From April Dunford:
Forget everything you thought you knew about Positioning. Successfully connecting your product with consumers isn’t a matter of filling in the blanks on an old-school positioning statement. Positioning is the foundation of everything we do in marketing and sales. It forms the backbone of our go-to-market strategy. Yet we don’t have a defined methodology for DOING it. At least we didn’t until now.
Obviously Awesome goes beyond teaching you what positioning is and why you should care. It gives you a step by step process that any startup can follow to position their product, service or company. This book will teach you how to find your product’s “secret sauce” and then sell that sauce to those who crave it.
- Positioning is what sets the context for a product. It helps people make sense of a product they’re encountering for the first time.I like to describe Positioning as “context setting” for products. When we encounter something new, we will attempt to make sense of it by gathering together all of the little clues we can quickly find to determine how we should think about this new thing. Without that context, products are very difficult to understand, and the whole company suffers—not just the marketing and sales teams. (Location 165)
- When a potential customer encounters a product, good positioning should enable them to easily understand what the product does, how it’s different from the rest and why it matters to them.Customers need to be able to easily understand what your product is, why it’s special and why it matters to them. (Location 215)
- Deciding on the context of a product (e.g.. it’s category) you are making a set of critical business decisions that would likely be more effective to take individually. For example: Target buyers and where you sell; competitive alternatives; pricing and margin; and key product features and roadmap.
- In the case of Vivaldi, the assumption is that we should categorise it as a “browser”. There is certainly a context imbued to potential users simply by calling Vivaldi a “browser”. Is this the context we want to set?
- Being “too close to the product” can often lead to makers not seeing their product’s context through the eyes of potential customers. Be wary of thinking your product’s context is obvious.While we understand that context is important, we generally fail to deliberately choose a context because we believe that the context for our product is obvious. (Location 302)
Without meaning to, we trap ourselves within our own context. We don’t know how to shift the framework to best communicate what our product actually is or what it does. (Location 309)
- An example of the distinction between categories and trends: Browsers are a category. Privacy-friendly browsers are a trend.Market categories are a collection of products with similar characteristics. Trends are more like a characteristic itself, but one that happens to be very new and noteworthy at a given point in time. (Location 596)
🚧 This Note is a work in progress. More work to do here
I. WHAT IS POSITIONING
POSITIONING AS CONTEXT
- Every single marketing and sales tactic that we use in business today uses positioning as an input and a foundation. (Location 145)
- Positioning is the act of deliberately defining how you are the best at something that a defined market cares a lot about. (Location 147)
- Positioning is a fundamental input into every tactic we execute, every campaign we launch, every piece of content we create, every sales pitch we make. (Location 150)
“How do you beat Bobby Fischer? You play him at any game but chess.” – Warren Buffett
- I like to describe Positioning as “context setting” for products. When we encounter something new, we will attempt to make sense of it by gathering together all of the little clues we can quickly find to determine how we should think about this new thing. Without that context, products are very difficult to understand, and the whole company suffers—not just the marketing and sales teams. (Location 165)
- The concept of Positioning first became a popular marketing construct in 1981 with the publication of Positioning – The Battle for Your Mind by Al Ries and Jack Trout. (Location 175)
- Ries and Trout argued that markets had become crowded with copycat products, and buyers were overwhelmed with the volume of marketing aimed at them. In order to break through the noise, companies would need to take into account their own strengths and weaknesses, then contrast them with their competitors to create a unique leadership position in the minds of customers. (Location 177)
- Customers need to be able to easily understand what your product is, why it’s special and why it matters to them. (Location 215)
- Positioning products is a lot like context setting in the opening of a movie. The opening scene helps the viewer quickly answer a list of basic questions that give context for the story about to unfold. Where are the characters? Who are they, and should the viewer love them or hate them? Is the story going to be sad or scary or funny?
- Think of the opening scene in Apocalypse Now. You see a dense grove of peaceful palm trees swaying in the breeze. But then you start to notice some smoke coming from the bottom of the screen and a helicopter moves quickly across. The palm trees burst into flames as Jim Morrison says, “This is the end.” The setting is no longer a beach in the Caribbean; it’s a war in the jungle. The scene slowly shifts from the burning jungle to Martin Sheen’s face and you realize you’re seeing his traumatic memories. He’s smoking, he’s drinking, he’s got a gun, and your mother would have something to say about the state of that hotel room. He walks over to the window and looks out, and you hear his thoughts. “Saigon. Shit. I’m still only in Saigon. Every time I think I’m gonna wake up back in the jungle.” The movie is four minutes and forty-five seconds in, but you have enough context to know what it’s all about. It’s set in the middle of the Vietnam War, the main character has some serious PTSD, and if you thought this was going to be a two-hour laugh riot, you are dead wrong. Hey, they did warn you with the title. The opening scene positions the movie so you can stop wondering about the big questions of where, what, why and who and move onto focusing on the story itself within that context.
