Marketing is a battle of minds.
What we mean is that marketing happens in your customer’s heads. If you can influence how people perceive your company and your brand in order to sell more effectively, you’ve succeeded as a marketer.
But it’s not just your company that exists in people’s minds. The whole industry your business operates in (or is breaking into) has a set of expectations, impressions and assumptions that you can’t directly control.
With these barriers in mind, what’s the best way to get into your customer’s minds and dominate your industry?
Be the Leader of Your Niche
The easiest way to define how your company appears in the market is by being the first one in a given industry. If you’re the first person playing the game, you can easily decide what the game is, and why you’re the best person to address the customer’s needs.
But most of us don’t have that luxury. Instead, we’re competing established brands and big companies who have bigger marketing budgets to spend than we do.
In other words, since you can’t embrace “brute force” marketing to outspend your competitors (and they’ve already established a place in the customer’s minds), you’ve got to be smarter with your marketing.
And that means you have to define what makes your company unique.
Compare and Contrast
Having established models to compare yourself to can be a blessing in disguise. Instead of using marketing to compete directly with your competitors on their terms, figure out a way to define yourself against them.
In other words, if you’re selling a new brand of detergent that’s in direct competition with the market leader, don’t advertise yourself in the market leader’s terms.
If the detergent market leader says, “We make clothes bright and colorful,” it’s not a good strategy to say “We make clothes even brighter and more colorful than brand X,” because brand X already has that idea captive in your market’s mind.
Instead, say something completely different. Pick a unique strength: “We’re the detergent for busy parents who just need to get laundry done,” or “We’re the fastest clean in town.”
Even better if you can directly contrast yourself with your competitor: “We’re like X detergent, but fast.” One-up your benefits with theirs: “Our customers understand it’s not about just being bright and colorful; it’s about that wonderful detergent smell.” The market that values smell over appearance will identify with your product and might make the switch.
This strategy works for anyone in a competitive market—whether you’re trying to clean clothes, sell cars or get people to come to your movie theater.
Don’t forget that at the end of the day, marketing is a battle of the minds. It’s more effective to carve out a space in your customer’s mind than to compete for a space your competitors already own.