Positioning yourself better: a performance marketing guide
Positioning is one of the most fundamental things to consider when taking a product to market. In this blog, we’ll walk you through April Dunford’s 5-step strategy, which offers an efficient alternative to the largely ineffective positioning methods currently in use, and give you a performance marketing agency’s perspective on it.
As Kotler defines it, positioning is the act of designing the company’s offerings and image to occupy a distinctive place in the mind of the target market. Plainly put, by positioning your brand, you describe how your brand is different from its competitors and where, or how, it sits in customers’ minds.
But, as is the case with most things, positioning is easier said than done. Initially, it throws up more questions than it answers, making it seem more complicated than it really is. In essence, however, it is straightforward and simple, provided you know how exactly you should go about it.
Table of contents:
- Why the current approach to positioning is flawed:
- But first, who is April Dunford?
- Discovering your company’s obvious awesomeness
- The 5-step path to becoming obviously awesome:
- Great! What next?
Why the traditional positioning exercises are ineffective:
Unfortunately, positioning, as a concept has been around for decades and most of the exercises currently in practice are too set in stone to help brands uncover new directions. For instance, here’s an example of the classic positioning template –
This approach is inherently problematic for a variety of reasons, the primary one of which is the assumption the template makes that your positioning strategy is somehow already present in your head. Moreover, once done with this template, it leaves you with the false sense of accomplishment that you are done and dusted with your positioning exercise.
It is important to understand that positioning is a constant activity and is undertaken to not just revamp your brand’s image but also allow your brand to stay relevant. And the best way to do this? Well, just make your brand obviously awesome!
In other words, you need to examine your unique strengths and find a way to put them right in the centre of your marketing strategy, making them immediately visible to your prospects, or ‘obviously awesome’ as April Dunford says.
But first, who is April Dunford?
April Dunford is the founder of Ambient Strategy and a globally acclaimed market positioning consultant who works with start-ups in their growth stages as well as with executives from large organizations around the world to help them reposition their offerings. As she explains in her book, her positioning strategy works to take the customers from ‘what?’ to ‘wow!’ by ensuring the magic of every company’s innovation becomes plainly visible.
Discovering your company’s obvious awesomeness
Most companies around the world have faced the challenge of losslessly translating their idea of their products over to their customers. As a performance marketing agency, this is even more of a steep hill to climb. How many, after all, have we all thrown our hands up in the air, looked around the table with worn-out eyes, and asked the question, “Wait, what is this product for again?”.
That’s right, countless times!
Which is why, to address this disconnect between a company’s intent behind developing a product and a customer’s perception of its value, positioning helps. And not just any positioning, mind you.
April Dunford’s positioning exercise revolves around making your product or your client’s product obviously awesome and putting its strengths right at the centre of the product’s perception in the mind of its intended audience. On top of making the product’s value immediately apparent, it also helps in evading the ‘how are you better than so-and-so competitor’ question.
The 5-step path to becoming obviously awesome:
By going through the 5 steps outlined in the positioning exercise, you can come up with a way to position the products you market that brings out their inherent awesomeness. Here they are –
1) Let go of where you came from:
Most entrepreneurial ideas are born from a desire to improve the current state of affairs. And to a large degree, this desire stems from the extent of their capabilities. However, as many of us would have experienced, the moment you start working on building a product, it twists, turns, and, eventually, mutates into something entirely different.
But the problem is, we still position it based on the first idea we had of it before the product’s inevitable mutation. This messes up our chances of getting its value across plainly and leads to a disconnect between your marketing efforts and your target audiences.
Therefore, the first step towards positioning your product the right way is letting go of the historical baggage its original idea brings with it. This helps us understand that over a product’s development-cycle, it is quite possible for it to become suitable for a market we didn’t plan for originally.
Letting go of where we come from is, in a nutshell, putting on a fresh pair of glasses and actually seeing the product for what it is.
2) Isolate your uniqueness
Before you begin this step, it is important to take off your hat of judgement because this step is all about being as unbiased and as non-judgemental as you can be.
Start by listing down ALL the unique features your product possesses. A simple barometer to judge uniqueness is everything the competitors don’t have. However, herein lies the catch – the unique features doesn’t necessarily have to be a plus; it could also be a minus! For instance, if you think the user interface of your product is ‘complex’ in comparison to other, more elegantly packaged solutions, don’t hesitate. Just commit it to paper.
