This is the third article in a small series of punches surrounding April Dunford's Obviously Awesome! and how good positioning relates to good branding. Please read the first article and second article before jumping into this one.
You know what the alternatives are, you know the special things that your startup unique, now you need to establish what makes that valuable.
It's tricky to get lost in the weeds here and even harder to stay objective.Typically, startups say things like "great user experience," or "great customer service," but that's trite and, quite frankly, to be expected. If you don't have those components, your business is gonna fail anyway.
Value goes deeper and it's objective. For example, building a repository of customer feedback and concrete examples of your secret sauce in action. Personally, this is seen in my business through my reviews and the consistent compliments I get on organization. Organization is the secret sauce (or one of them, I hope) and the value is that it saves time and keeps projects moving smoothly.
As this pertains to branding, it's a difficult to see what the emotional component is to quantitative value. However, it is clear that in gathering the quantitive data on your startup, you will see how you make people feel. If you're doing your job right, what you want people to feel and what they actually feel is aligned. That's a mark of good branding.
When entering a space like internet security, you'd think that the best bet would be to rely on a stoic and staid brand. That is, of course, unless everyone else in your market is boring, difficult to work with, and doesn't provide any emotional value to the customer.
Dashlane is a password manager (I use them personally so I don't spend hours trying to get all of my passwords in a row). I've gotta say, having used their top competitor, LastPass, it's evident what makes Dashlane's positioning so potent: they made password protection snazzy and cool.
LastPass, the only major competitor to Dashlane, goes for $3 per month for the same features as Dashlane's $4 per month premium personal plan. Something they seem to be totally ok with given that they are pushing for a higher-end experience.
Smart move, here's why:
They win on a more refined experience instead of driving down prices within their market. Think about it, both of these softwares do the same thing, yet Dashlane earns an extra dollar over LastPass users. Sure, they might have less customers, but they earn 33% more money per user. In turn, LastPass' 16M users at $3 per month earn $48M compared to Dashlane's 10M users that earn them $40M in monthly revenue.
If Dashlane had gone the route of charging a dollar less their revenue would be cut in half. But by positioning the brand to be a premium alternative and an experience worth paying extra money for, they can compete. Clearly, there is some serious validity to playing up in a "downgraded" market.
With the numbers established, let's take a look at some brass tacks: who is this brand for and why they care.
This is all speculation, but given that I'd seen ads for Dashlane on several design-related YouTube channels, I'm guessing Dashlane's ideal user is someone in the tech scene with money to spare and willing to pay for an elevated experience. Why this matters to this user is the fact that they don't have time to fiddle in run-of-the-mill tech like LastPass and instead yearn for something fresh and easy to use. They are neophiles with a taste for well-designed software. Paying the extra dollar is worth the boost in esteem and status. Dashlane built their brand around this.
Compared to the consumer LastPass attracts (the person looking for a conservative, affordable option), this tech-savvy user base allowed Dashlane level up the market.
In his latest book, Business Made Simple, Donald Miller regales readers with the analogy of a business as an airplane.
The Plane Body is Overhead
It's filled with people and those people weigh down the plane with cost.
The Wings are Products and Services
These are the things that give a company lift and can allow the air to get under it.
The Engines are Sales and Marketing
These propel the company forward and allow for increased velocity. Allowing the plane to take on more overhead and go more places.
The Fuel is Cashflow
Run out of this stuff and you crash.
Here's how design and branding fits in to all of these:
The people who work for you will earn their keep if they are guided by a strong mission. Something that inspires them to get out of bed, go to work, and make shit happen. You enable that to happen when you have a strong emotional value they cling to. That's your brand. Good people are expensive, however their ROI is worth it. Give them a reason to push the company forward with a strong brand.
Products and Services
In software, a poorly designed product will kill a company. Do it right. Make it something your sales people want to sell, rather than being forced to sell it. More importantly, add pieces of delight throughout all of these so that the product becomes irreplaceable to your users. That is design.
Sales and Marketing
Following up on the previous point, a well designed product is one your sales team is encouraged to offer. Make your product appear trustworthy by branding your marketing efforts and getting the word out in an exciting, useful manner. Make it easy for customers to recognize and like you. That is design thinking 101.
If you're running low and need to rally investors to your cause, design a mission for them to get behind. Articulate it uniquely and in a way that is easily understood. Create a deck that is trusted at a glance and represents your company well.
Apply your brand and design the part of your business accordingly so that you can go anywhere.