Marketing Positioning -- It's The Customer's View That Counts
While marketers often talk about the science of marketing, many people refer to the quantitative aspects of marketing as the science, or hard-marketing. While it's true there is a great deal of mathematics and analytics in marketing, it's also true that there is a science to developing an effective positioning, and this methodology can be summarized as follows:
a. Identify your target market;
b. Define your company (or product, brand, etc.) in the mind of the target customer;
c. Develop an understanding of your company's (or product, brand, etc.) distinctive place in the customer's mind.
Let's look at each of these steps individually.
First, identify the target market. This is not always as easy as it sounds. By segmenting the market carefully, and understanding your company's value proposition relative to each segment, it will become clear which segments are best suited to your solutions, and which ones should be targeted first. The more selective, or granular the segmentation, the better you will understand your very specific value proposition, and this will lead to a much clearer picture of your competitive landscape.
Second, think about your company or solution as if you were one of the target customers. What is your current brand perception, your view of the key values, strengths, and weaknesses, as perceived by this target market? For small, or emerging companies, the perception may be complete lack of awareness.
Lastly, and most importantly, build an honest and complete view of how the customer thinks of your company or solution in terms of a very distinct place in the competitive landscape -- a place that is different from all of the other competitors.
Of course, in an ideal world, your customers' views will match precisely how you want them to see you. If this is the case, then your positioning statements and marketing reflect this existing view. In most cases, however, marketers are challenged with creating a more complete understanding of their company's value to a target market, in terms of the distinctive place in the market that they believe the company should occupy.
Getting to the most appropriate positioning involves two equally important elements of success. To begin with, your solution must actually do the things you say it does, in order to occupy that distinctive space. That is, it must deliver on that promise. If the actual product/solution is really the same as that of your competitors', and all you have is marketing statements, that strategy will soon be discovered by the market and a short-lived celebration of success will result.
Next, once you have established that your solution actually works, is distinctive in the specific ways we've identified, and solves a set of particular problems for your target customers better than your competitors, you can then start to tell the market about this uniquely beneficial approach.
The marketing must consistently focus on these distinctive benefits, highlighting how your solution is most particularly suited to solve the problem for the target customer in a manner that is superior to your competition.
Rather than diluting your marketing positioning by identifying all of the aspects of your solution, it is essential to position the solution in a very focused way -- reinforcing at every possible opportunity that unique and distinctive place in the market that your company occupies, and intends to own.
For marketers, positioning is not about a feature-function battle against competitors; it's about building a common understanding between the market and the company, relative to the share of the market that it serves best.
We know we have done a good job of positioning our company/product when our prospects and customers know exactly where we fit into the competitive market landscape, and we agree!