Showing posts with label positioning. Show all posts
Showing posts with label positioning. Show all posts

Does Positioning Get the Attention it Deserves at Your Company?

My answer would be "no" based on most of the companies I’ve worked for and with over the years.  What is your gut response before reading this article?

All marketers learn about the original "Four Ps" of marketing and use them in all aspects of marketing strategy, planning, development and execution:

  1. Product – deals with the dimensions of the product being marketed.  This applies to all types of 'product' – whether it’s tangible, intangible, service, practice, etc.  The product dimension addresses characteristics such as the branding, functionality, design, quality, safety, packaging, warranty, etc.
  2. Price – deals with the dimensions of pricing decisions such as pricing strategy, suggested selling price, discounting, wholesale pricing, seasonal pricing, bundling, flexibility, price discrimination, etc.
  3. Place – deals with the dimensions about how the product reaches the customer.  Marketing decisions on place include distribution channels, coverage, channel members, inventory strategy, order processing, logistics, etc.
  4. Promotion – deals with the dimensions of promoting the product including decisions on promotional strategy, advertising, campaigns, promotions, selling, public relations, publicity, marketing communications, etc.
Al Ries and Jack Trout introduced the concept of Positioning as a key marketing strategy during the 1970’s and popularized Positioning as a core marketing discipline with their seminal book; Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind.  Since then many marketing practitioners and academics have included Positioning as the 5th P of marketing.  However, doing some quick checking around while writing this article, I was surprised to see many recently published materials, some from reputable sources, still referring to the original "Four Ps" without mentioning Positioning.  In spite of these surprising omissions, it does appear that most university curricula do include Positioning as one of the updated "Five Ps" of marketing.

So why is positioning most important?

Positioning deals with what you want to do in the mind of the prospect – i.e. how do you want prospects and customers to uniquely perceive your product in their minds regardless of exposure or familiarity with other similar or competing products – e.g. "safe vehicle" = "Volvo".  Positioning is the promise of the value you create for your customers.  Positioning cuts across the other 4 Ps and determines how you develop the specific dimensions of the other 4 Ps within the overriding positioning.

Positioning dictates what you do with a product and/or how you develop a product.  Pricing decisions must support the positioning.  Place is determined from positioning to define how to take a product to market.  Promotion is how you consistently communicate the positioning to the mind of the prospect.  If any of the 5 Ps are out of sync, your marketing strategy and execution will not produce good results.

According Philip Kotler of the Kellogg School of Management, all good marketing planning starts with Research, which reveals potential customer Segments, which determines the Targeting of specific segment(s) a company can serve better than anyone else.  The next step from this process is Positioning which must be done before considering Product, Price, Place & Promotion of marketing planning and execution.

A previous article discusses why positioning should take precedence over branding.

Where does Positioning fit in your business planning and marketing process?  Do senior management and other functional areas in your company understand and appreciate the importance of positioning before everyone runs off to build, market and sell product?  Your comments are always welcome.
Copyright © 2010 The Marketing Mélange and Ingistics LLC.

Are you Branding or Positioning?

Two interesting observations I’ve found over the years during discussions with B2B companies about Branding and Positioning:

  1. There always seems to be some confusion about what constitutes Branding versus Positioning
  2. Too many seem to want to start with Branding or do a Branding exercise.
A Brand is a visual, emotional or cultural identity in the minds of your buyers. Branding is the promotion of this identity in the market to place the visual, emotional or cultural association of your brand in your target buyers’ minds. However, Branding actually comes from Positioning, which must be developed before you even consider doing Branding.

According to Al Ries and Jack Trout in their seminal book Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, “Positioning starts with a product. A piece of merchandise, a service, a company, an institution, or even a person. Perhaps yourself. But positioning is not what you do to a product. Positioning is what you do to the mind of the prospect. That is, you position the product in the mind [and context] of the prospect.”

Both deal with placing something in your buyers’ minds. The key distinction is that Branding is an identity whereas Positioning is the promise of the value you create for your customers.

Here’s an often cited example to illustrate the difference – Volvo set out many years ago to build the safest vehicles on the road – that was an intentional position they wanted to claim in the automobile market. Volvo did not set out to brand the name, they focused on delivering on their positioning promise and proved it was real, not just some marketing eyewash. Today when someone mentions “safe vehicle” they think “Volvo”, or vice versa. The positioning, and delivering on the promise of value created the brand – not the other way round. That’s where the confusion arises, people look at companies like Volvo today and see a brand, but don’t realize how the brand identity actually evolved from the original positioning.

Branding takes many years, lots of money and consistent delivery on your positioning. When people think about great brands, it’s mostly consumer products like Coke, Nike, Starbucks, etc. I would argue that very few B2B companies qualify as great brands when you don’t confuse brute-force name recognition with branding.

“Nowadays, branding is often what you do when you cannot differentiate. So much of current marketing communications is shouting but with nothing special to say.” – Steve Johnson, Pragmatic Marketing

Most B2B marketers don’t have the resources, time or wherewithal to do a thorough job of branding. Successful B2B companies have great positioning and focus on delivering the promise of that positioning. Positioning is where you should start and spend your time as a successful B2B marketer. Branding will come from good positioning and delivering on your promise.

Your comments are always welcome.
Copyright © 2009 The Marketing Mélange and Ingistics LLC.

You’re Selling What to Whom?

Here’s an interesting bit of low-cost research that could provide valuable insights into whether various people in your organization really understand your value proposition and market position. Ask two simple questions:

  • What are you selling?
  • Who are your buyers?
Start with the marketing and sales organizations. Ask the questions individually and record the answers verbatim. Doing this in person either face-to-face or on a phone call as an interview wherever you can provides additional insights to observe how people respond. A simple online survey can be used for people who can’t be reached personally. IMO, interviews are more effective than surveys for this type of research.

Besides providing the obvious measure of how well the market positioning, messaging and value propositions from marketing are understood, this little research project can yield interesting additional insights.

In response to “what are you selling?” IMO the only valid answers are those that describe what is being sold in the context of the value defined by customer. So, instead of the more typical answer of “I’m selling a world-class inventory management solution”, a customer value oriented answer might be “I’m providing our customers the means to increase their customer service levels by at least 10% without increasing their investment in inventory”.

"In the factory we make cosmetics; in the store we sell hope."
– Charles Revson (founder of Revlon Cosmetics)

The “who are your buyers?” is intended to determine who in your organization really understands the qualification characteristics of the right prospective buyers. Good answers should include the multiple dimensions of industry, market segment, company demographics, psychographics and buyer profiles of the individuals involved in making the buying decisions.

Ask the CEO, COO, CFO and other functional areas these same questions – you might be surprised by some of the answers.

For the only answers that really matter, ask your customers what value they perceived they were buying with your product/service/solution. Ask them who was involved in the decision process and why they made this choice.

You should have a lot of interesting data points and insights to reconcile from this project. Marketing is responsible for ensuring that the company has the right positioning, messaging and customer value propositions, but more importantly that everyone in the organization is in agreement and understands how this applies to their role.

Your comments are always welcome.
Copyright © 2009 The Marketing Mélange and Ingistics LLC.