4 Steps To Developing a Powerful Positioning Statement

A Primer on Product PositioningI just finished a lecture for my Brand Management class at Santa Clara University and from the students’ responses it struck me that positioning is one of those marketing practices that is greatly discussed yet little understood. 

With due deference to the kings of positioning, Al Reis and Jack Trout who in 2001 wrote the book “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, ” here are a couple of concepts and some quick steps to developing a product or corporate positioning statement.

Concept – Positioning is not an external statement.  Rather, it is an internal marketing tool to define how a company how a company intends target customers to perceive a product.  Positioning drives consistent communication over time, functions, and geographies.

Concept – Positioning is not just part of the promotional mix. Positioning crosses all of the “4 Ps” — product, price, place and promotion.  Positioning can differentiate a product or company across any one of the “P.”

With this is mind here are four quick steps to developing a workable positioning statement.

The ideal positioning statement:

  • Explains who should use it [TARGET]
  • Provides a context [FRAME OF REFERENCE]
  • Differentiates the brand from competition [POINTS OF DIFFERENCE]
  • Demonstrates credibility [REASONS TO BELIEVE]

Step 1, which is developed from a robust targeting and segmentation exercise, identifies the target user. The target audience is a group of like-minded stakeholders most closely associated with the brand/product/company (bpc) that represents the “best” prospects.  The target audience is more than a collection of demographics.  Rather, it is a qualitative description of the hearts, minds and habits of the ideal customer.

Step 2 defines the brand/product/company’s frame of reference.  The frame of reference defines the relationship between the bpc and something else in the stakeholder’s life that gives the bpc meaning and makes it relevant. 

While Ries & Trout are justifiably famous for pointing out the a new product should claim a first, there must be others in a product category already familiar to the target audience.  CNN, for instances wasn’t the first network with news, but rather the first 24-hour news network.  Orville Redenbacher wasn’t the first popcorn, but it was the first gourmet popcorn.

Step 3 calls for developing point(s) of differentiation; that is the primary feature or benefit that flows from the frame of reference and has obvious and compelling appeal to the target audience.  The most overlooked part of this definition is “to the target audience.” 

All to often in the technology space, well-meaning but inexperienced marketers will define a product’s point of differentiation. Unfortunately, it is a point of differentiation to the company, not to the target audience.  The key here is understanding what motivates and drives the target audience; appreciating the problems and obstacles they face and providing them with an answer to their problem or an aspiration for their goals.

Step 4 is creatively articulating a reason to care.  Professor Buford Barr refers to this as WFME … “What’s in it for me!”  With social media, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, identify, promulgating and proliferating  the most convincing and preemptive information that supports the position’s validity is more important than ever. 

In today’s cluttered and noisy environment, positioning is a paramount exercise.  It certainly requires more careful consideration that we can give the topic here. 

So let me ask this:  What are some of the positioning tips you have found most helpful in your marketing endeavors?


About businesspracticum

Chuck Byers is the Managing Director of Business Practicum & Adjunct Professor at Santa Clara University
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