All great marketing is about great preparation. It’s the ability to ask the right questions, make the right deductions from the answers and carve a path that will move your business to where you want it to go. It’s about positioning your business effectively in the marketplace.
Once you’ve done the work then your marketing will work. It really is that simple.
So let’s start with what is positioning. There are many definitions including this one from the Business Directory :
‘Positioning is an effort to influence consumer perception of a brand or product relative to the perception of competing brands or products. Its objective is to occupy a clear, unique and advantageous position in the consumers mind.’
The Economic Times goes into a little more depth firstly with it’s definition and secondly with it’s description which clarifies a little more:
Positioning defines where your product (item or service) stands in relation to others offering similar products and services in the marketplace as well as the mind of the consumer.
Description: A good positioning makes a product unique and makes the users consider using it as a distinct benefit to them. A good position gives the product a USP (Unique selling proposition). In a market place cluttered with lots of products and brands offering similar benefits, a good positioning makes a brand or product stand out from the rest, confers it the ability to charge a higher price and stave off competition from the others. A good positioning in the market also allows a product and its company to ride out bad times more easily. A good positioning is also one which allows flexibility to the brand or product in extensions, changes, distribution and advertising.’
For me it’s about having you in the right place, at the right time and saying the right things to the right people. The right people are those that want you and what you do differently to everyone else.
The big question then is how do you figure out what your positioning in the marketplace should be? Easy. Do the homework. And like all good homework, not everyone likes doing it. But those that do invariably succeed and have an edge over those that don’t. Check out Quora’s discussion on this very topic.
As always start with vision. It’s the why of every business and organisation and until that’s clear there’s no point in going any further.
Now we can start pursuing those 6 Steps to Effective Positioning.
- Know Your Customer
- Find out How your Customers Perceive You
(you, meaning your business or organisation)?
- Find out How your Employees Perceive You
(you, meaning your business or organisation)?
- Find the Gap your Competitors have Missed.
- What Market Trends will impact what you are doing?
- Now Position.
1 – Know Your Customer
and I mean really know them. You need to identify who they are and profile them so that you can start to identify patterns in their behaviour that you can use. And remember, one word does not a customer profile make. You need to learn about their behaviour, their job title, their constraints, who influences them, what would help them most right now etc etc.
You also need to know what the triggers are for working with someone like you. For example I know when I’m targeting clients – I look at businesses who are around the 2, 4 or 10 year old mark and who are at the cusp of change.
Speaking to customers before they are ready to speak to you rarely works. So what are your ideal customer’s trigger points that indicate they are ready for contact from you?
2 – How do your Customers Perceive You?
This is where you get gold dust. You want to discover two simple things. What you are great at and where you need to pay attention. This is of course from their perspective. And because it is from their perspective I do advise that this research is done by a third party that knows how to really listen and let people talk. A third party is important so that your customers can feel safe in being honest about you.
If I’m doing this work for a client I’ll always ensure that its confidential. The results of such a survey will be shared but the identity of those who shared will remain confidential. My experience here is that customers often share things that firstly you would never have thought of or secondly you would never have thought was important. And therein lies the gold dust.
3 – How do your Employees Perceive You?
More gold dust here. Often employees see things we never see and they don’t always have a forum where they can be heard clearly. Incorporating this step into your positioning process will give you insight into employee communications with customers and what they hear.
There is another reason to incorporate this step and that is, that it makes your employees part of the change process. Every person in your business is a potential marketer for your business so getting them on board early on is pivotal. In my experience this step is invaluable and can ground a marketing strategy so solidly, it will change how you market your business fundamentally.
4 – Find the Gap your Competitors have Missed.
Here I recommend taking 5 or 6 companies and look at what they are doing, how they are doing it, how they are positioning themselves and then find the gaps they missed so you can see where you can excel. This kind of information is no good in your head. Having it on paper allows you to see patterns and opportunities that you would never see otherwise.
Build a simple Excel Spreadsheet and compare like with like. Include things like how they are on social media, what their websites say and how they are ranked, consider how you could walk in your customers shoes and see what it would be like to be a customer of theirs etc. Have you bought their product or service? What was it like? What could you do better? Where are the gaps? You’ll discover nuggets about packaging, language, product, and so much more that this exercise alone will be invaluable. For more information on this step read The Lost Art of Competitor Analysis and How to Perfect it.
5 – What Market Trends will impact what you are doing?
What are the trends in this industry and in the market place? Where do you fit into this? What do you need to watch for, leverage or address? There are scores of websites that share market trends.
Look to your industry first and get the specifics on what is happening there. If you don’t know where to start just Google it e.g Food Industry Research, Construction Industry Statistics etc.
In Ireland check out Amarach for what’s happening here. There are research sites like this for every country just Google for yours. And don’t forget the country specific government statistics sites that gather data from Census, Business Registrations and so on such as the CSO (Central Statistics Office) in Ireland or ONS (Office for National Statistics) in the UK etc.
6 – Now Position
This is where you review the clues that each of the previous 5 steps have left you. As you move through each step you will find that they start to build a story for you and even prompt the language you need to communicate where you need to be. Each step creates a jigsaw piece and the last step is to put the jigsaw together. If you do this methodically not only will your positioning come together but so too will a market entry strategy and so much more.
In summary, this is the homework that helps you brand better, message better, build better products and services and make you sales.
In my opinion you cannot skip these steps. If you do you will find yourself meandering interminably.
And when you do. You will find that you never second guess your business decisions. You will be aligned correctly with the market. And you will reach your customer more effectively and with greater impact than ever before.
If you have anything you’d like to add, please comment here. I’d be delighted to engage with you on this topic.
Finola Howard is a brand and marketing strategist who is passionate about the impact that great marketing can have on business success. She sees marketing in a broader more strategic sense and works with businesses and entrepreneurs who want to grow. You can find her on Twitter (@FinolaHoward) or on Facebook (Facebook.com/HowGreatMarketingWorks).