strength to your customer? Can you deliver this consistently?
Empathetic: Is this benefit rooted in a true customer insight? Do they gravitate to this benefit?
Precise: is it sharp enough to keep you focused? Often these benefits can feel squishy. Opt for words that are weighty and signify clear direction for you and your team. 

If you’ve landed on something, wonderful. Sit with it, try it on mentally. Try positioning your company out loud to industry contacts, employees and peers as “we’re the only company in this category that does _____________.”  If it doesn’t feel quite right, sit with your list for a while. 

Sometimes it’s completely obvious what your unique differentiator is, and for others it emerges after reflection. Either way, observe how you feel with this new benefit as your unique differentiator. Does it feel real, ownable and powerful to you, like a summary of what you bring, but plussed? If what differentiates you from your competitor doesn’t feel strong enough, go back to your brand strengths and reevaluate to see if you missed something central. You might revisit your customer research and re-examine what your customers value and why they are so satisfied by your offering.

If you’ve done the exercise and landed on a UVP: congratulations! But if you’re stuck and need help, connect with us. We’d love to help make your brand magnetic to success.

How To Turn Prospects into Customers that Love Your Brand

“If you build it, they will come.” 
– Ray Kinsella, Field of Dreams

This line exists only in the movies for a reason. As a small business, it’s wishful thinking that all you need to do is set up shop and manage the flow of customers rushing to give you their money. It just doesn’t work that way. 

Regardless of what kind of business you run, your customer will probably travel through a “Sales Funnel” or Customer Journey as she comes to know your brand. A customer journey helps your prospect discover, grow her preference for, and ultimately purchase your offering. Here’s how that works.

The Essence of Marketing: The Customer Journey

Many folks think marketing is about selling; it is not. Marketing is about informing and helping customers buy smartly. To understand how marketing transitions your prospects into loyal customers, we need to delve into some marketing theory. 


This marketing framework was first codified in 1898 and is still beloved today. For good reason: it demonstrates that as your customers come into contact with your brand and move through the various stages of the journey – from unaware to awareness / consideration / purchase / loyalty – they will deepen their commitment to your offering, ultimately buying from you and becoming loyal customers. 

How does this happen? Your brand needs to communicate to them the right marketing message at each stage to help them advance along this path. To get the outcome you want, I recommend mapping your desired end goals with these stages so you know what you want to convey. You want her to see / like / believe / commit / and love your brand. This visual illustrates my point: 

Moving Through the Journey

When you’re moving your customer from unaware to aware, your communications goal should be to get SEEN by your target. You want them to know your brand name, and that you offer something that’s of interest to them. That’s it. Easy, right?

Consider that the average person is bombarded with over 10,000 media messages a day. Your message is competing for mindshare against those other 9,999 messages. Resist the urge to cram a whole bunch of stuff at your customer – that’s like yelling at them. Be single-focused in your effort of creating awareness for your brand. Great tactics can include online videos, posts, billboards, flyers or other awareness generating efforts. Remember, your goal is simple: to be seen.

At the next stage, awareness, your goal is to get them to LIKE you. Your messaging should shift to talk about the value your brand brings. Case studies are a great tool. They help transport your reader into “seeing” how you provide value. If this stage is done well, your prospect will be nodding, thinking, “okay, this service is absolutely something I need. I like these guys. They get me. Tell me more.”

A happy prospect who understands
you can help them.

The next journey stop is consideration and your goal is to get them to BELIEVE you can deliver what your brand is promising them. Here is where proof points – testimonials, awards, white papers, 3rd party validations – are valuable. They want to believe and are willing to read the fine print to determine if you’re the right contender for their dollars.

Hit the Easy Button

The next stage is the purchase stage. Here, your goal is to make it easy for them to PURCHASE. Reduce the friction by giving them exactly what they need to pull the purchase trigger: a compelling offer, a money-back guarantee, a salesperson at every stage of the journey, and other marketing tactics that drive closure.

Make it easy for them to purchase.

Once your customers have purchased, focus on loyalty. Make them LOVE your brand experience so much they become evangelists for your brand to others.  This is where the value of your offering can shine, and where you can continue to grow your customer relationship with after-purchase communications, periodic check-ins, and introducing them to new services or products they might not know about.

Be Singular in Your Messaging

Now that we have a marketing process and we have highlighted the customer outcomes we want at each stage, how does this translate into messaging? You’ll want to create messaging that helps drive the outcome you want at each stage of the journey. For this, a good starting point is to ask yourself specific questions like: 

  • (Unaware) What can we say to get her attention and SEE us?
  • (Awareness) What is the one thing we can say that will get her to LIKE us? 
  • (Consideration) What is the one thing we can say that will get her to BELIEVE us?
  • (Purchase) What is the one thing we can say that will get her to PURCHASE from us?
  • (Loyalty) What can we say to make her LOVE us?

