There’s no sugarcoating it — positioning is hard. Like really hard.
Anyone who’s seen/heard/read my opinion on the topic knows how strongly I feel about just picking a positioning strategy, setting a launch date, and trying it out. No more debates. No more arguments. Just make a decision and let the market decide.
Your first strategy might not work, and that’s ok. Your positioning will evolve over time no matter what, so a misfire is no big deal. The only surefire way your positioning can fail however, is if you don’t know WHY your business exists in the first place. You can’t just sit down, start writing sentences, and expect to nail your company’s positioning. You have to get down to the core of your product/service and understand what problem you’re trying to solve. As far as that goes, there are basically three main ways to position your product:
Challenge an incumbent head on
There’s a top dog in your industry and you want to take them on. You recognized some gap in your market that your competitor isn’t filling and you’re going to take it upon yourself to give buyers a better option.
Bold move, I dig it.
The challenge you have is obviously going to be the name recognition of your competitor. People in your market know them, trust them, and have been using them for years. To get them to switch to the hotshot upstart, you need to provide value well beyond what your competitor can provide and point out those differences to your customers.
The classic example in B2C is Blockbuster vs Netflix. Blockbuster was the king of the video rental game (tbt to VHS tapes). Then Netflix comes along offering to take the leg work out of the video rental process, sending them straight to you, and the rest is history. They successfully positioned themselves as the more convenient, more customer-friendly option. And they were not subtle about it in their marketing.
Capture a segment of a large market
Just because you operate in a massive market doesn’t mean you need to target that entire market. If you want to open a burger joint — you don’t need to go toe to toe with McDonald’s to be successful.
Take Privy for (an extremely biased) example. Privy serves ecommerce businesses. Last I checked, there’s a lot of ecommerce businesses out there. But our niche is that we only work with small ecommerce businesses. Why? Because our platform is better suited for smaller businesses that are trying to grow their sales. We don’t waste time targeting businesses that have no use for our service.
Figure out where you fit in your market and make sure you’re the go-to brand in that niche. If there’s a small ecommerce business looking for ways to boost their sales, I want Privy to be the first place they come to.
Create a new category
Ah the blue ocean strategy – go where no one has gone before. Creating a category means you are an innovator not an iterator. You didn’t change the way the game is played, you invented a new sport.
I was part of it at Drift when we created the category of conversational marketing. And then there’s the example we’re all familiar with: Slack. Yeah, there were ways to communicate with your coworkers before Slack. Texting, email, instant messaging, shouting across a row of cubicles, etc. But none of them were designed to serve businesses or meet the specific need of in-office communication like Slack.
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