What is Positioning?
Hint: Branding Starts with It

It’s a question I hear all the time: What is positioning?

Positioning, like developing a Unique Selling Proposition or a differentiating factor, is the process by which your business creates an image or identity in the minds of your core market for your product, service, or brand.

Positioning is the relative competitive comparison your product or service occupies as perceived by your target audience. In other words, you are always positioning against your competition.

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Here is a great example of marketplace positioning
Recently, I was playing some late-season golf with my brothers and discovered a new taste treat at the pro shop cash register. It was a pair of energy bars called, descriptively enough, 1st Tee and 10th Tee, produced by SCNS Sports Foods.

But here’s where positioning come in: the specialist always beats the generalist. If I’m getting ready to tee off, and I have a choice between a “generic” energy bar and 1st Tee, I KNOW which one I’d pick. Before I take to the tee box, why would I grab an energy bar targeted at women or hikers or low-carb dieters when I can gulp down the energy bar made especially for golfers before unsheathing my outsized driver?

In your business, positioning is a critical exercise. Who are you trying to build a relationship with? Everyone in the world? How will your offerings stand out in a crowded and often confusing marketplace?

Back to the golf example for a moment: The best part about a niche like 1st and 10th Tee is that SCNS Sports Foods can FOCUS their sales efforts exclusively on golf courses and golf stores ONLY. There’s no need for them to play the grocery store game, pay slotting fees, or even TRY to compete with the deep-pocketed and well-branded Nature Valley, Clif Bars, Luna, and Power Bars of the world. This is the ONLY golf energy bar (that I’m aware of).

Furthermore, pro shops and golf retailers would probably scoff at the idea of stocking Clif Bars. But a golf energy bar...now that's a novel product that could authentically sell, earning them additional impulse revenue at the point of sale.

And 1st and 10th Tee are now sold in more than 3,500 golf courses and golf retail outlets across the United States.

In Differentiate or Die, author Jack Trout says, “Since differentiation takes place in the mind, specialists can focus on one product, one benefit, one message, and one audience. This focus enables the marketer to put a sharp point on the message that quickly drives it into the mind. Another weapon of the specialist is the ability to be perceived as the best. When you study the marketing wars, the well-differentiated specialist tends to be the winner.”

Consider the lessons for your business. It’s not enough to fall into the old “We’re focused on high quality” trap. Your business will not be positioned or differentiated by relying on “better service” or “good value.” One CEO I worked with insisted that his organization was built on integrity. Great! But ALL organizations should be built on integrity. It’s a parity item—the cost of entry into business.

Now…consider what really makes your business unique. Why should people support Brand You and not Brand B?

To discover 7 ways you can differentiate and position your business, click here.

When you see the How-to-Branding.com Toolbox, it designates that the following content is a tool, exercise, or technique you can use to help develop your affordable brand strategy.

The How-to-Branding Positioning Process

Follow these steps to position your product, service, or business:

  1. Define the arena in which your product or company will compete. In other words, WHO is your core market; your “brand lovers”? WHO are your relevant buyers?
  2. Identify the unique attributes or dimensions that define the “space” occupied by your product or service.
  3. Listen to the voice of customers (VOC) about their perceptions of each of your products or services and their relevant attributes.
  4. Determine each product or service’s share of mind. In other words, when someone says the name of your category, how frequently does your product or service name come up?
  5. Determine your core market's preferred combination of attributes; what do THEY want? What value do THEY derive from your products or services? What are the characteristics that make your products and services different? This is your ideal vector.
  6. Finally, examine the fit between the current or desired position of your product or service and the position of the ideal vector. From this exercise, develop your position statement.

Test your new positioning on people who don't really know what your business does or what it sells, and watch their facial expressions and listen for their response. When they want to know more because you've piqued their interest and started a conversation, you'll know you're on the right track.

To learn how to Differentiate Effectively, click here

Click here to understand the Unique Selling Proposition

Learn the ABCs of USPs here

Discover Your Brand Essence here