P.S. If you need help with product positioning, reach out.
Good market positioning isn’t just for early-stage startups. It’s a long-term strategy that can help you secure funding, attract talent, and scale your business.
The subject often takes a backseat to product development, but it’s crucial for your startup’s success.
Let’s unpack what product positioning is, how it helps, and how to do it right.
What is product positioning and why does it matter?
Product positioning is the mental space you want to occupy in your customer’s mind. It’s how you differentiate your product from the competition.
It’s not just about what your product does, but why it matters to the customer. This is key to any GTM strategy.
The sooner you nail down your product positioning, the better it will resonate with your target audience, especially in competitive markets like B2B SaaS.
The benefits of strong product positioning
Good market positioning makes a product launch and everything else afterward easier. It can help you:
- Attract the right customers: Good positioning acts like a magnet for your ideal customer while repelling the wrong ones. This helps you focus your marketing effort where it’ll have the most impact.
- Gain a competitive advantage: Successful product positioning allows you to compete effectively against larger, more established competing products.
- Penetrate new markets: A well-positioned product helps you gain market share, creating a powerful network effect that accelerates growth.
- Build brand awareness: Effective positioning can make your startup the first thing that comes to mind when a potential customer thinks about your product category.
- Build a long-term brand: Beyond short-term gains, good positioning contributes to building a strong, enduring brand identity.
- Establish authority: Strong brand positioning can make you an industry thought leader through content marketing, giving you media coverage and exposure.
- Define your pricing strategy: Knowing your target market’s willingness to pay helps you set the right price for your product.
- Market more effectively: A strong positioning process helps you craft a resonant product marketing strategy that influences customer perception in the long run.
- Reduce churn: A unique position ensures your customer’s expectations are met, reducing the likelihood of them leaving for a competitor.
- Increase sales: Effective positioning can lead to higher conversion rates and customer loyalty.
- Attract talent and partners: Clear positioning can help you attract the right team members and business partners.
- Secure funding: Investors are more likely to back a startup with clear, compelling positioning.
Keep the same message everywhere you talk about your product, like your website or ads.
How to create an effective positioning strategy
To make a good plan for showing off your product, first know who you’re selling to. Then create a short, strong message that tells people why they should pick your product.
This message will guide all your ads and how you talk about the product. Below are some key questions to ask.
Key questions for crafting your product positioning
- Who will buy it? Know who you’re selling to. Market segmentation might be needed here if you have more than one target audience.
- What problem does it fix? Make sure you know why people need your product.
- What’s good about it? Pick two or three main things that make it great.
- Who else sells something like it? Know your competition through thorough market research.
- What do people think of them? This helps you know how to be different.
- What sets your product apart? It needs to be unique in some way.
- What’s the big picture? Keep an eye on trends to stay current.
Once you know these things, you can make a short, strong message that tells people why they should pick your product.
Start with customer insights
Before you even think about writing a positioning statement, you need to have a thorough understanding of your target customer.
Conduct customer interviews, surveys, and market research to gather data on customer needs, pain points, and preferences.
This information will help you identify the specific customer segment you should focus on and what they truly value in a product like yours.
Define your unique value proposition
Once you know your target customer, the next step is to define your unique value proposition (UVP).
Your UVP is the one thing that sets your product apart from competitors in a way that matters to your target customer.
You can position your product based on:
- Price: You can say it’s cheap and good value, or expensive but worth it.
- Safety: If it’s a safe choice, like a car with good brakes, say so.
- Culture: If your product is good for the planet or a certain group of people, make that clear.
- Health benefits: If it’s good for you, like organic food, say that.
- Personalization: If people can change colors or settings, highlight that.
- Novelty: If your product has a new feature, talk about it.
- Quality: If it’s made really well, let people know.
- Convenience: If it saves time or is simple, say that.
- Feelings: If your product makes people happy or nostalgic, mention it.
- Reviews: Use social proof to show it’s a product people like.
The key is to identify something that is both unique to your product and highly valued by your customer.
Analyze the competitive landscape
Understanding your competition is key to making your product stand out. Here’s how to do marketing research properly:
- Make a list: Write down who your main competitors are. Look at both big and small companies.
- What they say: Check out their ads, websites, and social media. What words or phrases do they use a lot?
- Who they sell to: See if they’re aiming for the same people you are, or different groups. This can be age groups, interests, or even locations.
- What’s special: Find out what they say makes their product great. Is it the price, quality, or something else?
- Compare: Put your product next to theirs. What do you have that they don’t? This could be a better price, more features, or better quality.
- Find gaps: Look for what’s missing in the market. Maybe there’s a group of people who aren’t being served well, or a feature that’s missing from current products.
- Make your plan: Use what you’ve learned to decide how to talk about your product. Pick the things that make you different and better, and focus on that in your ads and talks.
By the end of this exercise, you should have a better idea of how to make your product stand out to the people you want to sell to.
Craft the product positioning statement
Crafting your main marketing message, also known as a product positioning document, is a big step. Here’s how to do it in three steps:
- What it does: Start by saying what your product actually does. Is it a vacuum that cleans really well? Is it a phone app that helps people save money?
