Mine is Bigger Than Yours: Positioning That Moves Markets

Philip Kotler, affectionately known as the “Father of Modern Marketing,” once defined brand positioning as the “act of designing the company’s offering and image to occupy a distinctive place in the mind of the target market.”

It’s a lesson that any company, from scrappy upstarts to enterprise brands with a century of success, should take to heart — no matter your vertical or target audience, distinction is the key to effective positioning.

However, most companies fall short of this charge. According to Forbes, just one in four corporate brands is perceived as different from their competitors.

For brands looking to gain a competitive edge, the represents a tremendous opportunity.

What are the markers of strong positioning?

We’ve all seen messaging that fails to accurately communicate a brand’s vision or key benefits.

Whether it’s a lack of differentiation, failing to identify market hot buttons or putting technology ahead of customers, poor positioning can render other marketing efforts futile.

Instead, your messaging should:

  • Cast your audience as the hero: When a brand is excited about its technology, it can be difficult to talk about anything else. But that’s exactly what some of the most successful companies do. Instead of focusing on granular details or rehashing spec sheets, try highlighting how you can help your audience solve their problems.
  • Show strong differentiation from competitors: At Karbo Com we think in terms of firsts and onlys. Brands should do the same. Not only does it create the vertical separation that reporters crave, but it forces you to laser in on your solution’s unique benefits.
  • Be compelling and tied to current trends: Strong positioning is important, but it won’t get much visibility unless you are able to connect your brand to larger events or vertical issues. Opportunistic coverage is a great way to drive eyes to your solution while reinforcing its value within the market.
  • Speak to the needs and motivations of stakeholders: Many brands have a hard time segmenting their message for multiple audiences. Just consider the number of people involved in choosing a new software solution. At an (extremely) high level, you might need to convince IT decision makers, business analysts, end users and C-level executives that your software is the right choice. Your best chance for success? Start with a foundational message (your core value proposition) and tailor it for each persona’s needs and/or pain points.

Overhauling your brand message

Successful positioning is not only knowing what to include, but what to leave out. As a brand, this means having a clearly defined vision, access to data, input from stakeholders and more.

The following are some of the elements that go into the positioning process:

  • Research: The foundation of any positioning overhaul should be an in-depth analysis of your brand, your market and your competitors. Are there any gaps between your messaging and key vertical issues? Be sure to include product designers, engineers and business development specialists within your organization — they often have insight into additional pain points can be leveraged.
  • Stakeholder audit: The most effective positioning is visionary, not reactionary. Instead of getting trapped in a perpetual cycle of read and react, try dictating how people talk about your market. Soliciting input from internal and external stakeholders can help you identify future or under-represented vertical issues — and where your brand fits in the conversation.
  • Inventory analysis: Itemizing your brand’s strengths and opportunities can help drive the tone and tenor of your messaging. Start with a series of questions. What are the top characteristics that make your brand attractive? Are there any important features or technological capabilities that give you an edge over the competition? What are the specific market conditions driving your approach toward success?
  • Strawman positioning: Once your research is done, a round of strawman messaging — organized by company, technology and market — can help differentiate your brand and identify key trends to leverage in the months ahead.
  • Testing: No positioning exercise is complete without a few surprises. You could have the perfect benefit statement — written in clear, compelling language, tailored to a ready-made audience, delivered on the right channel at the right time — and it simply won’t perform. The key is constant measurement that allows you to refine your message’s tone, tenor, audience and format.

Measuring success

Positioning overhauls are rarely a binary exercise.

Although driving sales should be the ultimate goal of any marketing effort, the way you get there — and the metrics used to define success — varies by your brand and starting position. Metrics that are top of mind for one company might not matter for others.

Just think about the business value of a reduction in negative sentiment. For an enterprise brand coming off a wave of bad press or a PR crisis, this carries tremendous value. For a startup looking to increase its share of voice, it’s not as important.

The ultimate sign of positioning success for any brand? When your competitors start parroting your messages.

At Karbo Communications, we specialize in guiding brands through the complete positioning process, from market research and internal audits to the development of positioning statements. The end result? Clear differentiation, nuanced messaging, increased market understanding, and a clear roadmap of trends and opportunities to leverage in the months ahead.