Before we get into the nitty-gritty of proper positioning, it’s essential to establish one thing: positioning is not fancy new branding or a new website. Instead, positioning is about the value you offer to your audience and how you convey yourself to them in terms of the problems you solve. It’s about establishing yourself in the minds of your audience.
Right, now we’ve got that off our chest, shall we begin? First up, proper positioning and just what it is.
Positioning is the practice of influencing your audience’s perception in relation to your business or service. More commonly, it is referred to as the place your business occupies in the mind of your target audience. The pitfall, however, is confusing it with brand strategy – which is a more logical process that refers to how and where your business or service performs. It’s a more emotional process, whereas proper positioning is about solving problems.
Proper positioning allows your business to differentiate your offer from the rest of the market and is your identity.
It’s what makes your business unique and cuts through the noise to offer clarity around what you do. It sets you aside in your prospect’s mind as the only choice for them.
Further, it allows you to convey more value. For example, your price point is justified if you’ve positioned yourself as an exclusive high-consideration purchase. That’s also part of what makes you unique, and your positioning does just that – it makes you memorable and anchors the value you bring.
Proper positioning is not about branding, the look and feel, or anything visual. It’s about the meaning that someone will understand and is your chance to help your prospects or leads understand how you will solve their problems.
Sure, a new website will look great, but it won’t fix the problem, and if the meaning isn’t there, then it doesn’t matter.
One of the most crucial parts of positioning is how relevant it can make you. You have to remain relevant to stay one step ahead of your competitors. You have to be solving a problem to be relevant, so your positioning should find a problem and build around it.
To really get to the root of your positioning, you first have to understand the problems that your audience has and how you will solve them. By understanding the problems your prospect has and how you will solve them, you’ll then be able to understand how you create value. That, in turn, will allow you to work out where the skills gaps are and what the solution is.
Understanding a problem requires a certain level of detail and research. This will involve audience research, customer interviews, focus groups, and generally, the checklist you’d consult when researching a new product. It’s exactly the same with your business or product positioning.
Try and think of understanding problems as finding a gap in the market. If you’d use data-driven results and research to inform your decisions, then it’s exactly the same now.
Understanding your audience’s problems means understanding market challenges. Particularly in the B2B world, what is keeping your prospects and clients up at night? What wakes them up at two in the morning in cold sweats? If you can understand these challenges, you’ll be better placed to write your positioning and understand your purpose.
You should be talking in the same language as your audience, solving their problems, and demonstrating your knowledge to build that trust. This can be done through effective thought leadership in the form of podcasts, blogs, social media interaction, and whitepapers.
Of course, there may even be more than one problem for you to solve, in which case, great! That’s fine, but make sure your position speaks to both problems but doesn’t cross the line into a scattergun approach.
Market challenges relate to the wider market, too. Think about what’s having an impact on the industry as a whole and how your solution solves those problems. Understanding market challenges can be a lengthy process, but it’s worth going through so you can get a better picture of external factors that influence your clients, leads, and prospects – as well as you.
Once you’ve understood your market challenges, it’s time to start theme setting. This is the area of the process of positioning where you’ll begin to answer some of the market challenges you’ve already identified.
At this stage, you need to be thinking about what you bring to the table and how you solve problems. What sets you apart from the competition? What do you offer and solve that no one else does?
Going through this process is crucial to your positioning, as it will allow you to really find the white space that you operate in. You’ll be able to understand exactly what you offer, which in turn will allow you to write a positioning statement that cuts through the noise.
Bridging the gap between challenges and themes
Once you’ve identified market challenges and how you will solve them, you need to find a way of bridging the gap between the two so users can easily buy. These bridges can help signpost your audience to how you can help. Of course, you won’t be able to solve everything for every person, so you almost have to hedge your bets and focus on specific problems – even if that’s at a small cost of a percentage of prospects.
It’s also about creating value between the challenges and the themes, identifying how you solve the challenges with the themes you’ve highlighted.
What is your purpose?
To really get to the heart of your positioning, you need to understand what your purpose is. What are you in the market to do and to solve? Your purpose is far more than a strapline; it’s everything that you stand for, alongside your principles (more of which later).
Yes, your positioning frames your identity, purpose, and distinguishing features, but it should also act as your compass. If you can answer the question “what are we here to solve?” then you’ll be able to understand your purpose.