- Who it’s for: Next, say who would want to use it. Are you aiming for busy parents, students, or maybe older adults?
- Why it’s better: Finally, add why your product is better than others. Does it have more features, a better price, or is it just easier to use?
Combine these three parts into one or two short sentences. For example, “Our vacuum is perfect for busy parents because it cleans fast and is easy to use.”
This short message will be your guide. Use it to help you decide what to say in all your ads, social media posts, and any other place you talk about your product.
Make sure it’s specific so it really helps, but also keep it simple so you can change it if you need to later.
Test and refine
After you’ve made your first positioning statement, it’s important to see if it actually works. Here’s how to do that in simple steps:
- Surveys: Create a short questionnaire asking people what they think of your message. Do they understand it? Does it make them want to buy your product?
- Talk to customers: If you can, speak directly to people who might buy your product. Ask them what they think of your message and if it makes the product sound appealing.
- A/B testing: This means trying two different messages to see which one works better. You can do this in online ads, emails, or even on your website. Show one message to half your audience and the other message to the other half. See which one gets more people interested.
- Look at the data: After you’ve done these tests, look at what people said or how they acted. Did one message get more clicks or sales? Did people seem confused or clear about what you’re selling?
- Make changes: Use what you’ve learned to make your main message better. Maybe you need to make it clearer, or focus on a different feature that people care more about.
- Use tools: Certain tools and platforms like UserTesting and Wynter can help you test your positioning statement against a live panel of your ideal users.
Align with internal teams
Getting everyone in your company on the same page about your main message is important. Here’s how to do it in simple terms:
- Share the message: First, make sure everyone in your company knows what your main message is. You can do this through emails, meetings, or even posters around the office.
- Workshops: Hold special meetings where teams can learn about the main message and talk about how it fits into their work. This is good for people who make the product, sell it, or help customers.
- Training: Sometimes people need more than just a meeting. You might need to train them on how to use the main message in their daily work. This could be scripts for customer service or guidelines for making ads.
- Questions and answers: Give people a chance to ask questions or give feedback. Maybe they have good ideas for making the message better, or maybe they don’t understand something and need it explained.
- Check-in: After everyone has had time to use the main message in their work, check to see how it’s going. Are people using it correctly? Is it helping? If not, you might need more training or a new message.
Doing these steps makes your ads, customer service, and even the product itself better because everyone is focused on what makes it special.
Aligning your product strategy with customer needs
Your main message should guide everything you do, not just your ads. Ideally, product marketing and product management should work together.
Here’s how to make sure everything lines up:
- Make features people want: Your product should do what your main message says. If you say it’s easy to use, your product manager should make sure it really is.
- Make it easy to use: The way people use your product should match your main message. This includes everything from how it looks to getting help from customer service.
- Price it right: Your price should match what people expect from your main message. If you say you’re high quality, it’s okay to charge more. If you say you’re a good deal, keep it cheap.
- Be consistent: Make sure you’re saying the same thing everywhere. This helps people trust you and makes it easier for your team to know what to do.
- Check how you’re doing: Keep track of things like sales or customer feedback to see if your plan is working. Use what you learn to make your product positioning strategy better.
By ensuring that your product strategy is in complete alignment with your brand positioning strategy, you’re not just making promises; you’re keeping them.
This builds credibility, fosters customer loyalty, and sets the stage for long-term success.
Adapting to market changes
Being stuck can hurt your brand. Your main message should be flexible to adjust to new customer likes, new tech, and competitors.
For example, if people start caring more about eco-friendly products, consider highlighting your product’s green features.
Monitor market trends and customer feedback
Keep an eye on trends and what customers say. Use social media, surveys, and look at competitors to learn.
For example, if you see people complaining on social media about a feature your product also lacks, think about adding it.
Reevaluate your unique value proposition
Sometimes your product differentiation isn’t special anymore. If that happens, see if your product still stands out.
For example, if everyone starts offering free shipping, and that was your brand’s special thing, you’ll need to find a new angle.
Adjust your messaging
If your current message isn’t working, think about changing it a bit. You don’t have to change everything, just focus on different good things about your product.
For example, if a competing brand offers a product with more features, you could focus on how your product is simpler and easier to use.
Update your product strategy
If a customer need changes, you might need to change your product. This could be new features, making it easier to use, or even changing the price.
For example, if customers start to value quick setup, you might add a “Quick Start Guide” to your product package.
Test and iterate
After changes, see if they work. Use tests, talk to customers, and look at sales to see if your new message is better.
For example, you could run an A/B test on your website, showing the old message to some visitors and the new one to others, then see which one gets more clicks or sales.
Doing all this helps you adjust to market changes and keep your product and message strong.
Final thoughts on product positioning
Effective product positioning is crucial, especially if you’re just starting out and don’t have a lot of money for ads or promotions.
A good message tells a potential customer why they should pick your product over others.
It helps you stand out and can make people want to buy from you and keep coming back.
So, spend time figuring out your unique selling proposition and how to talk about it in a simple, clear way. And if you need help, reach out.
Mohammed Shehu, Ph.D. writes on content and marketing for creators and brands. You can find him online @shehuphd everywhere.