Triathlon bike positioning

Spring Training Fundamentals: 5 Benefits of a Positioning Statement

The calendar says that spring has arrived.  You wouldn’t know it from the frigid temperatures and mounds of crusty snow outside.  But if the calendar says so, then it must be time for spring training.

Baseball players aren’t the only ones preparing for the upcoming season by focusing on fundamentals.  We triathletes do too.  For us, it means getting the bike tuned up and ready to ride outside.  It’s not only a question of getting in the miles.  We also need to work on riding position.  Perfecting that tight, aerodynamic body position that delivers maximum power with minimal wind resistance.

Marketers getting ready for an upcoming product launch need to devote the same level of effort into positioning.   Building a  positioning statement is no trivial exercise.   Like in triathlon, getting the positioning statement right is the key to success, and it requires discipline.

Key Elements of a Positioning Statement

Positioning Template (Trew Marketing)
Positioning Template (Trew Marketing)

There are a variety of templates for a positioning statement.  I’ve used a template similar to the one shown here.  Although it is short, each area requires close examination and continual refinement,  just like finding that optimal riding position.  Nail the positioning statement, and you can expect at least five benefits.

1.  Identify Your Buyer(s)

A positioning statement begins with the buyer.  It therefore demands that you focus on the buyer persona.  For B2B software companies, it’s especially important to focus on the job title, company size, and target verticals of your buyer.  If you sell to multiple types of buyers, you may need to develop a positioning statement for each one.  You’ll be able to decide once you know whether there are differences in needs, benefits, and competitive advantages.

2.  Do You Need to Cross the Chasm?

Chossing-the-chasm-coverOnce you have identified your buyers,  the positioning statement has you move onto their needs.  Knowing where your buyers are on the technology adoption life cycle will help you understand their needs.   Geoffrey Moore’s “Crossing the Chasm” discusses the psychographic differences between groups along the life cycle.

Visionaries appreciate technology for its own sake.  They often identify uses of technology not even considered by marketers.  Early adopters expect to use a new technology to get a jump on others in their industry.  They’re not looking for an improvement.  They are looking for a fundamental breakthrough.  Buyers in the early majority want to realize a gain in productivity for their current operations.    The positioning statement should reflect these instincts.

3.  Your Market – Clarify the Field You Are Playing On

seattle-277120_640This section of the positioning statement calls for another area that seems trivial.  But defining your market does require some thought.   Using a well understood existing market category has advantages, especially for buyers on the right hand side of the chasm.  But doing so will reqiure you to differentiate yourself from other vendors also in the market.  Creating a new market segment which you can own may help with differentiation, but it will require effort and time to educate the market.

4.  Leverage Your Commercial Insight for Competitive Advantage

I’ve written in previous blogs about my experience with Challenger Sale methodology.   The commercial insight is the content, based on your product’s unique advantages,  that sales uses to uncover a previously unknown problem in the current way the customer does business.   The commercial insight disrupts how the customer thinks about her business,  and ultimately leads to your product as the unique solution to the problem.    The commercial insight therefore shows up in two places in the positioning statement – the benefit and the unique differentiator.

5.  Crafting the Positioning Statement Gets Your Team on Board

The last benefit of building the positioning statement is that it helps to get all of the functional areas in your company on board with a consistent message.  Sales, product development, support, and marketing all see your company, customers, and product from a different perspective.  Distilling the relevant information onto a positioning statement helps get everyone pulling in the same direction in how they discuss your competitive advantages for your buyers.

Content creation is team effort

I’m not saying that getting everyone to agree on the positioning statement will be easy.  It won’t.  But having the various functional groups involved in creating it, or at least reviewing it and providing feedback, will provide benefits.

What about you?  What’s your experience in building positioning statements?  Do you have a favorite template, or different approach?  Let me know.  I’m interested in feedback.

Triathlon photo credit:  Rena Shild/Shutterstock

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Whitewater kayak

Structured Learning in Career Transition – Navigating the Whitewater of the First Week

After my first week as Chief Product Evangelist at Aternity, it’s clear that a career transition isn’t like a triathlon transition.   Triathlon transitions are executed efficiently and calmly.  You lay out your gear neatly so that you can peel off your wet suit after the swim, pull on your cycling gear, and get going.   Spread a towel next to your bike to dry your feet.  Put your sunglasses in your helmet, and your helmet on your aero-bars, upside down, so you can put them on quickly.  Clip your shoes into your pedals, so you don’t waste time.  It’s logical, methodical, and predictable. Tri bike InTransition

Starting a new role at a small company is more like kayaking a class 5 river.   Exhilarating, exciting, and exhausting.  All at the same time.   So many areas to investigate, each seemingly as important as the next.  As I’ve started at Aternity, I’ve tried to use structured learning, outlined by Michael Watkins in his book, The First 90 Days.  Here’s a quick summary of what I’ve learned.

The Recommended Approach to Structured Learning

tf90d-book-coverIn his book, Watkins details a systematic approach to structured learning that helps new executives determine where to focus their efforts.   The structured learning process helps you gather and analyze information from a variety of sources so you can build a plan for adding value to your new organization.

Creating a learning agenda with a focused set of questions relating to your company’s past, present, and future helps you identify how and why decisions were made, the current state of market opportunity and challenges, and possible vectors for future growth.

Four Areas to Focus Structured Learning

In my first week on the job, I’ve focused my structured learning in four key areas.

The business:    Current customer base and growth, new product development areas, current and future competition, primary partnerships.

Stakeholders:  In the first week, I’ve met not only with management team colleagues, but also selected members of the sales and customer support teams.  These sessions have been helpful for me to start to understand our sales process and how we engage with customers.

Expectations:  In all of these meetings, I’ve asked for input on what the stakeholders need from me.  By asking this question across all of the major functional areas, I hope to get insight into consistent themes, and potential deliverables to generate early wins.  Watkins discusses the importance of generating early wins in building credibility, momentum, and on-going trust.

Culture:  Even by the first day, it was clear to me that our company has a very strong culture.   Priorities include effective and timely communication, clear assignment of action items and due dates, and mutual respect.   Not to mention a real work hard/play hard mentality!

Accelerate Learning in the Field

Mobile-World-Congress-Fira-Barcelone-1024x464Actually,  my first week in the office wasn’t my first week with the company.  Rather than wander the halls of our corporate headquarters, I wandered the halls of Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.  And, with 1800 exhibitors and 80,000 attendees, the event provided me plenty of opportunities to get in my mileage!

More important than mileage, attending the event allowed me to accelerate my structured learning plan.  Mobile World Congress is the largest gatherings of operators, vendors, and pundits in the area of mobile.   One of Aternity’s strategic priorities is to expand into mobile application performance management.   Attending this event fast-tracked my understanding of customer needs, competition, and partnership opportunities.   These areas are far more important to accelerating my structured learning plan than was filling out HR forms and firing up my laptop!

I summarized my impressions of MWC in my first blog entry in Aternity’s End User Experience 2Day site.   Check it out!

In the coming weeks, I’ll be using Watkins’ book as a guide as I complete my structured learning and prepare my 90 day plan.  I’m interested in feedback from others in a similar position.   Any guidance or suggestions for me?


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