Sharpening Your Distinction

Written by Peter Spellman, Berklee College of Music

Put on your marketing hat for a moment.

Market position is often related to niche. The “mass market” has given way to a market of niches. The music market in particular continues to segment and each segment has beome a “world”, a cultural/economic portal, through which niche companies can create value and success.

Maybe your specialty is tube amps, or Latin jazz arrangements, or songs with a nautical theme. Whatever it is you can create a niche from it, a distinctive offering that stands out in the marketplace of useful things. As the saying goes, ‘Dig a hole an inch wide and a mile deep,’ and work it.

You’re an entrepreneur of your own talent. What is entrepreneurship? It’s seeing an economic/social/spiritual need and then creating business forms to meet that need. It’s finding a gap in a seemingly saturated market and creatively filling it in with your unique offering.

In order to help you strengthen your distinction, here are ten questions you should ask of your market positioning strategy:

  1. Is it relevant? Relevant means applicable, connected, germane. The distinctions you create must be valued by a sufficient number of fans and customers.  Your distinction needs to con _nect.
  2. Is it different? Being different for the sake of being different isn’t enough. Offerings must be genuinely different. What compelling reason is there for customers to switch their attention from existing brands to yours?
  3. Will they care? Your point of difference must be truthful, authentic. Truth cuts through the clutter. Claims must not be empty, otherwise your audience will see through your ‘spin’.
  4. Get emotional? Customers and fans must make a lasting emotional connection with your brand.
  5. Are you the best? Superior quality alone is not enough to ensure market distinction, but it’s crucial. Quality is relative to consumer expectations. Raise expectations by delivering the best.
  6. Can you say it? Every aspect of promotion should contain your differentiating idea presented in an easily digestible form. Creative concision is challenging but always effective.
  7. Who are you? You are ultimately offering a human experience to fans and customers. Define your brand’s values, identity and personality in light of the experience you want them to have.
  8. Are you innovative? Competitors will think nothing of stealing your ideas and calling them their own. Pre-emptive positioning based on innovation cannot be easily copied.
  9. Can they afford it? Can buyers afford to pay for the difference? Improvements to products and services can be costly, but value is what you’re after and value transcends mere “price”. People pay for uniqueness.
  10. Can you make a profit? The reverse of affordable—there must be sufficient profit margin once you have created your differences. After all, this isn’t a hobby you’re involved in – it’s your bread and butter!

Run your own positioning strategy through these ten questions and see it get stronger.

For more great food on this topic see, The Collapse of Distinction by Scott McKains (2009) and Career Distinction: Stand Out By Building Your Brand by William Arruda and Kristen Dixon (2007).

About Peter Spellman
Peter Spellman found his way into music as a guitarist in various New York bands and then switched to drums after seeing the Police perform in the late 1970s. Since then he’s performed and recorded with reggae outfit, The Mighty Charge, world music ensemble Friend Planet, and now with the Underwater Airport crew. He’s scored films for the National Science Foundation, composed video games for Massachusetts General Hospital, and coaches music entrepreneurs at Berklee College of Music. He is author of “The Self Promoting Musician” and “Indie Business Power: A Step by Step Guide for 21st Century Music Entrepreneurs”. Find him at mcareerjuice.com


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