One of the most important things any company can do is create a strong brand. And, when you define your brand, market positioning is a critical step in the process. There is often confusion about marketing terms such as branding, positioning, value propositions, and brand promises among others. So, before you worry about things like ranking your website on Google, take the time to understand market positioning.
What is Market Positioning?
According to The Branding Journal, market positioning is “the act of designing the company’s offering and image to occupy a distinctive place in the mind of the target market.” You’ll also see market positioning referred to as brand positioning, which is what The Brand Journal calls it. It’s the same process, and it applies to both products and services.
Why is Market Positioning Important?
Market positioning is the piece of your branding strategy that leads you to look at how customers and potential customers perceive your company in relation to your competitors. You may provide an excellent product or service, but your customers aren’t going to buy from you the first time they see your website or talk to you on the telephone.
What they are going to do is compare your offering to your competitors. In fact, Statista found that 59.5% of B2B buyers researched 2-3 websites before making a purchase. 29.7% researched 4-7 websites, and about 8% of buyers researched more than eight products. Altogether, about 97% of B2B buyers are busy researching their purchases. Other research indicates that 81% of consumers research a purchase before buying.
You need to know how to describe your product to customers. But, it’s probably even more important that you know how your product compares to your competitors. Without that information, the success of your marketing efforts will be severely restricted.
Types of Market Positioning Strategies
You can start thinking about market positioning by looking at different positioning strategies.
- Features and benefits. Your product provides unique features, or benefits the buyer in exceptional ways.
- Price. Your product is low cost, meaning less than your competitors.
- Quality. Your product is higher quality than your competitors’ products.
- Use. Your product can be used in more ways than your competitors’ products.
You can see examples of these in the marketplace every day. For example, customers typically perceive a Mercedes-Benz as a high-priced automobile with outstanding quality. Toyota has a much lower price, but many consider it to be a quality vehicle.
Some consumers think KIA is a low-priced car with relatively low quality. There are even some vehicles like the Infinity that many consumers label as relatively high priced, but with relatively low quality. But, if any of those auto manufacturers could make their car fly, they would have a competitive advantage due to the variety of uses it could offer.
How to Choose a Market Positioning Strategy
In order to create an effective market positioning strategy, you need to consider several factors that will lead you to identify the best way to position your products and services in the market.
1. Clarify Your Target Market Definition
You know why you are in business and what your potential customers are looking for, but it helps to create a written description of those things. Ask yourself the following types of questions:
- What do your customers want?
- What problems or pain points can you identify that your customers are trying to avoid?
- What are they looking for in a company like yours?
- Are all of your customers the same, or do they fall into different segments and you need to approach them differently?
2. Define Your Current Situation
The easiest way to look at all aspects of your marketing capabilities is to conduct a SWOT analysis for marketing. That analysis will identify your company’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. When you complete the analysis, you’ll know a lot more about how you can use your strengths and opportunities to offset your weaknesses and threats.
3. Analyze Your Key Competitors
First, identify your key competitors. For example, if you were in marketing at Mercedes-Benz, you wouldn’t consider Toyota, KIA, and Infiniti as key competitors.
Next, look at the websites and marketing materials for those key competitors. Identify the things they point out as strengths and features, and in general, how they present themselves to their customers.
4. Identify Your Competitive Advantages
After you’ve reviewed your competitors, you should start to see trends emerging. Some of your competitors will have strengths where you don’t, and some will be weak where you’re strong. Ask yourself questions like:
- What can I do that competitors can’t?
- What can I do better than my competitors can?
- Where are my competitors failing in solving a customer’s problems?
- How important are my competitors’ strengths to my target market?
- Do I have strengths that offset my competitors’ strengths, but just in a different way?
5. Write Market Positioning Statement(s)
A market positioning statement isn’t something you use in your market materials, but it gives you a structure to start thinking of advertising statements. There are many different ways to go about writing market positioning statements, but here’s a simple template that you consider.
- For [your target customer] who [statement of problem], [our solution] provides [key benefit]. Unlike [main competitors], our [proof of key benefit].
For example, we could write our own market positioning statement for the healthy food store, Whole Foods.
- For people purchasing food for them and their family who want healthy food sustainably grown, Whole Foods provides a wide selection of healthy food choices. Unlike other grocery stores, we provide the world’s best, cleanest, and most sustainable, healthy, and ethical ingredients.
And, that statement could be turned into one of the ads they published when they launched their first national brand campaign. The main message was:
- The highest standards weren’t available, so we created them.
You may need just one market positioning statement, or you may need separate statements to target different products and/or different segments within your target market.
As you can see, the right market positioning is critical for your success. It will allow you to reach your target market in a way that will demand their attention. It will also allow you to make sure that you’re doing the best job possible of disarming your competition.