You can build it, but they don’t always come.

Sorry to start your day on a downer. We know your idea is brilliant. We know your product is A1. We know the hours you’re ready to clock to get your life’s work out there.

But there’s a factor we founders often fail to consider when mapping out our future success. Oh hello target audience! Yes you, the people we want to buy what we’re offering! We got so caught up in creating the best product or service for you that we forgot to think about how you’re going to actually perceive us.

How our intended customers see us is vital. Huge. You see, while it’s in our nature to create our own perception, the reality is that every business is positioned by consumer perceptions. It’s not as simple as saying, ‘this is what we do, this is how we do it’, and then kicking back in eager anticipation, waiting for the masses to get on board with us. You may know you have the best product on the market, but it’s how the audience sees you that ultimately determines your success.

Remember when Heinz brought out green ketchup in a special squirty bottle? Hey guys! This will be fun and interesting and different and how cool will it be to squirt happy green faces onto cheeseburgers? But ultimately, no amount of fun or interesting or different mattered, because to the minds of consumers, sauce is meant to be red. Green ketchup messed with their comfort levels. Sayonara green ketchup.

Whether you like it or not, your business will be positioned by consumers. Does this make you powerless to the market? Absolutely not! Successful businesses predict their audience and control their positioning all the time, ensuring they are clearly recognised by consumers in a particular way. It’s only when you don’t control your business’s position that you are leaving it up to the target audience to create its own idea of what you are.

So as a founder, how exactly do you shape how consumers see you? Well, you start by finding your meaningful difference. Not just your difference. Your meaningful difference. The best way to do this is by nutting out your why. Not what you do. Not how you do it. But why you do it.

Let’s talk about Apple for a moment. All the computer companies in the world have the access to the same resources, the same technology, the same talent pool. The reason why Apple is so successful is because they don’t just build great computers—they are committed to innovation. They are, after all, the ones who ‘think different’. Apple has the most loyal customer base around because their audience are not just buying their computers, they are buying their ethos.

The other key to brand positioning is reduction. The more you can simplify your position, the more powerful you appear. This is a lot more challenging than it sounds, but it’s critical to success. The world’s most successful brands are often so synonymous with a single word or concept, they actually become part of the vernacular. We run to get a ‘band-aid’ for our cuts and scrapes, not an adhesive bandage. We ‘google’ to find something on the web, rather than look on an internet search engine. We ask whether that glass vase should be ‘bubble wrapped’ when technically it’s called inflated cushioning. (Bubble Wrap obviously owned that market position like a boss). What all these brands have in common is that they are first in the mind of the consumer. They have, quite literally, obliterated any competition to own their market.

Being a business founder takes real guts and 100% commitment. You need to also extend this courage to your positioning in the market. Creating a unique impression, driving your stake in the ground, owning your meaningful difference, is essential. How else are you going to leave an imprint on the customer’s mind so they associate you in a specific way that is distinct from the rest of the market? Believe us, as tempting and as comfortable as it may seem to follow a market leader, it will only ever leave you a sorry second in the eyes of the market—at best.

Be brave. Be memorable. Be motivating. Be consistent. Be credible. And most importantly, whatever you do, make sure you position yourself for a long and steady stream of success.

Drop us a line if you’re ready to own it.