How would your customers describe your business?
To put it another way, what do your customers think of when your business comes to mind? The idea of brand positioning is that you are staking a clearly defined view of your business in the minds of your customers.
When you create a strong brand position, it will help you drive your messaging and determine your strategies across all channels of your business. When done well, it will also help you to cement a lasting impression in your customer’s minds.
Let’s look at why your brand needs clear positioning and messaging, and how to achieve them:
Why clear messaging is needed
It’s a whole world of noise out there for your customers. They’re faced with a large selection of brands to choose from, many of which will offer the same or similar services that you do.
“Infobesity” is a key issue – people are so overloaded with information that it’s difficult for brands to cut through all of that noise and grab attention long enough for people to make a decision about them. This is a world of 8-second Vine videos and 140-character tweets – not only do you need to breach the noise, you need to do so concisely.
You may have the best product or service in your industry, but if your customers can’t understand it, it doesn’t matter.
In October 2001, Apple introduced the iPod to the world. There were many other MP3 players on the market at the time, and whilst the iPod introduced some revolutionary technology, it was arguably their positioning that led them to dominate the market so quickly.
At a time with the competition was focused on disk size, transfer speeds and other product features, Apple unveiled the iPod with the one simple customer-focused message: “1000 songs in your pocket”.
See Steve Jobs’ original “1000 songs in your pocket” spiel in the video below:
This was clearly an effective position to take. Apple could have said something like “play more music wherever you like”, but that just wouldn’t be as catchy or as evocative as “1000 songs in your pocket.”
Resonating with your prospects
Every company is sending out some kind of messaging, whether it’s having a positive impact or not. You are communicating vision and product value to an audience, so it’s important to do so with intention.
Simple, concise messaging gets to the heart of customer interests, preferences or problems and resonates well with them. Put another way, you get new customers when you communicate the right messaging to the right group of people.
The more your prospects associate positive messaging with your brand, the more likely they are to purchase from you rather than your competitors.
Strategic messaging will help you organize your vision and your values so you have a simple message and story that sparks interest in those who share your values and who are inspired by your vision.
Managing public perception
“The goal of marketing is to control perception and to change behaviour.”
Coherent and consistent communications in the sales organisation depends on the effectiveness of your strategic messaging. If there is no clear direction or strategy, you run the risk that mixed messages or messages you don’t particularly want get put out to the public.
It’s a “know the way, show the way” scenario; you have to define what that direction and message actually is in order to ensure that others in the organisation understand and that you have a coherent approach.
Consistency across channels
In alignment with that management of public perception, clear positioning helps to ensure that you have consistent messaging across all of your various channels. For example, it would be a strangely disjointed experience for the customer if they hear one thing from marketing messages, then hear something in a completely different vein from the sales team.
It is the responsibility of the marketing team to ensure that the message a company uses is consistent across all marketing channels as well as across all assets and communications. Does everyone in your organization communicate the same product value?
Effective messaging is always simple and consistent. Consistency reduces opportunities for miscommunication and means messages are more likely to become memorable. If you can’t tell a cohesive, compelling story, it’s going to be very hard to sell to people when you actually do take your product or service to market.
Create your “story”
Another important reason to be clear on your position and messaging is so that you are able to create stories around your brand. Research shows that stories really resonate with the human brain. They help to build a connection and for your brand to be memorable.
If you can capture the attention of the customer through storytelling, you now have the opportunity to convince them of why they need to make a change and go with your company. Getting people to change their behaviour in any way is difficult, which is why good storytelling is important. Capture their attention and encourage them to invest time in learning more about you.
How to establish your position
We like the work on positioning from Al Ries, “the father of brand positioning.” In his book “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind” he describes the basic approach of positioning as not a process of creating something new and different, but a way of manipulating what’s already in the mind, to retie the connection that already exists. “The goal is to position the product in the mind of the prospect.”
A critical point to consider before doing any work on your own brand positioning is that it does not exist to explain all the details of what your product or service does. In fact, positioning is not even about your product, it is about the perception of the prospect, customer, or investor regarding your product.
The way you describe and position your product should be dictated by your customers and prospects, not by product features or internal expertise. Positioning is a simplified concept that translates an oversimplified message, to penetrate your prospect’s mind and build certain perceptions about your product.
Here are a few thoughts on how you can establish your position:
Begin with your customer’s problems
The “Jobs to be Done” framework is a great way of looking at your position and reminding yourself that your position is not about the actual product. Why do customers buy? Because they are trying to get a job or set of jobs taken care of.
This means that you must understand your customer’s pain points, problems or preferences and what they need taken care of in order to create the messaging that will resonate with them.
“If you can describe the problem better than your customer, they will assume you have the solution”
– Pat Flynn.
An important point here is not to begin with the solution, but to state the problem well first. One commonly used copywriting format is to follow Problem, Agitate, Solve (PAS). This is because the first thing that will capture the customer’s attention is if you can understand their problem, then stir it up to grab them emotionally.
Your customer is then looking for a glimpse of the “promised land,” the solution to their problems. You need to be able to articulate the problem well, but centre your marketing around a specific result you can give the customer that is better than your competitors.
“Sell a good night’s sleep – not the mattress.”
– Konrad Sanders
Know your “why”
Why does your business exist? This should tie in with why a customer should choose you over a competitor. If you don’t have a compelling “why” your messaging can end up being bland or “just another Uber for X.”
What is the one thing that differentiates you from others that you want first time visitors to understand? Otherwise known as a “one simple thing” message, this is what you will be known for in the market.
The goal is to prioritise your core ideas and simplify your message so that it’s easily consumable and draws people in to hear the rest of your story. For example, when you hear “Volvo” you might think “safety” – the key is to have a specific focus for being different.
If you are in a competitive market, it is even more important that you’ve staked out a specific “why” position. This could be expressed by your Unique Selling Position (USP), a statement which demonstrates why you exist and how you are different to others. It should be very clear to potential customers why they should choose you over a competing company.
Sometimes businesses worry about taking a position because they think this might disclude groups of customers or other services they may have. In fact, being clear about your position can help with these things because:
- Being specific is what helps you to stand out and connect with the right customers.
- Once they use your services and see you as an expert, they will also see any overlap there. If you can do X, then you must be able to do Y too.
Talk about superpowers
When you’re establishing your marketing, it is much more powerful to talk about your “superpowers” than the mere features of your product or service. This helps you to paint a picture for people which answers “how will this make my life better?”
Here’s a great example: Popeye is the customer. Your product is the spinach. The ability to lift 1,000 pounds is the superpower. You should be marketing and selling the ability to lift 1,000 pounds, not talking about the spinach.
This again alludes to that “promised land” we talked about earlier. This is a future that your customer wants, that you can uniquely deliver, and that your customer will find difficult to attain without you. Tie this in with your company stories and you’ll help to establish a captive audience, eager to take up what you offer.
Your own messaging…
Has your company taken a clear position? Often, Outside consultants can be extremely helpful for companies that are going through the process of designing strategic messaging. There are several reasons for this:
- They can evaluate current messaging with fresh eyes.
- They aren’t tied to internal politics.
- They are less affected by any internal product or cultural biases.
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