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March 20, 2023


4 min read

What’s Your Position?

Why positioning is the foundation for all good marketing

Richard Byrd
What’s Your Position?

Being that I’m a self-professed marketing guy, a lot of people ask me about marketing tactics. “What do you think about LinkedIn? Should we be doing more videos? Do print ads work?” My answer is any of it can work, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. What’s your message? I see so many companies advertise without thinking clearly about their message, differentiation, and value proposition. The problem often begins when they have not considered how they want to position their offering in the marketplace. 

Think about some of the terrible ads you see. There were a bunch of 30-second commercials in the Super Bowl that left me scratching my head. What is this, and why would I ever want to buy it? How many of the ads do you actually remember from the big game? There were over 60 commercials. If you remember over five, I bet you can’t remember the names of the companies or products featured in the ads. Of those, I bet you can’t remember the value proposition they were trying to impart upon you. They really should have developed their position before they dropped $7mm for that 30-second spot. But whether it’s $700 or $7,000,000, it’s never a good idea to invest in bad positioning.

So what is this positioning you speak of?

The fathers of positioning are Jack Trout and Al Ries. They say, “Positioning is not what you do to a product. Positioning is what you do to the mind of the prospect. That is, you position the product in the mind of the prospect.”1

Positioning outlines why your product is unique in comparison to market alternatives, and messaging describes to your target segments what you’ll do to deliver on the promises made in your positioning statement. It is a powerful one-two punch, and you need to be able to communicate yours before you start spending money on tactics.

Simple, but not easy. 

Determining your position is simple. You just need to know the following things: Who are we talking to? What keeps them up at night? How do we solve that problem better than anyone else in the world? Or in marketing geek terms, we need to define the following for your product or service:

  • Target customers
  • Statement of opportunity
  • Service category
  • Key benefit
  • Competitors
  • Primary differentiation

It’s that simple. But, as I mentioned earlier, it's not as easy as it looks. Let’s break down each of these components.

Target Customer

Who is the ideal customer for your offering? Most people say something very generic here, like women between the ages of 22 and 48 or independent oil and gas producers in the Gulf of Mexico. These are both examples of terrible target audiences because they are too broad. It would be impossible to understand what problems these people need a product or service to solve. Now here is a better example: upper-middle-class working mothers between the ages of 22 and 48 who live in large houses in the suburbs and have a long commute to work. Can you picture this person? You can start to imagine the challenges this person has in her life. You get a sense of her disposable income, how much spare time she has, what she values, and what frustrates her. The difference between the first example and the second is the difference between hitting anywhere on a dart board and hitting the bullseye. 

Statement of Opportunity

This simply means, what problem are you trying to solve for your target customer? In other words, what keeps them up at night? Your answer to this will be superficial if you have not defined your target customer. Think about the example above. What keeps women between the ages of 22 and 48 up at night? It could literally be anything. When your company designed your product, it was around solving some problem. What was that problem? Here’s a tip. Sometimes it can solve additional problems that you didn’t even anticipate. Or, if you dig deeper, you may be able to reframe the value into something a little different that may help you expand your target market.

Service Category

What is it we are selling? What do customers think they are buying? What do our competitors call it? This is important because if customers don’t understand what it is they are buying, they simply won't buy it. Examples: Light beer, heavy work class ROV systems, midsize luxury sedans. This sounds pretty basic, but that’s okay. We are going to tell the target audience why ours is different and better than the other competitors in our category in a second.

Key Benefit

Why would someone want to buy this? What is the main problem it solves (hint: it should address the statement of opportunity we discussed earlier). How is it going to help them sleep at night? This is the so what”? This is the reason your customer will part with their hard-earned money.

Competing alternatives

We call these nasty people the “bad guys.” They are the ones standing between you and your revenue. They are the BMW to your Mercedes. You know who they are most of the time, but there are some sneaky ones you haven't heard of yet, but they have been working hard to disrupt you and your competitors as well. They are the Tesla to your BMW.

Primary Differentiation 

Okay, so why are you a better choice for your target audience than your competitors? Sometimes, this is easy to articulate because your product has clear technological differentiation that is patented. Other times, you have to get creative. But trust me, you do have clear differentiation over your competitors. We just need to work on it. It may be in your approach; it may be that you share the same values as your target audience. Whatever it is, it’s critical that you identify and communicate it to your target audience otherwise, you will just be competing on price.

Putting it all together

That’s it. Once you know those things, you have all the elements you need to write a solid positioning statement. Did you ever play Mad Libs when you were a kid? You know those funny little books that ask for grammatical elements like proper nouns, adjectives, etc., and then when you put them all together, you get a funny story? Well, this is not as funny, but it is way more useful. Here is what the structure looks like:

For (target customer) 

who (statement of opportunity),  

(Product name) is a

(service/product category) that (key benefit). 

Unlike (competing alternatives), 

(product name) (primary differentiator).

Here is an example of one we did for ourselves at BlueByrd many years ago, and we still use it to this day:

For leaders of middle market companies who are not satisfied with their company’s revenue growth, BlueByrd provides Fractional CMOs that enable them to take a strategic approach to their sales and marketing efforts so they can sustainably grow their revenue. Unlike working with creative agencies, BlueByrd FCMOs are results-focused, tactic-agnostic, and strategically aligned with your business and financial goals.

What about messaging?

Well, you may have noticed that the positioning statement you created is a bit dry and academic. Now you need to start working more catchy messaging around it that more clearly expounds on your value propositions and differentiation. This should align with your company’s brand tone, and talk directly to your audience.  From Super Bowl ads to the homepage of your website to your salesforce’s pitches, this messaging should be used consistently in all of your marketing communications. There is a lot more that goes into it, but that’s one for another blog.

Final Chirp

Until you can clearly understand and communicate your position, you shouldn’t spend a penny on marketing tactics, or you might just spend a bunch of money to alienate your prospective customers. If you need help positioning your offerings, give us a holler. We facilitate workshops designed to help you and your team leverage the power of positioning.

1 Positioning. The Battle for your Mind. Jack Trout and Al Ries 2001

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