Product Positioning

Overview and Objective

There are two different approaches when it comes to positioning. One is making the company/product to sound like "the next big thing". This type of positioning will be broad and complex. The other approach is a positioning that is narrow and clear. If you are a small company, the narrow and clear positioning is recommended for you. If you are a venture-funded or very large organization, the broad and complex positioning may be required to get the attention of the right people. This document deals with the narrow and clear positioning.

Who Should be Involved

If you are discussing company positioning, it should involve all senior management. If it is product positioning, it should involve representatives from Sales, Field Engineering, and both product marketing and marketing communications.

The Exercise

A meeting or conference call with all parties involved is critical. Ideally, everyone should be in one room with a white board or large tablet to keep track of ideas and thoughts. It is also important that everyone have a say and that the highest-ranking person does not dominate the meeting.

Before Getting Started

Everyone should attend the meeting prepared to discuss your customers. If you don't have enough data on the customers, who they are and why they bought, then discussions with the customer must take place first. If you don't yet have customers for the product then you need to come prepared with market research and market validation interviews with potential customers.

If there is a current positioning for the company and/or the product, you ideally want to forget your existing positioning during this exercise. However, that positioning was probably developed through trial and error, so the background for the positioning should be used, but it is important for people to think beyond the current positioning.

The Objectives

The objective of the meeting is to reach agreement on the following definitions.

  1. The primary customer. It is a good idea to start broad and then narrow it down. Define both the primary user and the person who has the budget (the one who pays for your product or service).
  2. Secondary customers.
  3. The problem. What is the real problem of the primary customer listed above, that your product can solve?
  4. The secondary problem or other symptoms of the problem. A significant problem will have an impact in multiple areas. List all the areas affected by the problem and how they are affected.
  5. Emotions. List the emotions of the customer as they think about the problem. What is the primary emotion?
  6. Market characteristics. Break down the characteristics of your primary customer. What do they buy? How do they buy it? What do they worry about when they think of their competition?
  7. Channels. Describe the other companies that the customer works with in solving similar problems. Decide if these companies are good partners for you. What is their primary business? How are their sales people compensated? What is their biggest problem at this moment? What can your product offer them?
  8. Elevator pitch. Describe the customer, their problem, and how you solve it differently then anything else on the market. Provide just enough information for the listener to want to know more. Target the message to your primary customer and bring their emotions into the pitch.
  9. Competitors. List your competitors and their strengths and weaknesses in comparison to your offering.

The Process

Start the meeting by sharing the most current discussions with customers and potential customers. Anyone who has had these conversations, whether they are formal market research, or casual conversations, should share that information with the rest of the group so that everyone has an equal understanding of the target market.

Walk through the nine objectives above, in the order they are listed. Start broad and narrow the objective down by the process of elimination.

What Do You Do With the Results?

The elevator pitch should be distributed to the entire company and everyone should use it when discussing the offering. If this is a company positioning, the message should be incorporated into the home page of the website, datasheets, and the corporate background collateral. Strengths over the competitors should be emphasized in the product literature and on the website.

After several months of using the new positioning, review it with management and customer. Find out what works and what doesn't work. Decide if it needs to be updated with new information or direction.

By Infrasystems - Barbara Tallent


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