Marketing

How to Get an Edge on the Competition with Positioning in Marketing

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How to Get an Edge on the Competition with Positioning in Marketing
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How to Get an Edge on the Competition with Positioning in Marketing

When it comes to products and services, customers have more options today than ever before. Online shopping, digital marketing, and globalization are just some of the factors that have completely transformed how people make purchase decisions. As a result, customers can find something with different features, higher quality, cheaper, etc., with a simple search. But there’s one surefire way for marketers to get an edge. We’re talking about positioning in marketing.

Positioning – how you position your product or service in the minds of your audience – is an essential part of any marketing strategy. And it can be just what your business needs to stand out in a crowded marketplace.

In this article, we’ll explain what positioning is, why it’s important, and how you can develop a positioning strategy for your own business.

What is positioning in marketing

What is positioning in marketing?

First things first – what is positioning in marketing? Positioning in marketing means strategically defining how your ideal client perceives your business. It’s a component of branding where you choose how you will differentiate yourself from similar products or services. And while there are dozens of ways to do it, some tried-and-true types of positioning in marketing can give your business an advantage.

Your positioning strategy will include a mix of hard criteria – features, cost, quality, etc. – and relationship-building criteria that ultimately shape how a customer sees your brand. By clearly defining your business’ positioning and consistently taking action to communicate that, you’ll be better able to move customers from consideration to purchase.

When done correctly, positioning can be the thing that creates loyal customers, brand awareness, and all the other things you hope for when you make a marketing strategy.

Why is positioning important in marketing?

Now that we covered what positioning is, we can dig into why positioning is important in marketing. Ultimately, the goal of any positioning strategy will be to optimize how you sell your product or service – whether that means making that easier, less expensive, more profitable, more targeted, etc. Below are a few examples of how your brand can benefit from positioning.

  • Sales. Let’s start with the big one: sales! A great product positioning strategy can either increase sales or expand your audience. By clearly defining your positioning, you’ll be better able to create relevant offers and communicate that to potential customers.
  • Competitive Advantage. Another importance of positioning is that it helps your business differentiate itself and stand apart from the competition. Whether you choose to position your product around price, features, etc., or associate yourself with a target group or lifestyle, this will ultimately impact how customers view your offer relative to your competitors. When done effectively, the correct position will give you a competitive advantage over those offering something similar.
  • Niche. So many business owners have gotten the advice: find a niche. The reason? With a niche, you narrow your target audience to a more targeted, hyper-specific group. In doing that, you position yourself as the expert and can create offers with this niche in mind. This makes your ideal customers feel that you’re speaking directly to them (because you are!), and every salesperson knows that’s the key to an impactful sales process.
  • Clarity. Better positioning brings clarity and simplicity. Rather than starting every campaign, communication, or idea from scratch, you begin from a clear starting point. When you know what your brand represents and how you want your customers to perceive you, you can make clearer decisions and have more confidence that you’re taking actions that will help you reach your business goals.

Types of Positioning in Marketing

Types of Positioning in Marketing

Now, let’s get into the types of positioning in marketing. There are almost endless ways that you might go about differentiating your product or service, but the key here is to focus on the things that matter most to your ideal clients.

  • Features. One common way that marketers position their product or service is around unique features. Features are something your offer has or is. It could be something about the design, integration, or raw materials. To position yourself around features, ask: what features does your offer have that make it different from the competitor?

    Features Example: A headphone manufacturer might differentiate themselves with unique patterns and color options.

  • Pricing. Pricing is a factor in most customer purchase decisions. Brands that position themselves around pricing typically focus on offering the lowest price while maintaining high quality (though high price positioning is also a strategy)

    Pricing Example: A software company that offers a license for small businesses at a lower price or doesn’t charge for a premium feature.

  • Quality. When differentiating on quality, you might highlight the materials used, production process, or extended warranty on your product.

    Quality Example: A chocolate company that differentiates itself by sourcing fairtrade cocoa beans and being transparent about its production process.

  • Differentiation. While most of the positioning examples above are differentiation to some degree, differentiation as a positioning strategy means being radically different from your competition. This can either be in your messaging or branding or in the design of the product or service itself.

    Differentiation Example: A self-help author who differentiates themselves from their industry by using swear words, dark humor, and bold language.

  • Convenience. Convenience is about making it easier for customers to work with you. This might be based on location, usability, etc. Some common examples of how brands do this are offering one-stop shops, free returns, or mobile apps.

    Convenience Example. An online shop that offers free, no-label return shipping for all of its products to make customers more confident in their purchases.

  • Comparative. Comparative positioning compares multiple products or services to establish a competitive edge. Again, while most positioning strategies include this at some level, some brands make a name for themselves just by being the complete opposite of their main competitor.

    Comparative Example. A health beverage company positions itself as an alternative to popular soft drinks.

  • Customer service. Positioning around customer service happens when you make customer support more straightforward, friendly, helpful, or accessible.

