Contract manufacturers are often 'brand sceptical'. That's understandable. After all, you never set out to be a Nike or an Apple. But whether you realise it or not, you are a brand. You stand for something in the minds of your customer. And that perception could be helping (or harming) your ability to grow.
Why focus on brand positioning?
What is brand positioning, and why should you care? Customers and prospects believe things about your company. They have an image of who you are and what you do (or don't do). But unless you deliberately position yourself in the marketplace and have control of that image, your brand can be whatever anyone else says it is. And that's a dangerous place to be in any market.
Here are six tips to ensure your contract manufacturing company is positioned for growth with a unique brand identity that can speak to and galvanise more right-fit leads.
1. Figure out what your customers want
Successful brand positioning is about understanding what customers in your sector want to achieve when looking for services like yours.
'The lowest price on the market' is not a sustainable brand position for most companies. That way, commoditisation lies. But the truth is, your customers are almost always looking to solve a problem bigger than price.
So, think about the pains you are alleviating and the gains you bring to buyers when you work with them. As the adage goes, people buy holes; they don't buy drills.
- Are they looking to free up resources to focus on research and development
- Are they sick of missing client deadlines because of supply chain failures?
If so, outsourcing manufacturing and supply chain management to experts like you brings them incredible value beyond simply reducing their costs. This can form the basis of the value proposition that transforms you from a supplier beaten down on price into a trusted expert and commercial partner.
2. Analyse your competitor's offerings
Look around your sector. Identify who your competitors are. Where do their strengths lie? Why are they winning business when you are not? Some suppliers who are threatening your sales may not be conventional competitors at all. They may be disruptive, challenger brands about to eat your lunch.
Consider all your customers' alternatives, big, small and unexpected. Then consider where their weaknesses lie. Where are the gaps in their armoury? Where are they not serving their customers well? Where are they ignoring the problems and complaints of the people they serve?
The clues to successful market positioning will lie in understanding these weaknesses and the opportunities they present.
3. Build a brand positioning map
A great brand position is about finding the sweet spot for growth, the place where three critical things intersect:
- Your customers' needs
- Your competitors' weaknesses
- Your unique capabilities
Now plot this fertile ground onto a 'brand positioning map' to see exactly how your offering relates to your competitors. It will show you how to pitch your brand in terms of message, price and quality to win over more of your target customers.
Use the map to chart your brand's journey to find more rapid and sustainable growth.
4. Write a brand positioning statement
Research by Bain says that only 40% of B2B businesses think their sales team have a 'strong understanding of their company's differentiation'.
With that in mind, you must have a strategy for documenting and sharing your brand position if you will influence how you sell.
All the work you've been doing to figure out your brand position should be encapsulated in a brand positioning statement. This short paragraph summarises your unique value to your customers, your point of differentiation, and the reasons to believe your claim.
"For [your target market] who [target market need], [your brand name] provides [main benefit that differentiates your offering from competitors] because [reason why target market should believe your differentiation statement.]"
The brand positioning statement is an internal document that everyone in your business can refer to when working on marketing or branding campaigns. They can instantly see the overarching narrative of your brand, what you stand for in the marketplace, and the evidence for your claims to be different from the rest.
Here's our guide to writing a brand positioning statement and spreading that message across your business.
5. Find an emotional connection
In what sense can a contract manufacturer build an emotional connection with their clients?
"recognising the full range of both rational and emotional factors behind business purchases—and tailoring the value proposition accordingly—is critical to avoiding the commodity trap."
The most potent brands can make us feel a certain way about them. Just think about Disney, Apple or even Trump Org.
By uncovering their brand essence, contract manufacturers can also differentiate in a largely undifferentiated and commoditised market. This is the 'special sauce' that prospects, and customers respond to and recognise as uniquely yours.
These elements drive an emotional connection beyond the transactional: how you empower your partners to conquer new markets, the dedication of your people, and your commitment to change the world...
All of these unique attributes can be teased out and become part of a brand identity that stands for something in the minds of your customers beyond a set of features and a rate card.
6. Optimise to be found
Once you have identified the sweet spot, the position where you can most profitably deliver on client needs - and the 'brand essence' that differentiates you in the sector - it's all about execution. It's about flipping insight into a presence where you become a helpful guide when and where your customers need you most in the buying cycle.
Once you've identified your ideal customer profile, you can create your buyer personas and design the materials that will speak to them most deeply and prompt them to act.
- Build out digital design to foreground customer pain points and stress your empathy and expertise
- Find a tone of voice that resonates with your buyer persona and differentiates you from your competitors
- Optimise with keywords that reflect your buyer persona's most pressing questions
- Create content that answers their problems and positions you as the guide in their journey
- Run campaigns where they will encounter your tailor-made content at key moments in the buying cycle
Note how critical content is in this process of brand positioning. Becoming a source of expert help for your target market is one of the most effective ways to differentiate your brand in a world where most contract manufacturers operate unseen.
Indeed, the latest CMI research reveals that 80% of industrial marketers believe that unique and expert content will be critical for brands to achieve cut-through with their target markets in 2023.
Correctly identifying who your ideal customers are and how you can serve them where others can't take honesty and deep analysis. You'll need to bring your team together to work on this and, maybe, find an outside agency that can act as arbiter between you all.
But it'll be worth it. If you can position yourself to speak powerfully to more right-fit leads, you can build a more qualified pipeline that will sustain you across long, complex sales cycles.