One of the most important steps of any communications program is developing your positioning statements, which describe how you want the market to perceive your product or service.
To a great extent, you don’t position your product or service. The market does. The goal of positioning statements is to guide your marketing activities and coax the market to see you the way you want it to.
Positioning cannot be done in a vacuum. You need to know your product or service, your target customer, market and competition. Here are some topics to consider.
Your product or service
What do you know about your product or service?
- What does it do?
- Who are its target customers?
- What are its main features and benefits?
- What are its strengths and weaknesses?
- How is it different from the competition?
Your target customer
What do you know about your prospective customers?
- What do they do?
- What is their “pain?”
- What do they want (the “gain”)?
- What is important to them?
- Who influences them?
If you can’t talk directly with prospective customers, at least read about them to get an idea of their “pain” and other “hot buttons.”
Your market and your place in it
What do you know about your target market?
- How big is it?
- Is it growing? How fast?
- What does the market need?
- What are its major trends?
- Who are the market leaders?
What do you know about your competition?
- What do their products and services do?
- How are they different from you?
- What do they do better than you?
- What do they do worse?
- Where do they fit in the market in terms of quality and price?
Organize and Analyze
Having gathered this information, the next steps are to organize and analyze it.
A good approach is to develop a competitive feature matrix, where you place your product and your competition’s products. It can be as simple as the example below.
Let’s assume that you have developed an advanced payroll software for small business. And let’s also assume your analysis shows that it is the highest quality product in its price bracket (a nice place to be).
The Positioning Statement
Now develop the positioning statements, which will form the basis for the marketing plan. The positioning statement identifies your market, explains the benefit of your product or service, and gives facts that support that benefit.
Put another way, your positioning statement “positions” your product or service in relation to its competition and describes what you want your market to think about your product or service.
A typical format for a positioning statement is: “For (insert the name of your market), (insert the name of your company or product) is the (explain how your product or service meets a need better than its competition). We do this by (insert two or three proof points that back up the benefit statement).”
For your new software, a possible positioning statement is:
“For small businesses, Premium Payroll is the highest quality, most cost-effective payroll software available today. Our proprietary technology simplifies the payroll and benefits process. For maximum flexibility, our cloud-based system can be deployed on mobile devices, including iPhones and iPads.
Now test out your positioning statement. Ask key people in your company to evaluate whether it is:
- Focused and
Refine or redo the statement as needed.
It’s a good idea to keep the statements posted and easily available for your marketing and sales teams. Remember, positioning statements are not for public consumption. These are for internal use to guide the rest of your marketing.
Developing positioning statements takes patience, insight and perspective. Because detachment and focus are critical, it can help to work with an outsider during this process. An independent consultant can often bring the detached viewpoint essential to success.
In any event, do not skimp on this process. Carefully crafted positioning statements can ensure a targeted marketing program.
For more information, see the classic book, Positioning: the Battle for Your Mind by Al Ries and Jack Trout, McGraw Hill, 1996.