Positioning Statements in Action – part 1

The following is a snippet from The Marketing High Ground. More details of this example, including many others, can be found in the book. Additional examples will be shared and briefly reviewed in future posts.

A criteria to help evaluate positioning statements

So, how do you know if you’ve created an effective positioning statement? The following cheat sheet can help guide teams through the creation and evaluation exercise. (As a side note, sometimes marketers try to use the tool as an “I win, you lose” lead pipe to beat their colleagues with. Obviously, that approach may work once, but those who take this road end up walking a lonely path. Instead, when used as a collaborative strategy tool, the positioning statement exercise helps cross-function teams approach the market in a lock-step partnership aimed at addressing the market’s needs better than any competitive alternative.)

A real positioning statement example

Working the positioning statement exercise is more art than science, and the output is somewhat subjective. This positioning statement was developed in 2000, before search engines became a component of just about every online interaction. As you review this example, refer to the cheat sheet. What aspects are clear? Where might you provide refinements? While this is a real positioning statement, the name of the company and its product have been removed to protect their confidentiality.

A bit of background: prior to conducting the positioning statement exercise, there was no documented positioning statement. Engineers, with their noses to the grindstone, had a view of the product that they kept secret to themselves. Sales reps, as a result, were forced to use their own interpretation. I, as the newly anointed marketing VP had to figure out what was real and what was hyperbole. I used the positioning statement exercise to bring the groups together. It worked like magic.

A quick evaluation of the positioning statement reveal the following pros and cons.

Pros:

  • This statement is very easy to read and understand. Upon reading it, every marketer and sales rep understood it and could repeat it. The engineers became advocates for it, as well.
  • The target audience is not “everyone.” Even with this short description, the reader can get a sense of what companies might be included in the target list.
  • There are three competitive alternatives listed, each highlighting a shortcoming. This gives the marketer a foundation for some interesting messaging angles.

Cons:

  • The biggest risk here is regarding a sustainable benefit. As technology improves, the marketer needs to be very careful to constantly update the positioning strategy to stay relevant and not be seen as “old school” or out of touch.
As I mentioned earlier, the single biggest benefit of this positioning statement was that it aligned sales, marketing, and engineering. We proceeded to launch the product with confidence in knowing that we were all on the same page. As a result, a collection of sales and marketing tools were created that reflected this single-minded positioning statement. 

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