3) Value: what can your uniqueness do for customers?
This step is all about translation. No, don’t fire Google Translate up because what we are talking about is value translation.
By going through the list of unique features you made in the previous step, you will start identifying patterns of value within them. Basically, how a feature or a combination of features could be used by a customer in real-time. For instance, if the unique feature of your product is ‘multi-platform accessibility’ then you could talk about how it can be used interchangeably across Windows, Mac OS, iOS, and Android.
This step enables you to veer away from the historical notion you’ve had of your product’s demographics and, through the identification of the aforementioned patterns of value, create new target audiences and customer bases.
Well, with both the uniqueness of your product as well as the ideal way to showcase it understood and captured, the next question that crops up is ‘well, who really cares?’.
This leads us to a place where we must define the people who would care the most about its value. What would interest a customer? How could you identify a customer to whom the product would make a world of difference?
Especially now, with ongoing pandemic and the shortage of resources it has caused, it becomes all the more important to optimize your market positioning strategy. And the best way to get the most revenue out of the puniest budget is to focus on the prospects most likely to buy your product!
Of course, this is easier said than done. To kick things off, write down a list of customers to whom your product would prove to be immensely useful. Then, start asking specific questions about this elusive customer – what do they do? Where do they live? How would they use the product? What’s the one thing that stands out amongst these different prospective customers?
Questions like this help you build a set of buyer personas. Detailed and highly narrowed down, buyer personas help you prioritise a selection of your target market most likely to buy your product, tilting the positioning of your product towards being more appealing to them.
5) Choose your best market frame of reference
Yep. You guessed right. This one’s the hardest part.
Now that you have your product’s inherent value neatly underscored, it’s time to choose a frame of reference within the market that makes your product’s awesomeness clear and obvious. And don’t worry, it is completely okay to find yourself in a different market than the one you initially set out to capture. After all, great products make their own markets.
By placing yourself within a market, you immediately give your prospective customers a frame of reference to latch on to. For instance, you say your product is a high-end Android phone with the latest Snapdragon processor, your prospects will immediately place you in that market bracket and compare you to the other products in there. How is the performance? Is the camera good enough? Does the price look tempting?
As April Dunford emphasizes, it is always possible for one product to be positioned within multiple markets and pose multiple uses to multiple customers. The positioning of a product decides how multifaceted it is, not the other way round. In fact, with the right approach, you can identify a sub-segment within the market that would be ideal for your product’s intended frame of reference and go on to make it truly your own.
Here’s the positioning template April Dunford recommends:
Great! What next?
With a change in how you position yourself, the roadmap for your business could change. But, positioning helps you breathe fresh life into your business and redefines the way you engage with your customers over time, helping you stay relevant and approachable as a brand. It centres your customers on your strengths so they understand what you offer and why they should care.
It is important to remember that positioning is NOT messaging. Your positioning acts more like an overarching framework which provides inputs to your messaging strategy could refer to. Messaging always goes a level deeper by figuring out the different conversations your business could be having to engage with prospective buyer personas.
So, in the long run, it would be useful to remember that positioning is not a one-off activity that you can just get done with in one moment of brilliance. It’s a painstaking and research-intensive process which takes weeks, if not months. And more often than not, it takes several revisits to perfect the positioning framework. However, the dividends it pays are manifold and gives a huge boost to the way prospects interact with a brand.
Positioning is constant trial and error and gets better with each iteration. Once you get done with the exercise, it’s important to test it. If the symptoms line up, then it’s strong positioning. If they seem out of order or a dishevelled, then you’re looking at the symptoms of weak positioning. However, most weak positioning strategies bring an array of easily identifiable symptoms, making it easier to address and fix for good.
Here is a template April Dunford recommends for identifying the symptoms in a potentially weak positioning strategy –
Positioning should more or less become an integral part of the groundwork you put in when coming up with a marketing strategy for a client. It is also important to understand that you have to keep revisiting the positioning for a brand time and time again – think of it as periodic maintenance – because, at the end of the day, it’s all about keeping your brand’s image relevant and relatable. And with April Dunford’s framework in place, you just never know: your brand may still find ways to surprise you.
If you need help positioning your product or if you want to rethink the strategy you have in place , write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.