Youve decided there is a market for your products. Youve researched that market and chosen the segments you intend to target. Before finalizing your marketing plan, youll need to decide how to position your brand, products, or services.
Positioning is a strategic component of the marketing mix that helps you determine:
1. Where you stand in the minds of consumers
2. Where you stand when compared to your competitors
3. How you will differentiate your company and/or products in the marketplace
Positions are closely tied to reputation. When a company goes after a particular brand reputation, its positioning efforts would follow suit. But there is a distinction to be made between the brand itself and the brand position. A brand is a reputation, assumedly built on facts; it likes to stand on its own, without comparison. A position is always relative. It is absorbed in the minds of consumers, based on comparative marketing and brand or product differentiation.
In line with business objectives, companies attempt to capture a position based on brand or product dimensions, including but not limited to:
Once a desired position is identified, companies market accordingly. The process of positioning begins with a strategic choice influenced by a companys business objectives. When positioning, you need to consider your brand and product potential and how you will tease out the response you need from the people who make up your market. As you make headway, you must follow through with continual analysis of market factors, consumer perceptions, and competitor actions.
Establishing Market Position.
When positioning, a good first step is to decide what you want consumers in specific markets to see, hear, feel, think, and believe about your brands, products, or services relative to those of your competitors.
When you develop a brand, you create an image for your company, products, and/or services. Then you act in ways that reinforce that image. When you position a brand, you decide how to influence consumers beliefs about your brand, products, and/or services by comparison to others. To capture a specific slot, you need an action plan that will shape perception, build demand, capture the market position you desire, and build name recognition in your intended bracket.
Think of positioning as marketing psychology. Marketers Al Ries and Jack Trout, defined market positioning as the space products or services occupy in the minds of customers. This dynamic element of the marketing mix lays the foundation for the emotional appeal behind every sale. It also is a highly volatile component of the marketing mix, since it is continually targeted by competitor action.
When you choose a position that resonates well with your targeted market, everyone will think you are a marketing genius. Reinforce that position with sound business strategy, effective branding, creative promotion, the right market placements, competitive strength, and relevant pricing and you will position for profitability.
Strategies for Market Positioning
The goal of every positioning process is to capture top-of-mind status in the mind space you choose. How you position depends on five things:
1. Your overall business goals and corporate strategies
2. What you want to be known for
3. Whom you intend to influence
4. Whom and what you are positioning against
5. Your resources for snagging the slot you want
Successful politicians are masters of positioning. Campaign managers conduct polls to learn which issues are most important to voters and how those issues interact to influence a voters feeling about a candidate. Based on research, candidates and their campaign managers develop positions they believe will engage the good will of the electorate and garner the most votes. Marketers work the same way when attempting to capture brand or product positions.
THE FIVE-STEP POSITIONING PROCESS
1. Choose your market and study your competition. Consider industry size and scope, geographic reach, accessibility, market maturity, and market opportunities and competition. Learn what motivates buyers and influences brand, product, and service preferences. Assess the hold that competitors have on the market as well as their strengths and weaknesses.
2. Choose your positioning strategy. As a marketer, you can position your brand and products against competitors along a number of dimensions: price, place, product, promotion, people (i.e., service), and quality. You can position based on features, benefits, and purpose (i.e., use). You can position directly against another brand name (e.g., Avis says, We try harder when positioning against Hertz and other rental agencies). You can make a direct product comparison (e.g., Burger King says theyve got more beef in their Whoppers than competitors have in their burgers). The important thing to remember is that successful marketers communicate value on dimensions proven to be important to their target customers .
3. Communicate your position. Give your market position a mouthpiece through marketing communication. Use words that communicate your value in the space you choose. Reinforce your position using the power of sensory integration, whenever possible.
4. Evaluate your positioning effort. Marketing is an ongoing process and needs monitoring. Gather data that will help validate that your positioning is on track, or identify variables that will guide you to the right strategic advantage. Collect information about customer perception of value-based product features, price, accessibility, quality of experience, and/or other relevant dimensions. Measure results. Determine mind share relative to your competitors. Analyze where you stack up. Decide where you want to be.
5. Review and respond as needed. Are you at the top, middle, or bottom of your positioning bracket? You need to create competitive advantage and then hold the gains. Remember that positioning is a process. The FOCUS approach to quality management will help you monitor that process.
1. Find a process to improve.
2. Organize a positioning process improvement team, as needed.
3. Collect data.
4. Understand the variables influencing perception.
5. Start the adjustment process.
Positioning to Your Best Advantage
Positioning begins with choosing the best fit for your products. That means doing marketing research. Marketing research tools, such as surveys and focus groups, can help you decide which issues carry the most weight. The information you gain will help you choose and promote the right position, based on analysis of your own strengths as well as those of from people and companies they like and trust. Second, they buy based on the perceived benefit that a brand, product, or service will deliver. Your value proposition should explain, in just a few words, why a prospective buyer should choose you over your competitors. You must communicate what the buyer can expect when doing business with you. As you uncover what consumers consider valuable, you will find clues to a meaningful position. Here are some questions to ask yourself:
1. What makes us different from our competitors?
2. What unmet needs can we fill?
3. How can we gain the best competitive advantage?
4. What else can we do to increase perceived value of our brand, products, and services?
5. Is there room for innovation, and will innovation make a difference to our prospective customers?
6. How imporant will changes in our products, brand, and services be to our customers?
7. How can we quantify that?
8. What can we do to prove our value and/or justify our price?
When you identify the most valuable aspects of your brand, you will develop a pathway to increase both mind share (i.e., positioning) and market share (i.e., sales).
Watch this video to learn more on Positioning: Brands, Products and Services.