Deciding what your business stands for may be the most important foundational block of your marketing system and your business in general. It is the cornerstone of the castle you are building.
Without good positioning, your product or service becomes a commodity, you lose pricing power. Your brand becomes “meh” and your sales start to drop. You get the depressive feeling that the money you’ve invested in advertising isn’t working as well. That is why you need to be disciplined enough to define your positioning.
Your biggest competitor isn’t the one from across the street, it is the sheer amount of noise customers are being interrupted with daily. To even be noticed within the marketplace, you need to have a position.
What is positioning?
Positioning is how you differentiate your product or service in the mind of the customer. In this case, perception is reality. How your customer perceives your product or service is reality. If your customer thinks you only sell fries, they won’t come to you for the pizza.
Another way to think about this is to ask yourself the question, ”What do I want my customers to think of when they think about my business?” What do you want to stand for within the marketplace?
Positioning statements are great tools that most of your tactical execution work will be based upon. Many of your decisions in the trenches will be filtered through your values and the positioning statement you decide to take on.
You have 3 statements that help clarify your business among customers and team members.
- Purpose statement
- Mission statement
- Positioning statement
Think of your purpose statement as the guiding star. The one thing that never changes. Your mission is the mission in which you are in pursuit of that star, (the mountain you are climbing) and your positioning statement as your checkpoint along the journey.
Your positioning statement can be fluid as your business grows, similar to the different checkpoints. The mountain wouldn’t change as much as your checkpoints.
Ultimately, disciplining yourself to filter your day-to-day thinking and decision-making through your position statements is going to hugely benefit your business.
Your product and service offer become more apparent. Customers who know you for exactly what you stand for seeking you out. You now can charge a premium for the position that your brand takes in the minds of the customer.
Below are some templates to help you create a position statement. Though they look simple, creating a position statement can be a gruelling process, since it requires (and creates!) organization and a clear goal for your team.
Positioning Statement Template
To <insert target market>, <insert brand> is the brand of <insert competitive framework> that <insert benefit> because <insert reason why>.
Here are a couple of examples
To mothers with kids at home, Advil is the brand of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug that relieves pain quickly because of the medical ingredients including, ibuprofen.
To the creatives, Apple is the brand of personal computers that makes you think differently because of its sleek design, technological innovation, and closed system.
Here are some quick definitions of these terms. Your ‘target market’ is the specific audience you will be serving with your product or service. Your ‘brand’ is your business name and or product/service. A ‘competitive framework’ is the category against which your brand is competing. For example, an HVAC company could be competing against other HVAC companies. However, if they are in industrial HVACs, they could narrow their focus and compete against other industrial HVAC companies.
The ‘benefit’ is what you do for your customer and the ‘reason why’ is the supporting evidence or feature/attribute. Why does Advil provide pain relief? The reason why is Ibuprofen. The actual compounds in the pill are the features/attributes. This needs to be distinctive, meaning that no other brand can say about their business what you can say about yours. Distinctiveness is the name of the game. Can your customers, that is, your target audience, distinguish you from the competition?
An old sales analogy illustrates what a benefit is: the customer buys the hole in the wall, not the drill. The feature is the drill and the benefit is the hole in the wall. Another example of this would be pain relief from Advil. People buy pain relief, the benefit, not Ibuprofen, the feature. Advil happens to be what people think of when they think of pain relief. It is good to think about the benefits and the reason why you can do what you do for your customers.
Benefits can be functional or emotive, Coca Cola’s functional statement was “refreshing taste.” However, it evolved into an emotional statement of “Creating happiness,” “Have a coke, and a smile,” and “Open happiness.”
Another way to think about a benefit is that it is a problem which your customer perceives you to solve. It is what you do, but most customers are thinking of solving their problems or avoiding problems from coming up. Few people ask, “What can this business do for me?” without first having a problem to solve. No problem means no need for a solution. Practice clarifying in your mind and with your team what problem it is you solve.
It’s also extremely expensive to educate people that they even have a problem, to begin with. It’s better to look at the market, identify a gap, and offer solutions to close that gap. Don’t build a solution, create a gap, and then attempt to sell the gap, the solution, and the problem at the same time. It’s damn near impossible.
Defining the Problem (exercise)
Donald Miller, a business consultant and author of Building a Storybrand breaks down customer problems into four different types: the villain, the external problem, the internal problem, and the philosophical problem.The idea here is that customers don’t think of “brands,” they think of their problems. For headaches, there’s Advil. For taxes, Turbotax. If you need quick food, there’s McDonald’s. If you have a desire to perform, Nike will help you out.
In this exercise, you’ll write down what some of your customer’s problems might be. We’ll use Miller’s four problem types as a guide. It might feel easy to write down what you believe your customer’s problems are or you might feel out of touch with what difficulties your customers are really experiencing. Gathering a little qualitative data from your customers, meaning, just talking to them, will help reveal some problems you help solve in their own words. The exercise begins below:
The villain is the root cause of the customer’s problem. How would you personify that root cause? Who is the villain in your customer’s story? Write 3 ideas.
The External problem is the thing your customer deals with as it relates to your product/service. For taxes, an external problem is avoiding an audit. Write 3 ideas.
The Internal problem is your customer’s emotion. How is the problem making your customer feel? For taxes, an internal problem is confusion or anxiety with finances. Write 3 ideas.
The philosophical problem outlines what “is just plain wrong” about your customer’s problem. For taxes, a philosophical problem is paying the government too much of your hard-earned money. Write 3 ideas.
Positioning is an exercise of process. Positioning requires that you know your customers deeply enough to know what they are thinking. This is also vital in being on top of the competition.
After outlining your positioning statement and going through the problem exercise, you will be better equipped to say the right things to the right people. The next step will be to decide which tactics to use.
As small business owners, we don’t have millions of dollars to use on advertising. Our cash is precious. In order to get the most out of our advertising, we must position our brand in the minds of our customers and the marketplace effectively. That is the only way to break through the clutter of the entire marketplace, let alone our competition.