- When customers encounter a product they have never seen before, they will look for contextual clues to help them figure out what it is, who it’s for and why they should care. Taken together, the messaging, pricing, features, branding, partners and customers create context and set the scene for the product. (Location 247) #Positioning
- Context can completely transform the way we think about a product. (Location 262) Note: Violinist example - world class violinist in the context of a street-performing changed the audience’s perception of his qualtiy.
- For people who build and sell things, the frame of reference that a potential customer chooses can make or break the business. Coke is much more than just fizzy water in the same way that a concert violinist is more than just a street performer with a fiddle. (Location 292)
- While we understand that context is important, we generally fail to deliberately choose a context because we believe that the context for our product is obvious. (Location 302) Note: Being “too close to the product” can often lead to makers not seeing their product’s context through the eyes of potential customers. Be wary of thinking your product’s context is obvious.
- Without meaning to, we trap ourselves within our own context. We don’t know how to shift the framework to best communicate what our product actually is or what it does. (Location 309) Note: Deciding on the context of a product (e.g.. it’s category) you are making a set of critical business decisions that would likely be more effective to take individually. For example: Target buyers and where you sell; competitive alternatives; pricing and margin; and key product features and roadmap.
In the case of Vivaldi, the assumption is that we should categorise it as a “browser”. There is certainly a context imbued to potential users simply by calling Vivaldi a “browser”. Is this the context we want to set?
- As product creators, we need to understand that the choices we make in Positioning and context can have a massive impact on our businesses—for better or worse. (Location 336)
- Sometimes a product that was well positioned in a market suddenly becomes poorly positioned, not because the product itself has changed, but because markets around the product have shifted. (Location 351) Note: The “diet muffin” example. Initially, it’s a success. But the market can change and “diets” are no longer in vogue – competitors positioned as “health muffins” or “after gym snack” will overtake you.
- The common failure in both of these traps is not deliberately Positioning the product. We stick with a “default” positioning, even when the product changes or the market changes. (Location 368)
- We generally fail to consider other—potentially better—ways to position our products because we simply aren’t Positioning them deliberately. (Location 395)
“Find out who you are and do it on purpose.” – Dolly Parton
- Great Positioning takes into account all of the following:
- The customer’s point of view on the problem you solve and the alternative ways of solving that problem.
- The ways you are uniquely different from those alternatives and why that’s meaningful for customers.
- The characteristics of a potential customer that really values what you can uniquely deliver.
- The best market context for your product that makes your unique value obvious to those customers who are best suited to your product. (Location 436)
- lousy positioning makes your prospects work harder to figure out if you are worth paying attention to. (Location 429)
THE FIVE (PLUS ONE) COMPONENTS OF EFFECTIVE POSITIONING
- Somewhere along the way, we have confused teaching people how to do positioning with teaching people how to write down positioning. (Location 446)
- great positioning is more than just articulating your assumptions around your target market and value proposition. (Location 486)
- The blanks in the positioning statement cover the aspects of positioning and give us a clue how to break it down into components. (Location 501)
- These are the Five (Plus One) Components of Effective Positioning: (Location 504)
- Competitive alternatives. What customers would do if your solution didn’t exist.
- Unique attributes. The features and capabilities that you have and the alternatives lack.
- Value (and proof). The benefit that those features enable for customers.
- Target market characteristics. The characteristics of a group of buyers that lead them to really care a lot about the value you deliver.
- Market category. The market you describe yourself as being part of, to help customers understand your value.
- (Bonus) Relevant trends. Trends that your target customers understand and/or are interested in that can help make your product more relevant right now.
- The competitive alternative is what your target customers would “use” or “do” if your product didn’t exist. (Location 518)
- In business software, the most common competitive alternative is a combination of general-purpose business software (spreadsheets, documents, presentations) and manual processes. (Location 523)
- It’s important to really understand what customers compare your solution with, because that’s the yardstick they use to define “better.” (Location 525)
- Unique attributes are capabilities or features that your offering has that the competitive alternatives do not have. (Location 528)
- Your unique attributes are your secret sauce, the things you can do that the alternatives can’t. (Location 529)
- For technology companies, these are often technical features, but unique attributes could also be things like your delivery model (such as installed on-premise vs. software as a service), your business model (think Rent the Runway upending retail by leasing instead of selling special-occasion wear) or your specific expertise (perhaps you have a dozen international banks as clients and therefore understand their business better than others in the market). (Location 531)
- In general, you will have many differentiators. The key is to make sure they are different when compared with the capabilities of the real competitive alternatives from a customer’s perspective. (Location 539)
- Value is the benefit you can deliver to customers because of your unique attributes. (Location 541)
- If unique attributes are your secret sauce, then value is the reason why someone might care about your secret sauce. (Location 543)
- Your sales and marketing efforts have to be focused on the customers who are most likely to buy from you. Your positioning needs to clearly identify who those folks are. (Location 549)
- they are the customers who care the most about the value your product delivers. (Location 551)
- Your target market is the customers who buy quickly, rarely ask for discounts and tell their friends about your offerings. (Location 552)
- Market categories serve as a convenient shorthand that customers use to group similar products together. (Location 565)
- Declaring that your product exists in a market category triggers a set of powerful assumptions. (Location 566)
- Your market category can work for you or against you. (Location 574)
- A well-chosen market category will help make your unique value more obvious to your target customers. (Location 590)
- Market categories are a collection of products with similar characteristics. Trends are more like a characteristic itself, but one that happens to be very new and noteworthy at a given point in time. (Location 596) Note: Browsers are a category. Privacy-friendly browsers are a trend.
