One of the key aspects of being successful with any business venture is positioning. It’s not always good enough to bring a quality product or service to market – you have to position that product or service, along with your business as a whole, properly. Many businesses over the years have been tripped up by poor positioning, whether they got it wrong or never even thought about it in the first place.
With this article, we’d like to help you gain a better understanding of what positioning is and exactly why it is so important. Once you see this matter clearly and grasp why some businesses work so hard to get it right, you’ll start to see the value of spending time on this topic in your own organization. This is an important topic, so let’s get started!
Why Positioning Matters
When first getting started in business, it’s tempting enough to think that all you need to do is create something (a product or a service) that can do a job well. Whatever the job is that your product or service is intended to do, as long as it does that thing well, you should have no trouble selling it – right?
As it turns out, the world is not that simple. When you take your product or service to the market, you might find that the target audience is not quite as receptive as you expected. And, if you don’t understand the value and importance of positioning, you may mistakenly believe the problem lies with the product or service itself. But that might not be it. Your offering could be fine, and it could be the positioning that is truly holding you back.
Let’s walk through an example to better understand why positioning is so important. Imagine that you operate a restaurant in your city. This is not a fast food joint, but rather a comfortable, welcoming place for people to come in and sit down to a good meal. Plenty of effort has gone into designing a menu that will appeal to local tastes and offer an enjoyable experience for diners.
That’s great, but when you start to advertise your restaurant, the only thing you decide to focus on is your prices. The messaging, or positioning, is all around the price of the food – which is naturally higher than some fast food options in the area, since you are offering a better experience and using higher quality ingredients.
This is obviously a strategy that would be doomed from the start. People who see your ads won’t want to pick your restaurant based on price alone, since you aren’t the cheapest, and you won’t be positioning the business correctly in terms of the value you offer to customers. Instead of talking about prices, you should be positioning this business based on what people are going to love about it – the quality of the food, the friendly atmosphere, etc. You aren’t in a race to the bottom on price in this kind of business, as you are trying to offer something more and attract people who are willing to pay for that experience.
No matter what type of business you are in, this concept applies. Positioning largely comes down to understanding what it is that your customers are likely to value, and then highlighting that point or points when promoting the business. It should be perfectly clear what customers stand to gain when they do business with you, as that clarity will make it much easier for them to reach into their wallets and actually spend some money.
Let the Market Speak
In some ways, your positioning may be sorted out for you by your existing customers – as long as you are willing to listen. When you take a product or service to market, you might not know exactly what it is about that offering that is going to resonate with the audience (if anything does at all). Ideally, you’ll be able to make a few sales, get some feedback on what people like and what they don’t, and the evolution process can start from that point.
So, one of the most important skills in positioning is simply listening to what people have to say and then using that to inform your strategy moving forward. To go back to our restaurant example from above, early diners might focus their feedback on a particular part of the menu that they love. When you keep hearing that certain dishes are favorites and cause people to come back over and over, you can position the brand around those dishes and perhaps start to specialize even more in that area. This would be positioning that is essentially done for you by the market.
Putting a method in place to formally capture feedback so you can use it for positioning is a wise move. This might come in the form of a survey that you ask customers to fill out in exchange for some type of reward, like a small discount on their next purchase. If you don’t ask customers for their opinions, you’ll be missing out on a huge opportunity to move your business in the right direction.
It’s About Emotions
Everything in business is about emotions. Different types of businesses deal with different types of emotions, but it all comes back to this central theme in one way or another. If you can make an emotional connection with your audience, you’ll build a loyal following and have a chance to exceed your goals. Without that connection, however, you are just another business and it may be hard to sustain any success that you do find.
When working on your positioning in the market, think about the emotions you are trying to evoke within your customers. In some cases, it won’t be so much that you are trying to trigger new emotions as you will be addressing the emotions that someone is already experiencing. For example, if someone is feeling anger over a problem that they can’t seem to solve, you could potentially come in with the solution and alleviate that anger. Or, if someone is feeling bored and you offer an entertainment product, your brand could be the path out of boredom and into a more enjoyable state.
It Has to Ring True
One of the critical pieces of the puzzle with positioning in business is that the path you take needs to be authentic and believable to the audience. In other words, you don’t want your attempts at positioning to make promises that you won’t be able to deliver on in the end. Is it possible for a tasty meal to offer a relaxing, fun night out of the house for your customers? Certainly. Is that meal going to change the entire rest of their life? Probably not. Being reasonable and authentic with your positioning will go a long way toward developing trust with the audience.
In this way, positioning is no different than anything else you do in business. No matter what it is, you always want it to be believable, and you always want the customer to have their experience match up with their expectations. As you work through your place in the market and try to decide how you’ll be positioned for the future, always keep this in mind and make sure everyone who comes into contact with your brand will buy your story.
Seeing the Bigger Picture
It’s easy to get dragged down into the day-to-day details of running a business, and in the process, you might lose sight of the bigger picture. When you are working on positioning it’s a good time to step back, take an overview of the landscape, and try to envision where things are going in the next few years. What changes do you see coming to your market? What opportunities might open up, or what threats could be lurking around the corner?
There is plenty of guesswork involved here, to be sure. However, it’s important to at least make some educated guesses, as you’ll then be able to think about how positioning is going to play a role in maintaining and growing your share of the market. If you expect a shift to take place relatively soon, you could try to get ahead of that shift by adjusting your positioning to match what you see happening in the market.
A good example of this kind of thinking in positioning can be seen with businesses that started to take a more eco-friendly tone years ago. While we are well past that point now, there was a time when eco-friendly concerns were very much a niche topic and didn’t resonate with the market as a whole. As that started to shift, however, and as more and more people started to become concerned about the environment, wise businesses were able to adjust their positioning to take a “greener” stance. To be sure, some companies elevated their performance to a whole new level by tapping into this kind of positioning.
This discussion takes us back to the point from above on being sure that the message is authentic. If a business simply starts to talk about environmental issues in its advertising, but doesn’t actually do anything to actively help the cause, that message won’t ring true and it might even backfire and turn into a negative. In the case of this example, a company that wants to take an eco-friendly positioning stance should also take measures like adjusting its operations to lessen its carbon footprint, donating money to environmental causes, and more. Backing up the positioning with action is when it really starts to come to life and become a core piece of the identity of the business.
Do the Work to Get It Right
There is no one correct way to position a business. Each business is unique, even if it operates in a space with plenty of similar competitors. Take the time necessary to work through some of the points we discussed in this article and you should be on track to nail your positioning and help your business rise to new heights in the months and years ahead.
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