When it comes to positioning your business, you might feel like you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. You want to be aggressive and go after the biggest players in your industry, but you also don’t want to compromise your resources and values or alienate potential customers. So, how do you find the right balance?
As it turns out, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Every company has to find its own unique place in the market. But if you’re looking for some guidance, then you might want to take a page from Apple’s playbook.
For years, Apple has been the gold standard when it comes to strategic positioning. Cell phones were widely available before Apple dipped its toe into the market. And yet, the company not only thrived but dominated the market. How? By carving out a niche as the premium option in the tech world without sacrificing functionality or alienating potential customers.
And while many factors fuelled Apple’s success, one of the most important is the company’s focus on simplicity. This quality set Apple apart and garnered wide appeal — from tech-savvy early adopters to mainstream consumers looking for easy-to-use mobile devices.
If you’re looking to position your business for success, we’re here to help! In this article, we’re going to share some tips for approaching strategic positioning the right way.
What is strategic positioning?
Strategic positioning is the process of differentiating your business from the competition. It’s about finding a way to make your company stand out in the minds of consumers so that they think of you first when they need relevant products or services.
You can achieve this in a number of different ways, such as offering the lowest prices in your industry, the best customer service, or the most innovative products.
Let’s say you run a coffee shop. If you position yourself as the cheapest option in town, you might attract budget-conscious customers who are only interested in getting their caffeine fix. But if you position yourself as a premium coffee shop that offers a luxurious experience, you’ll appeal to customers who are willing to spend more for a higher-quality product. If your shop is surrounded by budget options, it might make more sense to offer premium coffee. Or you can go budget-conscious but offer deals or freebies your competitors don’t.
It’s important to remember that whatever approach you take, it needs to be sustainable in the long term.
Why is strategic positioning important?
If you can find a way to differentiate your business from the competition, you’ll be in a better position to attract and retain customers. And that’s good for your bottom line.
Also, strategic positioning isn’t just about attracting new customers. It can help you improve your company culture and appeal to your existing customer base, encouraging them to spend more.
How to approach strategic positioning
Now that we’ve answered the big questions, let’s look at how you can put it into practice. Before creating your strategy, you’ll need to consider the three Cs of strategic positioning. These are:
- Channel: which channels will you use to reach your target market? Will you focus on online marketing, offline marketing, or a combination of both?
- Customer: what do your target customers want and need? What are they looking for in a product or service? How can you position your company in a way that will appeal to them?
- Competition: who are your closest competitors, and how are they positioning themselves in the market? What can you learn from them? What are they doing well or poorly?
What are the four types of positioning strategies?
Now, let’s take a look at the most common types of positioning strategies:
- Product position
- Price position
- Quality position
- Competition position
1. Product positioning
A product positioning strategy focuses on setting your product or service apart from the competition. You need to think about what makes your product unique (a.k.a. unique selling proposition) and how you can communicate its benefits. For example, your product may have more applications than similar options, a patented production process, or a much shorter learning curve.
2. Price positioning
Here, it’s all about pricing your product or service in a way that differentiates it from the competition. Consider what price point will appeal to your target market and how you can communicate your value proposition in a way that resonates with them.
Another option is to position your product or service as a premium option — one that stands head and shoulders above the competition. You need to think about what features and benefits are perceived as more valuable and how you can continually improve upon these selling points.
4. Competition positioning
A competition-based strategy focuses on marketing your brand or product as directly better than the competition. You can emphasize a range of factors — higher quality, more on-trend, more features, easier to use, better customer service…or all of the above.
How to create a positioning strategy: a step-by-step guide
Once you’ve thought about the core elements, it’s time to move on to your strategic positioning strategy. Here’s a step-by-step walkthrough.
1. Define Your Target Market
The first step in any good marketing strategy is getting to know your customers. And this step is especially important when it comes to defining your business’s strengths. After all, if you don’t know who you’re trying to reach, then it will be tricky, if not impossible, to find a position that resonates.
So, take some time to think about the type of customer you want to attract, and create a user persona for guidance. A persona is a semi-fictional profile representing your ideal customer, which can be helpful in bringing your target market to life and understanding their needs, wants, and pain points on a more personal level.
2. Research Your Competition
Researching your competition will help you understand the landscape you’re operating in and give you ideas about how to position your business.
Start by making a list of your direct competitors. Then, take a look at their positioning strategy. What are they doing that’s working well? And what are they doing that you could do better?
You can also use this research to find some ideas about which positioning strategies to avoid. For example, if all of your competitors are positioned as the low-cost option, then that’s probably not a good strategy for you to adopt. But if they’re all positioned in a similar way, you might be able to find an opening by taking a different approach.