Positioning is your chance to talk about your purpose in more detail and convey to your audience why you matter.
To really be able to drill into your proposition and positioning statement, it’s critical that you work out what you stand for. This will enable you to find the ingredients that will help you write something meaningful.
This can also be categorised as your values, and will significantly influence how you write your positioning statement and value proposition. What you stand for defines who you are as an organisation and is also what your audience will see and buy from.
Today's audiences tend to buy from brands they trust and have human values rather than a robotic company with no meaning behind them. That might sound like we’re stating the obvious, but it’s true. If you can neatly distil your values into your positioning, you’re halfway there.
Creating value and solving problems
Now that you’ve understood your market challenges, how you’ll solve them, what you stand for, and what your purpose is, you can begin to work out how you’ll offer value and start solving problems.
You can create value by homing in on the market challenges you already identified and by sharing your knowledge as a thought leader.
Solve problems by speaking the same language as your audience and understanding what keeps them up at night. If you’ve done your market research properly and your product strategy is on point, then your product should do the rest of the work for you.
Finding your whitespace
Before you can take your positioning to your market and stress test it, it’s critical that you find your whitespace to operate in. This means competitive analysis to find out who is most likely to be able to ‘steal your food’ so to speak.
This whitespace has to speak to the value that you offer, ensuring that the position you hold is relevant to the problems you solve.
It also has to link back to your personality, who you are, and the themes you identified earlier in the process.
One of the best ways to do this is by creating a graph with separate axes, plotting your competitors on the graph according to the problems that they solve – leading up to placing your own company on the graph.
This will allow you to visually represent where you currently sit and where you want to be, along with who sits closest to you.
Stress testing your positioning
Finally, once you’ve written your positioning and have a solid value proposition, you’ll inevitably start using it in anger. By that, we mean using it on a website or in a proposal. This is a valuable way of stress testing your positioning, as you’ll get to see it in action and be able to understand if it makes sense to your users or audience.
As you write proposals, you’ll begin to really get a feel for your positioning, and a lightbulb moment might happen – a moment when you realise if it’s correct or not and whether it speaks to your audience or not.
At this point, you can iterate and work out what does work for you. You’ll also be able to gain feedback from prospects and clients.
Linking your positioning to what matters: sales
As fantastic as it is to have a great positioning line, value proposition, or branding, it ultimately means nothing if you can’t link to what really matters to your bottom line – which is sales. Offering value in your positioning has to link to the value you offer in your products, too.
This is all part of the value proposition being a sales enablement initiative to help you drive a better pipeline and close better deals.
Some agencies or consultants will give you the shiniest, all-singing, all-dancing positioning…without it connecting to sales. Without the two meeting in the middle, what’s the point of the value proposition in the first place?
Designing a sales ladder is a critical step towards offering value on both fronts. A sales ladder is effectively a way to speed up the sales cycle for the premium products you offer. By mapping out your gateway products, core offerings, and premium products, you can guide clients along the sales ladder to take money off the table while you’re building up to the big-ticket items.
You can continue to offer value in a number of different ways, whether that’s through digital audits to get under the hood of digital products that lead to redesigns and rebuilds or through smaller branding work that leads to eventual overhauls of a company’s image.
To demonstrate your sales ladder, it’s wise to create product cards. These are visual aids that you can show to your prospects that document what you sell, their value, who’s bought them before, and what they then went on to buy in the future. It demonstrates past success as well as current and future value.
Let’s wrap this up
As you can probably tell by now, your positioning is all about value. Value in the information you share, value in the problems you solve, and value in what you stand for. You have to be offering value at every stage, and by working out what value you offer, you’ll be able to find your perfect positioning.
Okay, that was a whole lot of value.
It’s also all about the problems you identify. If you don’t know what issues you’re solving, you won’t stand out in a crowded market – or any market, for that matter.
The best bit? Is that it all ties into what you want to do next. It can and should cascade into your overall customer experience, inform messaging on channels, and even impact product strategy along with the overall direction of your business.
For added value (yep, there’s that V word again), link your positioning to your sales ladder by being explicitly clear about what you offer and why and the problems you solve.
Find the problem, solve it, and you’ll be offering value. We make it sound so easy, don’t we?
Need help with your positioning or sales cycle? Book in a meeting with me, and we’ll roll up our sleeves and get to work – together.