How to Create a Positioning Statement
The best way to create a positioning statement is to work in a group of between four and eight team members. After the 3C’s research is complete, you start brainstorming with Three Key Assumptions. Marketing can be viewed as a special kind of behavioral science. To succeed in this science, we must thoroughly understand the attitudes and behaviors of our customers and target audience. The following three assumptions provide a basis for developing this understanding.
- The smartest people in the world are in this room.
When it comes to our offering, we are the smartest because we know the most about it. As marketers we frequently believe that prospects think as we do and already understand our offerings. Since prospects rarely share our thought processes, we must make it extraordinarily simple to acquaint them with our product.
- The only people who care about our offering are sitting in this room.
As marketers, we sometimes believe that the market has waited years for an offering just like ours. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case – if it were true, we could all retire. Therefore, we must identify our most important benefit and describe it to the market. Then, maybe, the market will care.
- Everyone outside of this room is remarkably cynical.
It’s hard to believe, but technology buyers have learned to doubt nearly every claim made by technology marketers. Effective positioning allows us to cut through cynicism by making our case in believable, compelling language.
THE FOUR QUESTIONS
The Three Key Assumptions described above establish a basis for initiating positioning statement development. The development process begins by analyzing how prospects might respond to your offering. The answers to four fundamental questions provide this analysis.
- Who is the target buyer?
Your channel has provided the input you needed early in the 3C’s research to create a short list of potential target buyers or to select one. If there was a debate, you may have received additional feedback from customers and internal stakeholders. By now there should be no doubt about who’s the target for your positioning statement such the IT director, CFO, VP of sales, HR director, etc. You’ll answer the rest of the questions from the perspective of the No. 1 target buyer you’ve selected. Remember a tie for the No. 1 spot will muddle the rest of your positioning effort.
- What problem does our offering solve?
You can’t successfully position your offering unless you know the answer to this basic question: “What is my target customer’s most pressing problem?” Notice that this question asks about THE problem, not problems. Although it may be tempting to think of your offering as a Swiss Army Knife, don’t because it’s doomed to fail.
- How do prospects solve that problem today?
If your offering solves a bona fide problem, then customers already have a solution. You need to know how they currently solve the problem. Of course, sometimes companies, particularly consumer goods firms, create a problem where none has existed and then offer their products as a solution. Unfortunately, this option requires a scope of investment that few B2B software companies can afford.
- Why is our offering a better solution to that problem?
If your budget doesn’t permit problem creation, you’ll need to position your offering as a better solution to an existing problem. Remember that cutting edge technology often fails to provide a better solution for more than a small fraction of a target market. Admitting to this requires honesty.
THE THREE “WHATS”
Using our knowledge of the prospect’s most pressing problem and our product’s ability to solve that problem, we can categorize the offering. Categorization enables potential buyers to quickly understand how they might benefit from your offering. When prospects are exposed to your positioning statement, they should easily understand what you do and why they should care.
Without effective categorization, awareness may not translate into consideration and purchase. The following “what” questions can help you develop an effective categorization strategy: “What is it? What does it do? What does it deliver?”
What is it?
B2B prospects need to recognize your product category otherwise confusion reigns. Ideally, you can place your product into an existing category or one that represents a natural evolution.
Most people find it difficult to understand new categories without assistance. If you attempt to define a new category, expect to spend a lot of money. And you still run the risk of getting out ahead of the market. When this happens, you become a missionary not just for your product but the category. Sales cycles are sure to extend well beyond the norm, and late-arrival competitors may reap the harvest of your hard work.
What does it do?
A short description of your product’s functionality can help prospects imagine how people in their organizations might use the product. But a description alone won’t get to the heart of the matter.
For example, a vendor of word processing software might claim that its product creates great looking documents in minutes. Although such a statement might seem to express a benefit of word processing software, it merely describes what it does – an advantage over other ways of producing documents.
What does it deliver?
A good answer to “what does it deliver?” brings you very close to a potential positioning statement. By describing the one important benefit that prospects will obtain from your product or service, you describe why they should care enough to consider purchasing it.
For example, in the case of word processing software, the benefit of producing great looking documents is better communication. Don’t assume that prospects will make that connection on their own.
Many companies trust the prospect to figure out the benefit. You’ll be one step ahead of the competition by making the benefit clear to them, even if it seems obvious to you. Otherwise, they will buy from someone else.
As you refine and evaluate your potential positioning statements, they become more powerful in communicating your unique position. Whatever statement you finally select is the one you will execute in your marketing communications so potential buyers can instantly understand what your product is, what it does, and what benefit they’ll derive from it. Do that, and you’re on your way to claiming a position that will deliver marketing success.