It’s important to tailor your messaging to the stage your customer is at, and to be singular in your messaging. Stay focused JUST on the desired goal at that stage. You want to give your customers exactly what they need at that stage – and only what they need – to progress to the next level. 

Helpful Tips for Your Customer Journey

Don’t try to tell them everything about your brand all at once! And, don’t try to close them with the first communication you send their way. That’s like going out on a first date with someone and proposing: it’s totally inappropriate and tone-deaf. Same thing here. If your prospects are just getting to know your brand and you hit them up with a hard push to buy, it will fall flat. They haven’t decided if they even like you enough to want your services. 

And don’t try to say one LOOOOONNNNGGGGG sentence that captures all your messaging goals. I’ve seen this done, and it’s confusing and does nothing for your brand. Your goal is to keep things simple and communicate clearly what your customer wants to hear at the customer journey stage they’re at. (If you need a refresher on why staying simple is crucial in communications, see this piece on simplicity.)

The Customer Journey is a powerful tool in marketing that can deliver crisp, compelling marketing messages. Over time, these can persuade your customer to buy. We’re here to help empower you to do this on your own (you can do it!) but if you need help and want to learn more about how Magnetic Current can help shape your Marketing efforts, reach out to us here

Our world today is a minefield of complicatedness. Business is complicated, technology is complicated, disruption is complicated, your clients are complicated, and their problems are complicated. But that doesn’t mean your message should be complicated.

You’re the fixer. You’re the solution. So you need to be clear about how you solve the complicated. If you add to the complicatedness, you will lose. 

We know this – of course – on a visceral level, but then we start talking about our services and offerings, and in our desire to communicate every single spectacular feature or service we offer… we complicate our message. And as a result, people tune us out. As my friend and fellow branding expert Beth Hayden says, “a confused shopper never buys.” 

But I wanted to really understand this more, so I did some research. It turns out, we’re actually biologically wired to dismiss confusion. Did you know? 

Wired for Simplicity

Donald Miller, author of Building A StoryBrand talks about how we’re designed for clarity. Our brains are more or less the same as they were 200,000 years ago, and back then, our brain’s primary role was to keep us alive. It filtered in information relevant to our survival or thrival, because that was valuable. And it filtered out anything else. Distractions were simply too expensive to explore; you might lose sight of the saber-toothed tiger sneaking up on your left. So your brain filtered them out. 

Fast forward to today. As I said: our brains haven’t changed much. If you are trying to engage your business prospect and your message isn’t about how your offering helps them survive or thrive, their brain will dismiss it. In other words, if:

  • the first thing you tell a prospect is all the services you provide & what area you service;
  • the first thing on your website is a list of all your awards and client testimonials; 
  • your company brochure talks to all the various industries you’re in and your latest client wins:

You haven’t told them how you will help them survive or thrive. So all that information is being filtered out.

But there’s more. As I said, the brain’s primary role is to keep us alive… but it is also the body’s biggest energy hog, consuming a full 20% of your metabolic caloric resting rate. It is constantly in tension with itself, evaluating if the incoming information is worth the processing power. 

If your message is too complicated, your brain says, “this is taking too many resources to process. I can’t determine if this will help me survive or thrive. I’m going to conserve calories.” and turns itself off. You’ve experienced this if you’ve ever woken up from a boring meeting or fallen asleep in a university lecture. Tiredness has little to do with it; your brain is literally conserving processing power.  

Be Simple for Your Ego’s Sake

But let me come at simplicity from another angle: your ego. 

Most of us – at some time or another – have “doctored up” texts to appear smarter. (This was me with pretty much every term paper in college.) In a recent study of Stanford grad students, a full 85% of them admitted to doctoring up texts to lend credibility, or come off as more of an expert. There’s logic, there: bigger words are complicated and impressive; I will appear impressive to the reader if I use them. 

Except the inverse is true. 

A 2006 psychology study explored the link between complicated language and a writer’s perceived intelligence. In this study, participants were shown a variety of texts in increasing complexity, beginning with something simple:
“the house I grew up in was red” and graduating to something overly complicated:
“the domicile I resided in from infancy through maturity was crimson in tone.” 

In all of the texts, regardless of content, participants ranked the intelligence of authors with the simplest prose the highest. The more complicated the texts, the lower the intelligence ranking. 

So if you want to appear smart, use simple language.
If you want to make sure your customer understands your offering: make it simple.
If you want to engage your customers, show how you help them survive or thrive. 

A confused customer never buys. 
Stay simple, my friends.

P.S. – Need help simplifying your messaging? Connect with us and let us help make you magnetic to the people who matter to your success.