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
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?
Once 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
This 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.
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/Shutterstockby