    Customer Service Example. A local web design agency that gives customers a designated support specialist who offers same-day response to their questions or technical issues.

  • User group. Positioning by user group is about narrowing your focus to a specific user group. While it’s still possible for you to serve different customers, your message should make it clear that you have something you specialize in.

    User Group Example. A real estate agency that specializes in working with first-time homeowners. Their marketing is tailored to these customers, and they create resources that directly address their needs.

How to create a positioning strategy

How to create a positioning strategy

Ready to create a positioning strategy for your business? Let’s walk through the process, step-by step.

1. Define your current position

The first step in creating a positioning strategy for your business is understanding your current position. This is a process of clearly defining your current brand and ideal client. While you might have an inherent sense of these things, getting them down on paper is essential! This will allow you to understand the gap between where you are now and where you’d like to be.

Some questions you can ask in this stage are…

  • Who are you, and what do you do?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • What are your mission, vision, and values?
  • What makes you different from other people who do what you do?

In this stage, research some positioning examples for well-known brands. McDonald’s, Disney, Coca-Cola – you get the idea! These brands are household names for a reason, and they’ve invested millions of dollars and hours into getting it right. So think of some of your favorite brands, and look for case studies or samples of how they’ve done this for their businesses to understand how it might apply to your business or industry.

2. Perform a Competitor Analysis

At the heart of positioning is the differentiation of your businesses from similar businesses. That’s why performing a competitor analysis is so important. This is the stage where you’ll look at your competitors’ actions. How are they branding themselves? Who are their ideal clients? How are they positioning themselves? Some ways to do this are…

  • Market research
  • Customer feedback
  • Social media analysis
  • A positioning map (details on how to create one below).

Conducting a competitor analysis will help you understand the opportunities or gaps in the market and where your product or service has an advantage. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be able to figure out easy ways to differentiate yourself or have more clarity on how you might need to adapt your offer or messaging to better fit customer needs.

Here’s an article on how to perform a SWOT Analysis if you’d like some help getting started.

3. Develop your position

After reflecting on your branding and ideal clients and your competition’s branding and ideal clients, you should have the information you need to develop your own position.

Often, your position is clear. What do you do better than anyone else? Where can you differentiate your product based on the types of positioning we covered above? As a reminder, those are…

  • Features
  • Pricing
  • Quality
  • Differentiation
  • Convenience
  • Comparative
  • Customer Service
  • User Group

You might also consider more intrinsically valuable criteria – more relational or soft ones. This can be achieved with good branding or design. For example, perhaps your brand is more trustworthy, luxurious, or funny than your competitors. These can also be valuable ways to position yourself.

4. Write a positioning statement

Your positioning statement should describe your offer and target audience and directly address how it differs from competitors.

A good positioning statement in marketing should also be clear, brief, memorable, and aligned. Big undertaking, isn’t it? Hubspot made it easy with a template:

Positioning Statement: For [your target market] who [target market need], [your brand name] provides [main benefit that differentiates your offering from competitors] because [reason why target market should believe your differentiation statement.]

Start with a good framework, make some changes, and then continue to simplify until it reaches a clear and compelling point. If you’re struggling with the task, ask a couple of team members to try and see if you can get ideas from what they wrote.

5. Test your positioning

Creating a positioning statement is a great way to get clear and communicate your positioning internally. But ultimately, as positioning is about customer perception, the key to effective positioning is in how you actually communicate it externally.

This can be done with changes to your product, advertising, new branding, copywriting, design, etc. You might do it with a launch or subtle transition. But the key here is consistency! Building up a position takes time and continual effort. It almost surely won’t happen overnight. So create a strategy for the next several months about how you will share and reinforce your positioning with clients.

When that’s done, have some metrics in place to understand how it’s performing so you can adapt and modify it as needed.

Create a positioning map in marketing

Create a positioning map in marketing

Above, we mentioned the importance of a positioning map in marketing. Put simply, a positioning map is a graph with an x and y axis where each represents extremes of two key variables. You use the graph to plot your brand relative to your competitors’ brands to understand how you are perceived on the most critical factors.

You might start with a perceptual map showing how customers see your brand to understand where your brand is now accurately. This will help you understand the gaps between where you are now and where you want to be.

For example, you might create a positioning map where the x-axis represents price (inexpensive to very expensive) and user-friendliness (intuitive to many complicated features). From there, you might plot your business along with your top five competitors at various points on the map to understand where you can improve, find gaps in the market, or know how you can better represent your business relative to the competition.

Final thoughts

It’s tempting for new businesses to skip over positioning in favor of the operational aspects of running a business. But by really understanding who your customers are and what your business has to offer them, you’ll have a better shot of finding your competitive advantage, your niche, and more clarity in your messaging, ultimately leading to more sales.

Before going into operations, take some time to create a positioning strategy! Or go back and evaluate what it is you’ve already made. This foundational step of running your business can have lasting impacts and help you create a more sustainable, profitable business in the long run.

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