Can ruthless positioning be bloody?

The podcast host immediately pounces on my off-the-cuff assertion that you need to be ruthless when you do positioning. “That sounds very bloody,” says Kerry O’Shea Gorgone, host of the MarketingProfs podcast series “Marketing Smarts.”

Kerry then quickly asks what I meant by being ruthless. Hear my response when the podcast goes live Wednesday at 9 am Central.  In the broad ranging interview, Kerry asks a number of penetrating questions about my approach to positioning. Ruthlessness is one example. There are others as we discuss the value of positioning and factors that affect it.

Being ruthless helps you uncover the unvarnished truth about your product, and nothing sells better than the truth. However expect resistance to your ruthlessness when seeking input and feedback during the effort to converge on the ideal position. It can get bloody especially when dealing with egos, biases and unfounded beliefs about the wonders of your product.

Here’s how to be ruthless and the bloody battles that could negatively impact the effectiveness of your positioning and message strategy development:

Focus like a laser on your ideal prospect profile: Expect the battle to get bloody with those who want to go after anyone with a wallet. But just because your sales team is resourceful enough to win a few one-off deals does not mean they should affect your positioning strategy. By being ruthless about your ideal prospect, and realizing you can’t sell to everyone, your marketing will generate more ideal leads that are easier to sell to because they are made for your product. Plus even this ruthless approach attracts an occasional one-off sale. It’s the best of both worlds!

Select one target buyer: Brace yourself for a bloody fight with those who are convinced that you need to message to multiple buyers. While it is true that several players can be involved in a B2B buying decision, there is always the most influential buyer. Identify the No. 1 target buyer and create a positioning statement that solves the No. 1 target buyer’s most pressing problem. Your message strategy includes support points that explain the claim made in the positioning statement. Support points often meet the need to message to secondary buyers. You can even test your positioning statement to determine if it adapts to other buyers in the buying process. It is part of usability testing discussed later.

Focus exclusively on how you solve the most pressing customer problem: You’re likely to have a bloody battle with those who believe that there are a number of pressing problems that cause a suspect to become a prospect, and that they are of equal importance. Therefore they all need to be emphasized in the positioning statement. The result is a multiple-claim positioning statement with each claim competing with the others. The result is no position because which one stands out? None.

Identifying and ranking reasons that caused your customers to become buyers is the most crucial factor in identifying the ideal positioning statement. You brainstorm positioning statements that solve the No. 1 target buyer problem. Reject those that don’t solve the No. 1 problem or one of the top problems. If a bloody battle ensues, remind combatants that a simple positioning statement is far more effective than a complex one. The simple one is easier to remember.

Avoid talking about you and the wonders of your product: You’re always going to battle with those who believe their product is so good buyers will buy when they know about all the features or that you are the market leader or that Gartner and Forrester give you high marks. It gets bloody when you point out that buyers only care about themselves, not your wonderful, innovative, cutting-edge, next-generation product.

According to “Neuromarketing,” a book I highly recommend that you read, the decision-making portion of the brain has no patience or empathy for anything that does not immediately concern its own well-being and survival. One hundred percent of your message should focus on your audience, not you. Your audience must hear what you can do for them before they will pay attention to you. Buyers really don’t care even if you are No. 1 or the leader or the most innovative. They are in buy mode because they have a problem. Tell them how you solve it!

Recognize that your product has strengths and weaknesses: Those who believe there is nothing the product can’t do will fight until it gets bloody when you focus message strategy creation on what you do well and steer clear of weaknesses. By involving sales in positioning, you get a battlefront perspective on why your product wins and loses; what prospects like about the product and what they don’t.

Intelligence from sales helps you decided how to talk about your product. For example, the strength of a B2B software product may only be revealed when the prospect evaluates the finalists in a selection process. Therefore it will get bloody when you attempt to create a message strategy that encourages buyers to look under the covers and do a bake-off; i.e., compare products by putting them to the test.

Use evidence to position rather than personal biases, unfounded opinions and management dictates: The best way to position is to convey the truth about your product. Unfortunately, the truth is can be a figment of the imaginations of some in a company. Even though the battle gets especially bloody when seeking management buy-in to your positioning strategy and approval, evidence can lead to victory.

The truth about your product is uncovered by gathering the evidence that helps you converge on the ideal positioning statement. One that is important and unique.

An important positioning statement expresses a benefit that solves a pressing problem that your target buyers have. It gets their attention because it is important to them.

A unique positioning statement differentiates you from your competitors. Only you are making the claim. Differentiation helps buyers make a faster decision, according to Neuromarketing, and so does evidence which is what the decision-making portion of the brain is seeking.

You gather the evidence in a rationale document that is used to converge on the ideal position for your product. In addition to a ranked list of problems and a perceptual map that makes it easy to see how your competitors are positioned, the rationale document assesses the believability of a positioning statement and its usability – can it adapt for use in all marketing communications?

All this evidence can counter influences that aren’t based on reality and the truth. It screens out positions that don’t matter to the buyer such as “transformation” and “empower.” And it helps you avoid a “me-too” position like “insights” which is currently the position for 11 of the leading Business Intelligence software offerings.

Conclusion: The more ruthless you are when doing positioning, the bloodier it gets. The reward is an effective, compelling position that is supported by evidence – you can prove it is important, believable, usable and distinctly yours. Ruthlessness helps you converge on the ideal position. It can cause blood to flow but the battles are worth fighting. You win with evidence that justifies your ruthless approach to positioning.




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