This weekend I finished reading one of the best books on positioning, a book by April Dunford called Obviously Awesome: How to Nail Product Positioning so Customers Get It, Buy It, Love It, by April Dunford.
As a content marketing manager in the fintech space, I love thinking about ways companies can strategically use content to meet business objectives, generate more leads, connect with their audience, and convert prospects into customers.
However, as I continued to create compelling content strategies, I began to realize there was one key element missing from many marketing team strategies — the importance of brand messaging and positioning.
Brand messaging is the practice used to clearly communicate your value proposition. It’s a clear and well-defined messaging guideline that communicates the value you provide.
In other words, what is the problem you help your customers to solve, and what is the solution you provide wrapped into a synced and repeatable message or story.
I can speak about brand messaging for days, but I was interested to learn more about the importance of positioning and how messaging and positioning worked together.
Best Book on Positioning: Obviously Awesome Book Review
So when I found April’s book — on the best books on positioning — I was delighted to dive in. Here are my top highlights and key takeaways from the book.
What is positioning?
- Positioning shapes “every single marketing and sales tactic that we use in business today.”
- Positioning is the act of deliberately defining how you are the best at something that a defined market cares a lot about.
- Positioning is an input and foundation of business success.
- Often, we’re too close to our product to realize that the market doesn’t think about it the way we do.
I have seen this happen a lot. That’s because most of us think our products or services are the best things since sliced bread.
Some of us think the product we offer will just sell itself just off the strength of how amazing it is, but it’s easy to see where this is often not the case.
The share amount of competitors makes it mandatory to position yourself for success
- “Today, opening the App Store on my smartphone gives me over 2 million choices. One of those apps, Amazon, gives me a marketplace of just under 580 million products to choose from. Not only that, your customers are now exposed to more ads and branding.”
- “The sheer volume of competition in the marketplace makes it imperative for businesses to clearly differentiate themselves, clearly articulate the problem they solve and how their solution will add value or transform the customer’s life.”
- “Customers need to be able to easily understand what your product is, why it’s special and why it matters to them.”
- “If your prospects can’t figure out what you do—quickly—they will invent a position for you, one that potentially hides your key strengths or misrepresents your value.”
Positioning is about creating context
- “Context enables people to figure out what’s important. Positioning products is a lot like context setting in the opening of a movie.”
- “When customers encounter a product they have never seen before, they will look for contextual clues to help them figure out what it is, who it’s for, and why they should care.
- Taken together, the messaging, pricing, features, branding, partners and customers create context and set the scene for the product.”
Key to positioning effectively
Great positioning takes into account all of the following:
- The customer’s point of view on the problem you solve and the alternative ways of solving that problem.
- The ways you are uniquely different from those alternatives and why that’s meaningful for customers.
- The characteristics of a potential customer that really values what you can uniquely deliver.
- The best market context for your product that makes your unique value obvious to those customers who are best suited to your product.
April’s five + 1 component of positioning
- Competitive alternatives: What customers would do if your solution didn’t exist.
- Unique attributes: The features and capabilities that you have and the alternatives lack.
- Value (and proof): The benefit that those features enable for customers.
- Target market characteristics: The characteristics of a group of buyers that lead them to really care a lot about the value you deliver.
- Market category: The market you describe yourself as being part of to help customers understand your value.
- (Bonus) Relevant trends: Trends that your target audience cares about, that also relate to your product
Impact of positioning on teams
Positioning impacts every group in the organization. Consider these outputs that all flow from positioning:
- Marketing: messaging, audience targeting, and campaign development
- Sales and business development: target customer segmentation and account strategy
- Customer success: onboarding and account expansion strategy Product and development: roadmaps and prioritization.
Ways to position in a specific market
- Head to head: Positioning to win an existing market
- Big Fish, Small Pond: Positioning to win a subsegment of an existing market
- Create a New Game: Positioning to win a market, you create
How positioning and messaging go hand in hand
A messaging document helps you keep a record of the accepted baseline messaging, gives everyone a common starting point for building specific copy for a specific purpose, and keeps the language (and the positioning) from evolving too far away from the agreed-upon starting point.
Bonus tips from the book
- Companies that have multiple products in the market need to think about product positioning and company positioning as separate but highly linked things.
Download a copy of my top highlights and a positioning canvas I created based on the book or check out the full book.