Building your brand: Core Offer
Updated: Jul 16, 2018
Part 2 in our series on building your small business brand.
A brand’s core offer is the value it offers its customers – the problem it solves, the frustration it alleviates, the pain point it removes – and what customers can expect the results to be. It’s what makes them feel good about their purchase.
Why it’s essential
The best marketing in the world can’t sell a bad offer. The offer is the foundation of all marketing material. It’s the “product” (i.e. brand) being marketed and sold. Without an offer, there’s no reason for a company to exist.
What it covers
This covers the problem your brand solves, how it solves it, for whom it solves it, the results customers can expect, their objections to using your brand, how to minimize those objections, the challenges you face, how you can add value to your offer, bonuses you can include, scarcity incentives, risk reversals and guarantees and any reciprocity.
How you’ll use it
Without an offer, you have, well… nothing to offer. That makes the offer the crux of all your marketing material – website, print collateral, presentations, PR, advertising, and even the basis of your content marketing strategy.
How you’ll create it
What problem does you brand solve?
This is probably the single most important part of the brand building processes, because if your brand doesn’t solve a problem, you have a serious business problem on your hands that no amount of branding and marketing can solve.
To help you understand and define the core problem your brand solves, start by creating a hierarchy of problems, from the most practical at the bottom to the most emotional at the top, that your brand helps potential customers with. For example, for one of our clients – a logistics developer – we defined the most practical, bottom-level problem as being that there’s no suitable space available in urban areas for last-mile logistics.
Next, attach an emotion to the problem. In this case, we attached “Hassle”, since this is primarily what the customer will feel. We also qualified this as an internal problem for the customer.
The next problem up from there we defined as getting deliveries to end-customers on time and expediting customer returns efficiently. The emotion we attached to this was “Stress”, since this is what the customer will feel if their customers aren’t getting their deliveries on time. For this reason, we qualified this as an external problem.
Finally, the highest-level problem we defined as providing a better customer experience. This we defined as a business problem, since not providing a better customer experience compared to the competition will harm its business. For this reason, the emotion we attached to it was “Fear”.
Here’s how our hierarchy looked when we were finished.
Next, for each problem on the hierarchy of problems you’ve created, write down how your brand solves that problem. The solution to the lowest-level problem was high-quality urban warehouses from a trusted institutional investor. This is what our client provides at the most practical level. To this we attached the emotion of “Trust”.
Next up the ladder, the client solves the problem of deliveries and return by providing not just one warehouse, but a network of warehouse across the city. The emotion we attached to this was “Confidence”.
Finally, to address the business problem, our client provides its warehouse space in strategic locations that allow their own clients to deliver anywhere in the city within 30 minutes or less. The emotion we attached to this was “Excitement”. Because that what their clients will feel when they can outperform their competition.
For whom does it solve it?
Next, for each problem in the hierarchy, write down who the most relevant beneficiary (target) is. For example, lower level practical problems may benefit particular work positions, whereas higher level problems benefit types of companies.
In our example, the types of targets companies who would benefit were third-party logistics providers like FedEx, online pure play retailers such as Amazon, multi-chain retailers such as Next and grocery delivery services such as Amazon Fresh.
What results can customers expect?
Here’s the part customers will want to know most about. What results can they expect from using your brand? Again, these range from the practical to the emotional.
Look again at your hierarchy and for each problem, write down the corresponding result that can be expected. But make sure to avoid simply rewriting the problem as a result.
What I mean is, if the problem is not enough time, then the result shouldn’t just be more time.
Instead, think of what causes the problem. In this case, the problem of not enough time. The cause could be inefficient processes. So, the result would be efficient processes.
Here’s how we did it for our logistics developer.
For the lowest-level problem of not finding suitable urban warehouse space, the associated result is Urban space without the hassle.
For the problem of timely deliveries, the result is deliver anywhere within the city within 30 minutes.
And last, for the problem of providing a better customer experience, the result is a competitive advantage.
By the way, don’t be surprised if after going through this, you have to rewrite your hierarchy of problems. This is the way brand building works. Nothing is every fully set in stone. There’s a process, but the process loops back and later steps inform earlier steps.
Now that you know how great your brand is and what it’ll do for your customers, let’s turn things around and look at it from the perspective of your potential customers.
People don’t like to take risks with their time or money, so they’re naturally going to have some strong objections to moving from their current situation. It’s essential that you face, minimize and overcome these objections.
