Positioning is possibly the most important part of creating a successful product.
“Positioning is the act of deliberately defining how you are best at something that a defined market cares about a lot” April Dunford. She is a master of positioning and the first person I have found talk about positioning giving practical steps. I have condensed them in this blog post for you here but if you want a more depth positioning guide, I highly recommend buying her book here!
Why is that important? Because without knowing your positioning, marketing and sales will fail. The more effective you are at positioning your product, the more you will be successful – marketing and sales will be far easier and less expensive if you know exactly who your product is for and why it is of value to them.
If you are not sure if product positioning is a problem for you, read my previous post here before reading this one.
Here are 6 steps to position your product:
1) Deeply Understand Your Best-Fit Customer
If you’re already in business, you will probably have a range of customers and it may be hard to know who your target audience actually is.
To simplify this, ask yourself which customers love your brand – they buy multiple products/are repeat buyers, they share your content on social media, they tell their friends about your brand. What is common among this particular type of customers?
What patterns are there among these customers? Not just the demographic information (age, sex, income etc.) but also demographic information(personality, values, interests, lifestyle etc).
What is it that they particularly love about your product?
Nb. It’s tempting to start with your product for positioning. However, you may not realise that while your positioning your product as the most environmentally sustainable toothbrush, what the best fit customers(repeat buyers/raving fans) particularly love is the fact that it feels weighty in their hand and looks aesthetically pleasing for their IG posts. You may never have known this if you simply focussed on your product alone without looking at existing patterns in your best-fit customers.
If you don’t have any customers yet?
Get the product in front of a lot people and build up data to analyse. You can make an educated guess about who your target audience will be for your product offering but you may find that in fact, after a wide range of potential customers see it, your target audience is in fact a completely different group to the one you originally supposed.
2) Let Go Of Positioning Baggage
You may have already decided how to position your product and who your target audience is as a result. But it would be far better to let go of however you have positioned the product so far if it is clearly not working.
Let’s say you make plastic furniture out of recycled plastic recouped from the ocean. Since it is expensive to recoup the plastic and then custom-made products the material, you need to charge a lot of money to run the business.You think that generally, an older target audience would have more disposable income and so you display the product at high end outdoor shows and boutique furniture stores believing it will be most effective to sell to wealthier elderly.However, you find young parents are most attracted to buying the furniture because they are looking to buy furniture for new homes, and are also painfully aware of the importance of teaching their children environmental awareness.
The goal is to find the best positioning for your product.You can’t do that unless you think laterally and are openminded enough to consider you’re current product positioning may not be optimal for your business.
3) List Competitive Alternatives
It is vital that you know where you sit in relation to competitors. However, it is also key that your best-fit customer may not be as knowledgeable about competitor companies as you are though.
Understand what your customers would replace you with if you didn’t exist. This will reveal how they categorise your solution and whether there is a direct competitor that comes to mind.
Survey your best fit customers by email or maybe even have a phone calls. There may be a million responses here but focus on those of only your best fit customer and note if there is a pattern.
4) Isolate Your Unique Features
Now you know what your best-fit customer would do if you didn’t exist, and you know what competitors are in your space, you can isolate what makes you different AND better.
What features does your product have that your alternatives do not. List everything at this point. Focus on facts as much as possible – “We’re really good at customer service,” or some generic tosh like that doesn’t cut the mustard here (unless your company has won an award for customer service possibly).
You’re a hummus company that prides itself on the best hummus around. Your features that no other hummus company have:
1) You make fresh hummus with a different flavour every day
2) Your pop-up stalls are in locations that no other hummus company is
3) You sell hummus in a variety of quantities from family sized portions to on the go bites which no other hummus company does.
4) You have refillable hummus tubs to minimise single use waste
Now, where’s the proof? You must validate your claims to make them truly effective. Certifications to show environmental sustainability, trust pilot reviews attesting to your variety of flavours, awards from local markets etc.
5) Understand The Benefits
(Have a look at this blog post here to understand more deeply the difference between Features and Benefits)
Great, you now have a list of features that all have some definitive proof that they are objectively true. But now, you need to understand why your best-fit customer should care.
To carry on with the hummus company example:
Cluster these values in to themes. Then, choose the most critical features and benefits that define your product’s unique offering.
6) Determine Who Cares A Lot
Don’t try and sell to everyone. If you have a limited marketing budget and small sales team, you are wasting precious resources trying to attract everyone to a product only a fraction of people will absolutely love.
People that absolutely love your product will be repeat customers, shout about your brand, be nice to your customer service team and will share your social media posts.
Ask yourself if your business was going to die in a month unless it made 100 sales, what type of customers would you focus on and why?
In the first step, I asked you to deeply understand your best-fit customer but perhaps your best fit customer is too broad so you need to narrow this down. The clearer the idea it is who your product is for and why, the clearer they will understand the product is for them.
Your best-fit customer segment needs to be 1) Big enough for you to be able to run a business from profits 2) It needs to have unmet needs that are important to the segment that you have a solution to.
Having read this blog post, you can clearly see strong positioning at work in this advert. Note Dollar Shave Club’s understanding of it’s target audience, the brand’s features and benefits and how that fits in to the target audience’s lifestyle (clear value to them).
After you have done all this, how do you put this in to action?
The first step is to make a brand story… See next week’s blog post for a deep dive in to creating a brand story.
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