Challenge Accelerator workshop: Positioning for social entrepreneurs

‘Companies based on true identity grow faster’

Published in Climate Action & Learning by

‘A product is what leaves the factory, a brand is what people buy,’ Isolde Schram of HopStep&Leap Company said at the start of a workshop on Positioning for social entrepreneurs during the first Climate Action Challenge Accelerator bootcamp in January in Amsterdam. The workshop was specifically meant for the start-ups among the challenge winners.

‘Strong brands have a strong DNA’, she continued. ‘Often a company’s DNA is derived from the founders but every so often it is only there subconsciously. It pays off to make this DNA manifest, because helps you to make strategic choices for your company.’

HopStep&Leap Company supports entrepreneurs and corporates to develop and grow sustainable innovations into successful mainstream money makers. The company was set up by Isolde Schram and Ellen Kooij, who both build on a long experience in marketing, branding and business strategy. 

‘Your brand is your most valuable asset from the start,’ Schram said. ‘A brand reflects an entire set of associations that help people choose. True identity comes from within and serves as a compass. Companies that are based on such a true identity grow faster. That is why it is so important that you uncover the DNA of your company.’

Know your DNA
To do so, the participants were assigned to sit in groups of three with members of different teams, and in rotation interview each other about their backgrounds, their motivation and their belief in their own project or company. In doing so, each participant ended up with a set of values or a description of what makes them stand out. Next, the two members of each team would sit together again to compare the values with which they both came back.

These values don’t necessarily need to be the same, Schram explained. ‘The set of values that two or more founders of a company bring in, is what makes a company unique. You are your company and being aware of what your DNA is makes you stronger and will make your branding more recognizable. It makes you not only authentic, but will also help you the moment you start hiring people. Knowing your DNA, your vision and your way of working will help you to determine if people will fit in.’

In a next exercise, the participants were asked to examine their combined values and boil these down to the two or three terms that they thought would describe best their unique proposition and help them best to attain their goals.

With the core values established, the participants could start work on the positioning of their company. ‘The DNA is part of your positioning and this positioning is what helps people to choose you,’ Schram said.

She mentioned three elements that are important in this context:   

1. Relevance: is your offer relevant for the customer (if not, he or she won’t see you)

2. Uniqueness: the uniqueness of your offer, an element that generally remains the same for a longer period (can be derived from your DNA)

3. Difference: where you differ from your competitors. This can change quicker, according to changes in the market.

Imagine being a shop
To help the teams discover their own positioning, Schram asked them to imagine their company being a shop. Schram: ‘Now three questions can help you in defining your positioning. First: Who do you want in your shop? Who is your primary target? Second: What does your shop window look like? What do you want your customers to see first? And thirdly: What shopping street are you in? Or phrased differently: What is the category you see your business in?

Place your shop in a street
In the following exercises the teams were asked to draw their own shop window and place this shop in a ‘shopping street’ to get a better idea of their positioning. One advice Schram added to this was the notion that sometimes your ‘street’ or category should be chosen to help the public understand your offer. ‘When Apple introduced the iPhone, they marketed it as a mobile phone, to help people recognize the product. Would they have presented it as a mobile computer, people would have had more difficulty understanding the concept of the product.’

The workshop culminated in the presentations by the different teams of their ‘shopping streets’ with their own ‘shop’ in the centre. The assignment clearly had helped the participants to get a better understanding of the positioning of their projects.

Top image: Marjan van Aubel and Peter Krige working on their Power Plant project

Isolde Schram and Ellen Kooij from HopStep&Leap Company advise on go-to-market strategy.

Isolde Schram and Ellen Kooij from HopStep&Leap Company advise on go-to-market strategy.

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