To start, write down all conceivable objections targets may have to using your brand, from the most logical to the most illogical. Often, it’s the illogical objections that stop people from choosing your brand. Then write down how your brand can minimize those objections.
Here’s an example from our life coach.
I’m only showing three objections here, but the actual list was much longer. Don’t leave any stone unturned. Understanding why customers will avoid your brand is essential knowledge. This is the cornerstone of what you’ll need to be communicating to your targets.
Next, think about what challenges your brand faces in communicating its value to its target. These are different from minimizers. For example, the challenge could be industry perception or access to your target, and so on.
For our life coach, he needed to:
Educate people about how to lead a fully engaged life.
Excite people about working with him.
Motivate people to take action now.
With this list, you already have a broad action plan for what you’ll need to do, which we’ll flesh out in later posts. But first, we want to make your brand’s offer more enticing.
Your brand’s core offer should now be solid and motivating all on its own. But you have a lot of convincing to do, so now it’s time to start adding more value to your brand. Because what people are most interested in is a good value, not a cheap product. A good value is what will make people happy to spend money on your brand.
So, here you want to think about anything else that ads to your brand’s value. These can be based on the product itself, e.g. build quality, internal tech, etc., or could be services that are included, e.g. instructions on use, free deployment, consulting on use, maintenance, etc.
It may seem obvious to you to include things that are included anyway, but if they’re not stated, they’re not obvious.
But don’t just limit yourself to practical value. Be sure to include emotional value, e.g. the experience of your team, top-notch customer service, etc. These will be the most powerful draws.
Here again is our life coach. We divided the practical added value from the emotional added value.
Practical Added Value
Weekly live trainings
Weekly Ask Me Anything
Lifetime access to Facebook group
Emotional Added Value
Welcoming community of like-minded people
Limited number of students
Buddy system for increased accountability
Once again, this is an abbreviated list just to serve as an example. Add as much value as you can while making sure you still achieve your profit margin.
Bonuses are a little different from added value. Here we’re looking at anything extra that’s not part of your product or service itself that your brand can offer, e.g. reports, maps, data, infographics, tutorials, etc.
Even if you don’t have anything now, you may think of things you’d like to add in the future. Think of all the free things Google gives away.
For our logistics developer, the bonuses we came up with included:
Heat maps of customer order
Interactive drive-time maps
Social and networking opportunities
Bonuses are a great way to build not only brand recognition, but also brand authority, which combined lead directly to the most value thing of all – brand equity.
A scarcity incentive is anything that limits the number of customers who can purchase your product or service. This could be a time limit (that is, only available for a limited time), a production limit (only a certain amount being produced) or an availability limit (customers are snatching them up).
Personally, I don’t believe in false scarcity. It works to get people through the door, but it won’t keep them there. And branding is all about keeping people inside. The kind of scarcity I’m talking about here is authentic scarcity.
So instead of a situation where you have, say, 1,000 widgets, but you’re only selling 100 because you want to create a false sense of scarcity, the kind of authentic scarcity I’m talking about is when you only produce 100 special-edition widgets in the first place.
Another authentic scarcity incentive is limiting the number of students in a workshop to improve the training you provide.
And sometimes scarcity is market driven, such as when there’s no high-quality urban warehouse space available and you’re the only brand providing it.
Scarcity has to be real and justified. If it doesn’t exist, don’t create it. It’ll only harm you in the long run.
To help reduce the risk potential customers feel in choosing you, it helps to eliminate it from their minds. You do this by reserving the risk.
Risk reversal can take the form of a trial period, money-back guarantee, free maintenance and repairs, a free consultation, etc. It could also be a super-low price. Basically, anything that will make the target feel safe about making a new purchase.
Last up in building your offer, we have reciprocity. Reciprocity refers to anything that your brand “gives back”, i.e. for every dollar customers spend, your brand gives 10 cents to something.
It could also be hiring students as part of their education, and so on. Anything that shows that your brand does more than just create a product or provide a business service. If it doesn’t, then don’t worry about this part at the moment, though you may want to revisit this in the future.
Ok, that’s it for your core offer. Thinking hard about each part and focusing everything as much as possible should help you understand what your brand offers inside and out and give you a clear picture of why it has value to people.
IN the next post we'll look at defining your brand’s features and benefits.