Dear Business Owner,
Since you have customers interacting with your company, we can conclude that you have not only a product but also a brand. Products are made in factories - brands are created in customers’ hearts and minds (... and sometimes guts). Having a brand entitles you to also be the owner of a market positioning. The question is whether it is the right one? Is your market positioning relevant, convincing and in tune with your offerings and behavior? Does it differ from alternatives in the market? And is it profitable and value-creating? Lots of questions.
Products are made in factories and brands are created in customers' minds and hearts (.. sometimes guts)
Who is the target group? Often a good question, and usually the best place to start. To know the market fully, segmentation is an absolute necessity as it helps you to decide on relevant and persuasive engagements aimed towards prioritized target groups. Added to this, the emotional “priming” that makes your business special, long-term, which is centered around a range of emotional orientations that appeal to all senses.
This is where market positioning originates. What would you like to stand for and stand out in the market with? You can develop hypotheses and scenarios, test prototypes and analyze yourself deep into the future with strong references to your past. Furthermore, you can bury yourself in quantitative data or facilitate focus groups with loyalists. All depending on how much insight you already possess and history you may have in the market. Obviously adjusted to your temper and what your commercial objective of the exercise might be - sooner or later.
Larger companies can typically work for months on developing strategy whereas others - especially startups and smaller companies - can make decisions on the spot, “zeitgeist” style, where ideas and concepts are executed immediately the next day.
One way does not always have to be better than the other. It all depends on culture, budget, and insight into the market. That said, we do recommend that you sleep on it - several nights in a row.
The whole idea around market positioning is to work strategically with the company’s brand, avoiding “tactification” and unnecessary noise, ultimately creating coherence and consistency in your presence over time. It gives both peace of mind and creates value because it is easier for stakeholders to understand what you offer and stand for.
Most companies burst into self-oscillation and over-complicate their own market positioning and end up stuck in strange frameworks, over-academicised slide decks and a lot of words and layers that only a few people understand. From “Purpose” to "Essence" and “Brand Equity” to “Boilerplate”. The range of buzzwords management and marketing terms seem endless and difficult to associate with, not to forget the customers who ideally need to understand the final message - the first time.
Market positioning is strategy, and is an informed choice. If the target groups are who we are after, positioning is what they think about us. So, it’s really about making customers aware of your company’s existence and sharing a few thoughts about what you stand for. Think of market positioning as the image you would like to have. It is basically your positioning and what needs to be written, articulated and implemented as a brand - no matter if you call it Compass, House, or Canvas. The point is that you have found a few things that appeal to your primary stakeholders and their needs. Something you can deliver on, perhaps even better and more distinctive than alternatives to what the customers are looking for.
There are countless ways to develop, re-define or nuance a market positioning. You have already seen the light, or have a strong thesis that matches your company. In that case, it is important to be able to validate the quality.
A good place to start is by evaluating against the following parameters:
Are you relevant for prioritized target groups? (have you got an overview of your audiences and markets, and do you have real insights?)
Are you clear and recognisable? (Does your external image resonate with what employees meet and cultivate on a daily basis, and vice versa?)
Do you appear trustworthy? (before you promise something, you must be sure that you can deliver on it. E.g. is your positioning rooted in your DNA and products/services)
Are you easy to copy? (do you own your visual presence and have strong brand assets, e.g. custom typography? Patterns? House style?)
Is your communication timeless and consistent? (Do you keep the beat and rhythm in your brand communication and activity in relevant channels?)
Think about it and ask questions - ideally among a handful of mixed customers and employees. It should give you a good hint and you can better assess the status quo.
Just don't overthink it, as this is often where it goes pear-shaped.
Keep it simple and remember if you use customer language from the beginning – things can't go completely wrong.
Reach out if you have any questions or want to see case work.