- Market categories help customers understand what your offering is all about and why they should care. Trends help buyers understand why this product is important to them right now. (Location 597)
- Trends can help customers understand why a product is important right now. (Location 606)
- Trends in technology can be applied to multiple market categories. (Location 611)Note: Is customisation of software a trend? Or is it the trend that Vivaldi is hoping to kick-off?
- Using a trend in positioning is optional (but often desirable). (Location 616)
- Each component has a relationship to the others. Attributes of your product are only “unique” when compared with competitive alternatives. Those attributes drive the value, which determines who the best target customers are, which in turn highlights which market frame of reference is the best one to highlight your value. (Location 640)
- it’s critical to start with understanding what the customer sees as a competitive alternative, and then working through the rest of the components—attributes, value, characteristics, market category, relevant trends—from there. The flow looks something like this: (Location 648)
II. THE 10-STEP POSITIONING PROCESS
STEP 1. Understand the Customers Who Love Your Product
- What marketing campaigns brought in the most leads? Which pieces of content were consumed the most? What events had the most attendees? Asking these questions led us to the happiest customers. (Location 665)
- Your best-fit customers hold the key to understanding what your product is. (Location 669)
- Suddenly a clear pattern emerged: all of our customers could look like these very happy ones if we focused our marketing and sales efforts on companies with characteristics similar to the ecstatic fans. (Location 673)
- We increased our growth by concentrating on our best-fit customers. (Location 677)
- The first step in the positioning exercise is to make a short list of your best customers. (Location 680)
- we frequently see our competitors much differently than customers see them. (Location 699)
- Customer-facing positioning must be centered on a customer frame of reference. (Location 702)
- In general, your website, your sales and marketing materials, your pricing and even your immediate product roadmap will be designed to serve customers, and therefore should reflect your customer positioning not your investor positioning. (Location 711)
STEP 2. Form a Positioning Team
- A positioning process works best when it’s a team effort, ideally from across different functions within the company. (Location 762)
- The person responsible for the business of that particular product must be in the room and be seen as driving the positioning effort. Positioning is a business strategy exercise—the person who owns the business strategy needs to fully support the positioning, or it’s unlikely to be adopted. (Location 768)
- A positioning exercise that is not a team effort driven by the business leader will fail. (Location 771)
- marketing can’t “own” positioning, in the same way marketing can’t “own” the overall business strategy. (Location 774)
- Positioning impacts every group in the organization. Consider these outputs that all flow from positioning: Marketing: messaging, audience targeting and campaign development Sales and business development: target customer segmentation and account strategy Customer success: onboarding and account expansion strategy Product and development: roadmaps and prioritization (Location 775)
- “It’s no use of talking unless people understand what you say.” ZORA NEALE HURSTON (Location 786)
- highly recommend bringing in an experienced facilitator to guide the positioning discussion. (Location 794)
- how helpful it is for the facilitator to gently challenge long-held assumptions that seem cast in stone and untouchable. (Location 797)
STEP 3. Align Your Positioning Vocabulary and Let Go of Your Positioning Baggage
- At a minimum, the team needs to be on the same page regarding: What positioning means and why it is important Which components make up a position and how we define each of those How market maturity and competitive landscape impact the style of positioning you choose for a product (Location 805)
- Let go of your positioning baggage. (Location 810)
- If we have always thought of our product in one way—as competing in a particular market, or solving a particular problem—it’s hard to see it in any other way. (Location 812)
- The reality is that most products can be many things to many types of buyers. (Location 813)
- Customers don’t have the same baggage—they know nothing about the history of the product when they first encounter it. (Location 828)
- Market confusion starts with our disconnect between understanding the product as product creators, and understanding the product as customers first perceive it. (Location 829)
- The most important part of this step is to get agreement from the team that, although the product was created with a certain market and audience in mind, it may no longer be best positioned that way. The team needs to agree to suspend their opinions about the positioning of the product for the duration of the exercise so they can be open to new ideas. (Location 836)
STEP 4. List Your True Competitive Alternatives
- Customers don’t always see competitors the same way we do, and their opinion is the only one that matters for positioning. (Location 861)
- The features of our product and the value they provide are only unique, interesting and valuable when a customer perceives them in relation to alternatives. (Location 865)