Let’s be honest in some circles marketing has a bad reputation. Marketing, according to some, is all about tricking people the buying something they otherwise wouldn’t buy.

A better mousetrap

From this perspective, products and services should speak for themselves
people should choose what to buy based on the merits not based on persuasive appeals.The better mousetrap philosophy of business.

According to this view companies just innovate, then consumers evaluate the various offerings and then they beat a path to the door of the firm that develops the best mousetrap.

No puffery, no spin, no withholding of information that’s the way the world should work and the only thing keeping us from this glorious business utopia is the deviousness of those duplicitous marketers who obscure and obfuscate.

Communicating value through positioning

As you might expect this better mousetrap theory of business is not a point of view that I endorse. In fact I’m going to argue that the better mousetrap narrative more often than not gets things exactly backward.

It is far more common for great products to fail not because of deceptions or incomplete information but because the marketers who were supposed to be championing this great product failed to communicate the true value of their own offering.

This is why we need an effective positioning, which is the process of determining which aspects of the offering are most important in creating value for the customer and then clearly communicating that value.

The positioning process

The sad reality is that companies frequently develop products and services that are objectively better than the competition in some way but failed to gain any traction in the marketplace and very often these marketplace failures are actually positioning failures.

With that in mind let’s look at the positioning process. It involves two steps and then two checks. First we start by developing an offering’s value proposition, secondly we select one or two key benefits that anchor the positioning.

Now we have two checks to ensure that our positioning is achieving its objectives: the first checks if our offer does in fact create value for our target customer, the second check is about differentiting our offering from the competition.

The value proposition

The value proposition is an objective assessment of all the benefits of buying owning and consuming a product or service from the customer’s perspective.

The longer list of benefits constitutes the value proposition and if we delivered in a better mousetrap world we would simply communicate all this information to the customer and let them decide.

Telling a customer that a car is luxurious and safe and reliable and exclusive should be more persuasive than telling them about just one of those attributes.

The key benefit

But, if you know anything about Volvo you already know the punchline to the story. Volvo didn’t throw all this information at their potential customers when telling them about its cars.

They successfully implemented the second step in positioning which is to take the value proposition and then choose just one key benefit to communicative customers. In Volvo’s case it was safety.

It’s not that the other benefits and Volvo’s value proposition were somehow hidden, but when communicating to customers, especially in advertising, the main message delivered over and over is that Volvo makes safe cars.

Value proposition is not positioning

Remember that your value proposition is not your positioning. Don’t tell your customer everything that is great about your offering. Keep it simple!
very rarely are consumers sufficiently motivated to process and understand complex messages.

when consumers don’t appreciate just how great your offering is simply giving them more information is not the solution, and we need to perform are two checks to ensure that our position will meet our objectives.

First, ask yourself: does the positioning make it clear what value is being provided to the target customer? Secondly, check if the positioning makes it clear how the offering is different from and better than competing offerings.

Creating value for your target customer

First we have to make sure that we are providing value to the target customer. One way of thinking about positioning is just as the flip-side of targeting.

A given benefit will not create value for everyone, exactly the same benefit would be a competitive advantage for a certain target customer group and shrugged off as irrelevant you are targeting a different group.

So, when choosing the one benefit you want to position on look at your target customers, what is it that they value most, how are they making their decisions. Positioning can make or break your offering.

Differentiate your offering

A second check is making sure that you differentiate your offering from the competition an important part of positioning a product is giving customers points of parity with other offerings.

Telling people what your product is like as well as defining points of differentiation. Telling people what you’re offering is doing that is different from and superior to other offerings.

And you would see the perfect example of differentiation if you analyze some advertising from the men’s shower gel category. Ads created to promote several different brands in the category and you’ll be able to see the different positioning strategies the points of parity and points of differentiation used by each brand.

A positioning statement

A positioning statement is a single sentence that encapsulates everything that’s important about the offerings position in the marketplace. positioning statements are not tag-lines or slogans, they are primarily for internal consumption, for keeping the entire marketing department and ideally the entire company focused and on message.

Positioning statements include several important pieces of information. First, they should include a brief description of the target customer. Second, they should refer to the brands or product category that serves the competition this establishes the points of parity.

Finally a positioning statement should clearly and concisely articulate the primary benefit the point of differentiation that this offering presents to the customer relative to the competition.

So, there you have the key components of positioning: two steps, two checks and a strong statement to keep the company focused.

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