Positioning is the process of describing and promoting value in a way that is consistent with what people already believe to be true. Done correctly it will establish credibility and make your product more valuable than alternative offerings. This also means your range of marketing claims and messages is limited by what people already believe. And perceptions are very slow to change.
Customers ‘position’ a product and company in relative terms of importance and value in their minds based on what the company does, not what it says. To position a product effectively, we must know how well customers understand your product offering and how they currently perceive its value.
More money is wasted on advertising than any other promotional activity. A company cannot establish credibility or create a position in the marketplace with advertising. And advertising is also a poor choice if your target audience is skeptical or if the message you are trying to communicate is complex. Think of advertising as a way to reinforce positive differentials that already exist.
With products that are more costly, complicated or high-risk, the customer has more at stake. So all of the typical methods used in low-risk consumer marketing — branding, image, storytelling, celebrity endorsements, symbols to reinforce associations, etc. — are totally ineffective. The only way to market a new offering is with methods that reduce risk in the mind of the customer.
Positioning is the process of describing your technology, product, market and company using words that are likely to exist in the customer’s head. When you communicate with customers using information they have already accepted, it makes your product easier to buy.
The easiest products to buy are the ones that occupy an uncontested space in your customer’s brain. And there are four stages in the process of building this uncontested space, each stage corresponds to the four primary stages of the Technology Adoption Lifecycle.
Initial positioning must be based on a name and its category. Because innovators have a technology orientation, positioning messages must include a technically-correct description of the product that also differentiates it from other products in the same category.
For Early Adopters
Positioning for Early Adopters must include a description of the end user, and the problem the product is designed to solve. And because early adopters are most interested in achieving some form of competitive advantage, positioning messages at this stage must include a statement about potential impact.
For The Early Majority
Positioning for the Early Majority must compare your product to alternatives in the same category. Because the early majority is most interested in following the herd in their industry, this addition to the messages from the preceding stages will allow the customer to set expectations and also create points of reference.
For The Late Majority
Positioning for the Late Majority must dramatically lower risk and allow the customer to feel totally secure. This type of secure feeling can only come from a company that has a dominant position in a product category.
Since it’s not possible to know the exact stage of adoption of the people who might be listening, you must deliver all four types of positioning messages — company, market, product and technology — every time you communicate with an audience.
With a complete understanding of adopter characteristics and psychology, we can position a product using the right content at the right time, allowing the message to connect perfectly with customers. This is all part of our market strategy development process, the Customer Alignment Lifecycle (CAL). Learn more about our growth strategy consulting services.