3. Find Your Unique Selling Point
Once you’ve defined your target market and researched your competition, it’s time to start thinking about your unique selling proposition (USP). What makes your business different from all of the others in your market?
Differentiation could involve anything from your company’s history to the way you make your products. It could even be something as simple as your customer service policy. But whatever this selling point is, it needs to set you apart.
Once you’ve identified your USP, you can use it to inform your positioning strategy. The stronger your USP, the greater the opportunity to position yourself as a market leader. However, if your price point is your USP, you might want to position yourself as the budget-friendly option.
4. Write a positioning statement
A positioning statement is a short, clear description of how you want your target market to perceive your business. It’s not just a marketing tool: use it as an elevator pitch for investors and stakeholders and a uniting statement that helps your internal team understand what you’re about and why.
It should answer the core question ‘what makes your company different, and why should people care?’
A good positioning statement will be unique, memorable, and relevant to your target market. It will also be something that you can realistically achieve. Here’s an example of a positioning statement:
Our cafe is the only one in town that offers organic, fair-trade coffee. We’re committed to providing our customers with the highest-quality product possible, and we think they’ll appreciate our dedication to sustainability.
Here’s another, for a similar business:
Our cafe is the only one in town that offers a luxury experience. We have comfortable seating, free Wi-Fi, and a wide selection of gourmet coffees and teas. We want our customers to relax and enjoy their time with us.
See how they both sell the same thing, but focus on different features of their businesses? This is what you’re aiming to do.
5. Think about your marketing
Once you’ve finalized your positioning statement, think about how you can bring it to life. Your marketing strategy should align with your positioning statement and focus on the most effective channels for reaching your target market.
For instance, online marketing may be a good option for targeting young, trendy, tech-savvy, and business-savvy customers. It’s typically more cost-effective than offline marketing, and the aforementioned groups tend to research and buy products online.
On the other hand, offline marketing channels are useful for targeting local customers in your geographic region. While it may cost more, you’re typically competing against fewer businesses and getting much more repeat contact with target customers.
A blend of online and offline marketing could be the way to go for some businesses. Depending on your goals, TV ads, experiential campaigns, radio spots, websites, direct mail, and tradeshows can all be effective. The better you know your audience, the more you’ll learn where and how to reach them.
4. Test and refine your strategy
Next, see how your strategy resonates with your target market, and make sure it differentiates you from the competition. Then, based on your findings, make any necessary adjustments to fine-tune it.
Testing can take several forms. You could conduct market research, such as surveys and focus groups, or exploratory testing if you’re releasing software. A/B testing and other website analytics tools work well for measuring the performance of online marketing campaigns.
Regardless of the method (or methods) you choose, the important thing is to constantly refine your strategy. This way, you can ensure you’re always offering the best possible value to your target market.
Also, keep in mind that your strategic positioning is likely to change over time. As your business grows and evolves, your target market will as well. And as the competitive landscape shifts, you may need to adjust your strategy to improve your business operations and better serve customers. So, it’s important to be flexible and ready to pivot your business when your positioning strategy no longer delivers the best results.
Strategic positioning: best practice
Here are some tips to help you smash this.
- Keep it simple: don’t try to be everything to everyone. It’s important to focus on a niche market and position your product or service in a way that appeals to them. Trying to please everyone will weaken your overall strategy.
- Be different: you need to find a way to differentiate yourself from the competition. Think about what makes your product or service unique and how you can communicate that to your target market.
- Be consistent: once you find a strategy that works, stick with it. Consistency is key when it comes to positioning yourself in the market and growing your business.
- Be flexible: be prepared to reassess your value proposition and adapt. As the market changes, so should your positioning strategy. Keep an eye on the competition, and adjust as needed.
- Collaborate: brainstorm with your team, and get input from others who are familiar with your business and your target market. The more perspectives you have, the better.
- Use collaboration tools: nowadays, there’s no excuse for only offering phone and email. Google docs, video, and cloud-based diagramming tools are great options for brainstorming with distant team members. Chat apps make it easy to communicate informally and create groups, while project management software can help you to keep track of your progress in real-time.
By following these tips, you’ll be well on your way to developing the right strategic positioning for your business. Just remember to take your time, do your research, and test your strategy before you commit to it. With a little bit of effort, you’ll be able to find a position that works well for you and helps you stand out from the competition.
But whatever approach you take, remember that the most important thing is to stay true to your core values. After all, it’s those values that will ultimately guide your business to success.