Before customers can buy from you, they have to remember you in buying situations. Marketing scientists have various ways of describing this, but the lesson is the same: connect your brand to the need that causes your buyers to enter your category.
What is a Category?
Every business operates in a category – or a group of products or services that share similar characteristics. Yours might be in software development, fine dining, or mortgage banking.
While categories can be quite broad, they include specific buying situations when customers take action. Those buying situations are typically more granular and personal to buyers. Even better, they present an opportunity to uniquely position your business to fulfill their needs.
What is a Category Entry Point?
Category Entry Points are moments when a specific buying situation prompts customers to enter your market category. They search their memory for who can help, often before even realizing they’re doing so.
Category Entry Points can be associated with various cues, such as:
- Where something happens
- When it happens
- Who they’re with
- What other activities they’re engaged in
- How they’re feeling
How do Category Entry Points work?
The brands that come to mind first in a given buying situation become the customer’s short list of options.
For example, consider how customers might decide on a dinner restaurant for tonight. One person might need something healthy that also has a drive-through on the way to their child’s soccer practice. Another might want outdoor seating for a romantic date night, or a fun place to celebrate a job promotion. Others may want a trendy restaurant where they can comfortably hold a conversation with potential investors. In which of these situations would certain restaurants come to mind?
In cloud services, one customer might need immediate, self-service provisioning to test a new app. Another may need 6 nines availability and 24/7 support for their global product launch. Which Category Entry Point has the most value to your business? In which buying situation will you face the most competition? What can your organization reliably deliver?
How to use Category Entry Points in your Marketing and Communications
Each time you interact with customers, you have the chance to influence their associations and memories of your brand.
You can increase the likelihood that your business is considered by linking your brand to specific Category Entry Points.
First, research the Category Entry Points your customers associate with your business and your competitors. Consider what’s most valuable to you and is not already owned by competitors. Prioritize the few that are most credible for your business to deliver on. Choose Category Entry Points to focus on that will trigger buyers to think of you as the best option.
Make these part of your brand strategy, and include them among the top 3 to 5 things you want customers to associate with your brand. One of those might be your logo or the primary color you use in your advertising. Another might be the name or image of your founder. Other associations could be qualities you stand for as a company or a person. Or, the unique and differentiated value your product or service provides. Finally, include the Category Entry Points you want buyers to associate with you.
Be clear and consistent about including these pieces of information in your advertising and communications. Highlight the buying situations in your photography. Include them in your website and social media content, and mention them when you describe your business when speaking with others. Finally, continue to refresh those links over time.
By linking your brand to Category Entry Points, you can increase the likelihood that customers will think of you — and choose you — when they encounter those situations and it’s time to buy.
Learn more about Category Entry Points
Learn more in “Category Entry Points in a B2B World: Linking Buying Situations to Brand Sales,” by Jenni Romaniuk and The B2B Institute. Professor Romaniuk is the author of “Building Distinctive Brand Assets,” on our list of the Best Brand Strategy Books. She has also published a body of research with the Ehrenberg Bass Institute for Marketing Science, the leading authority on Brand Management Research.
For consulting support to identify and prioritize Category Entry Points and develop your Brand Strategy, contact Clear Aim today.