How To Avoid The Pitfalls Of B2B Brand Positioning

Positioning a B2B brand in today’s age of cluttered technology start-ups can be a maddening endeavor.  There are endless companies out there trying to garner the attention of the same target audience, so you tend to come to a positioning  already owned by someone else.  

To be unique, you have to understand two things.  First: What doesn’t work?  Second, what’s the right process to use to develop effective positioning?

What doesn’t work is what I refer to as the trifecta of lazy positioning -- that your company is “first, biggest or best.”  Unscientifically, I can say at least 75% of the companies you see in B2B marketing hang their hat on one of these three positions.  They’re easy, and they make a statement. If you’re “first,” that translates to innovation.  If you’re “biggest,” that translates to scale, which implies effectiveness.  If you’re “best,” that might even imply that your competitors are also using your product.



Biggest and best are lazy positioning statements because you can use them without necessarily having to back them up.  Even if they do help you drive results in the short term, you need more substance for the long term. When you’re “first,” your competitors will say you’re old and behind the times.  When you’re “biggest,” your competitors can say you’re no longer nimble enough to respond to innovation in the market.  When you’re “best,” there’s always someone gunning to take you down. Positioning needs something more defensible than these three broad statements.

How to create a better positioning statement?  The first stage is to align yourself with what you’re actually selling, rather than focusing solely on the vision for where you want to be.  You need to balance vision (the future) with the present , which will establish credibility that the market trusts you know what you’re doing.

Stage 2 of the process is to dive into your customers to understand their challenges and how they use your products to solve them. Don’t get caught up in the product-oriented marketing cycle that most B2B companies fall into. Instead of explaining how fast you are, talk about the business impact of that speed.   Don’t talk about how big you are; rather, talk about how your size enables scale, which results in more impact on customer’s businesses in a shorter period of time.

 In stage 3, you surface those benefits into a clear, concise framework that can be used to develop the creative portion of your message.  That creative approach is where your brand personality will come alive, demonstrating character through the essence of the brand. 

This process isn’t difficult.  In fact it’s quite standard and actually pretty easy.  There are specific exercises you can undergo to gather this information, but more than anything it requires you to ask questions first and dive into your customer’s businesses.

Positioning work can be hard, especially when you don’t have a process in place.  However, with the right process, and an understanding of the pitfalls, you can come up with something unique and effective.

2 comments about "How To Avoid The Pitfalls Of B2B Brand Positioning ".
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  1. Ford Kanzler from Marketing/PR Savvy, April 15, 2015 at 11:05 a.m.

    Great subject for an article but it could have delivered more of the "how to" promised in the headline. Agree, just claiming bigger, or first doesn't really cut it. In fact, claiming a comparative with competing brands (faster, smaller, cheaper, higher quality, etc.) doesn't lead to clear differentiation, a term not ever mentioned in the item.
    There are processes for discovering a brand's difference leading to effective communications strateties. Getting the affected management team members to discuss and agree on answers to Harry Beckwith's "7 Questions Marketing Must Answer" is a great way. For more on this read Harry's "Selling the Invisible." With honest responses to those questions in front of you, someone on the team, or an outside agency facilitator, should be able to craft a positioning claim and supporting key messages which sharply and compttitively differentiates the brand. For more on this process, go to:
    Also strongly recommend Jack Trout's "Differentiate Or Die" (2nd edition) to truly grasp the need and values of claiming and establishing a competitive difference.
    Also remember that real positioning occurs in the minds of your customers, not in a corporate conference room. Your differentiated claim, if supported by stratigically effective business communications and brand behavior, will lead to establishing a desired position against other brands.

  2. Rick Roth from Roth Partners LLC, April 20, 2015 at 4:42 p.m.

    Important topic! Marketers of successful B2B Brands must be rigorous in developing an optimal brand platform and positioning. It takes work and discipline to move a brand’s standing in market and if not done wisely, the odds of achieving differentiation and commercial success are slim indeed.
    For more on this:

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