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The Power of Positioning: Why It’s Critical for Your Business
Jennifer Lim Lund
In 2019, I needed a new vehicle and decided on an electric car.
At the time, I was aware of only 3 options in my price range – Tesla Model 3, Nissan Leaf, and the BMW i3.
Not knowing the difference from one car to the other, I walked into a Tesla showroom and asked the salesperson, “Why should I buy a Tesla?”
He looked up at me from his desk like I was growing horns out of my head.
“Because we’re like the Apple of electric cars.”
“The Apple of electric cars?”
What does that even mean, I wondered oddly.
The salesperson’s answer showed me two things:
1. He didn’t know his market well enough (me, in this case)
2. He had problems differentiating Tesla from other cars in the same category
Many start-up founders and new business owners I work with struggle with the same core problem - communicating their differentiation.
The perils of “choice overload”
Doing a quick check online for “Best electric cars of 2023” - I get a list of 23 cars to choose from.
They all look and sound the same to me.
I end up using 5 months to research the differences before making a final decision.
Delaying a decision is only one of the things that can happen when buyers get choice overload.
When confronted with too much choice and not enough differentiation, buyers get stressed and confused.
And to relieve the pressure, they’ll end up choosing a product or service based on price or brand recognition.
You might have noticed that:
- Your content looks and sounds generic, so it doesn’t convert.
- It’s difficult for your company to get on a buyer’s long-list.
- You’re not getting enough of the right-fit customers.
- Your salespeople struggle with the question “Why should I choose you?”
This happens because you haven’t defined your category and your company’s positioning within that category.
What is positioning?
The key to successful marketing isn’t simply creating a great product, but rather creating a strong and unique position for that product in the mind of the consumer.
– Al Ries and Jack Trout, “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind”
Many companies think that positioning is a marketing tactic when it’s really a business strategy.
They confuse positioning with a tagline, website copy, vision, mission statement or even their company’s story.
Positioning is much more strategic than that.
Positioning expert, April Dunford says, “Positioning defines how your offering is the best in the world at providing some value that a well-defined set of customers cares a lot about.”
It explains why certain buyers should choose you over all others, and answers 3 main questions:
- What sets me apart from competitors?
- What unique benefits can I offer to customers?
- What problems can I solve that others can't?
Positioning is the platform for everything that you do in sales and marketing – from your brand strategy, to your marketing strategy, your content strategy, and even your go-to-market strategy.
Positioning makes sense. Why is it so hard?
There’s a prevailing belief that if you market to everyone you’ll increase your chances of success.
But nothing could be further from the truth.
Here’s the deal - When you market to everyone, you market to no one.
“Strategy is about making choices, trade-offs; it’s about deliberately choosing to be different,” says Michael Porter, Director for Strategy and Competitiveness, Harvard School of Business.
Remember the scene from “The Matrix” where Neo is forced to decide between the red pill or the blue pill?
If Neo takes the blue pill, he continues to live in his simulated reality. If he takes the red pill, he will be shown the truth about the world.
Notice that there isn’t a third option where he gets to take the red pill AND the blue pill.
He must choose one.
The same applies to you and your company’s positioning.
Those that define and own their niche:
- Have no competition.
- Put out unique content.
- Become the reference in their category.
- Charge a premium for their product/ services.
That's the power of positioning.
What does a unique position look like?
Slack, Discord and Microsoft Teams are all the same type of product.
They’re communication platforms.
What you’ll notice is that each brand differentiates according to target customer types and problems.
They are not all things to all people.
Slack is the communication platform for startups & growing enterprises who want a better UX.
Discord is the communication platform for school clubs, gaming groups and art communities who want fun and ease of use.
Microsoft Teams is the communication platform for everyone who wants to improve their Office 365 workflow.
(h/t: Robert Kaminiski)
See the point?
A brand becomes stronger when it narrows its focus.
Put your stake in the ground and ignore all else
It's a crowded space out there.
Everywhere I look, it seems like everyone is an expert.
Yet when I read online content and conduct competitive reviews, all I see are companies fighting for the same piece of the pie – same messaging, same content, same visuals.
If this is you, don’t worry.
We’re going to help you break away from that.
In upcoming blog posts, I’ll share processes, tools and frameworks that will help you stand out from the competition and find and communicate your own unique niche.
When you lead your own category, your target customers will not only find exactly what they need, but you’ll no longer have to stress about finding the right clients again.
Until next time.
If you would like hands-on help with your positioning, brand and content strategy or have any questions, feel free to contact us.