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Donít Let Egos Sink Your Positioning Strategy

By Lawson Abinanti, Co-Founder, Messages That Matter

This is a sensitive subject. It involves taking an unflinching look at the inner you, and committing yourself to a quest for the truth. No, Iím not talking about the latest fad in philosophy or munching magic mushrooms. My subject is developing your productís positioning strategy Ė and the potential negative impact ego can have it. To arrive at a successful positioning strategy requires a quest to discover the truth about your product, and why the target buyer should care about it. Let preconceived notions, personal biases and ego dominate your positioning process and youíre leaving too much to chance.

At every step during the positioning process, you filter information, make assumptions and decide which path to pursue. Even under ideal conditions, itís easy to head down the wrong path. In this article, Iíll point out three steps along the way where ego Ė or denial or even sheer stubbornness Ė can lead you astray, keeping you from arriving at a positioning strategy that truly matters to your target audience; one that is unique, important and believable.

The steps Iíll evaluate in more detail are:

1) Identifying and ranking customer problems
2) Using your message strategy as the first level for qualifying buyers
3) Assessing the competition to determine the uniqueness of your claim

First, What is Positioning?
Before we explore those critical steps in more detail, letís review my definition of positioning:

Positioning is the mental space that you can "own" with an idea that has compelling meaning to your target buyer. In this mental space, your product's most important benefit and the customer's most important need meet, and find they are made for each other.

An effective positioning strategy helps target buyers associate a benefit with your product or company that makes them want to buy. That means it is essential that you understand your customer as well as you understand your product.

Forget Your Product Ė for Now
You canít successfully position your product unless you know the answer to this basic question: ďWhat is my target customerís MOST pressing problem?Ē And notice that this question asks about THE problem, not problems. Although it may be tempting to think of your product as a Swiss Army Knife, donít. Itís doomed to fail. Todayís buyers rarely want a multi-dimensional solution thatís okay at a lot of things. They want a specific solution to fix that really important problem thatís keeping them up at night. Forget about all those wonderful product features, and zero in on your customersí needs and desires.

When I meet with clients for the first time, Iím surprised that some canít rank key customers problems with confidence, or they canít agree on the list of problems. So itís a good idea to dig in and find out. Once you are sure you have a comprehensive list of customer problems, you need to stack rank them.

Itís essential to leave your biases behind during this process. They can lead you to a message that fails to excite your target audience. For example, a company develops a product because the founders believe they saw a need or a void in the market. But from the customerís perspective, THE problem could be surprisingly different. So there you sit with a product you developed to save businesses money, while the No. 1 customer problem turns out to be the need to respond quickly to competitive pressure. Even if your product actually does enable companies to respond fast, if your positioning zeros in on a ďvalue,Ē or ďsaves you moneyĒ, it will most likely to be ignored by your target buyer.

Why? Prospects are overwhelmed by communication in todayís fast-paced, media-saturated world. Bombarded with 5,000 to 10,000 marketing messages per day, they have become experts at filtering them out.

You can get through the filter, but only with a benefit statement that addresses the primary concern that keeps your prospect awake at 2 am. Your target prospects will notice and listen when you demonstrate that you understand their problem, and clearly communicate the benefit your product offers to solve it.

So no wishful thinking, guesses or conventional wisdom. With a little discipline, enlightenment will come; youíll see the intersections between the truth about your product and the truth about your prospective customers.


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