It takes an average of up to seven impressions to start remembering your brand. But those impressions will only matter if you can make your products appealing to your target audience.
Even the best products might be overlooked or even actively avoided if they aren’t aligned with your brand image, audience expectations, market situation, and a variety of other factors.
When making buying decisions, consumers will look beyond the core specifics of a product and will often base their choice on impressions that they form based on what they are looking for. And that means that the same product might have a completely different branding depending on the audience it was marketed to.
And that’s why understanding product positioning is an integral part of success.
To help you get started with product positioning, let’s look at what it is, the key elements of positioning your products, and the essential aspects of developing your product positioning.
What is Product Positioning?
Product positioning is the process of aligning your product with the market and your audience to maximize sales and gain an advantage over the competition.
You want your products to be viewed in the most favorable light possible, and that requires using product positioning elements that help separate it from others and emphasize the unique advantages that it comes with.
When running marketing campaigns, the success you can ultimately achieve will depend largely on how well you explain and prove your product’s effectiveness. Some brands even make every part of the product’s branding related to a core feature or a unique promise, helping to get the main selling point through to the audience immediately.
Product positioning can also be used as part of the larger brand image you are trying to develop. Brand alignment is an essential part of making sales in 2021, so you must consider how your products and the way they are positioned will reflect on what you are trying to represent.
As you look at any competing brands, such as Microsoft and Apple, Coca-Cola and Pepsi, Nike and Reebok, or even BMW and Mercedes-Benz, you will find that although the products might be similar, they can have positioning that’s significantly different and unique.
Key Elements of Product Positioning
In order to develop effective product positioning strategies, you must first understand the key elements that it’s made up of. The ability to create a way to position your products will largely depend on how well you understand and implement each of these critical elements since they all act as differentiators that add a layer of separation from competing products.
Here are seven elements you should be aware of:
- Mission. Each product is more than the sum of its features. It should have a core mission that encompasses why it was created and what it’s trying to achieve. You need to clearly understand who the product is meant to help, how it came to be, what unique way it can solve a problem, and what separates it from others. And you need to do all that in a way that’s also aligned with your brand.
- Market Category. Each market has a list of sub-sections and product categories, and your product will inevitably fall into one of those categories as well. But to stay in control of the process, you need to be aware of the market category your product falls into and figure out what types of customers you will be competing for and who your main competitors will be.
- Customer Pain Points. Your ideal customers have specific problems and are looking for solutions. Product positioning requires you to figure out how your product relates to the challenges and obstacles (or the pain points that affect your customers every day), as well as how it helps alleviate or solve them.
- Company and Product Differentiators. A big part of a successful product is finding differentiators from the competition or other brands with similar offerings. You should spend a lot of time considering how your product fits into the market and what makes it truly unique and appealing to customers. The reason needs to be compelling enough to get them to choose your product over others.
- Brand Identity. Launching a successful product requires you to have a solid understanding of what your brand represents. These core ideas should be reflected in your product positioning as well since that’s the only way to remain consistent in your messaging and ensure that there’s no disconnect between what you sell and how your brand is perceived.
- Vision. The most effective products are not one-off solutions but rather a realization of a larger vision. Consider the core ideas your products represent and think about how your product might evolve to better encompass those ideas in the future. That will help create continuity as you launch new and improved products in the future.
- Product Positioning Statement. Once you collect the critical elements listed above, you can create a product positioning statement, which encompasses who your target customers will be, why they will care about your product, and what they’ll get by using it. It will also contain the unique selling proposition that makes your product different from others.
If you want to learn more about the possible steps you can use when positioning your product, the How We Solve Podcast with April Dunford offers helpful advice on how to figure out the value behind your product, understand your customers’ needs, and test your positioning for best results.
Developing Your Product Positioning Statement
The main purpose of going through the key elements we discussed in the previous section is to have as much data as possible for your product positioning statement. But even when you have the information, putting it together and using it effectively in a concise statement isn’t always easy.
But if you understand the core purpose of having the statement done, you can start going through the data and using the bits that are the most relevant for making your product positioning consistent and in line with your overall goals.
This short statement will become the basis for your marketing, sales, and informational materials, so you need to ensure that it encompasses the key details about your brand, product, and audience.
In the How We Solve Podcast, Ashley Shapiro talks in-depth about developing an omnichannel marketing strategy, which you can use to better market your products and emphasize the positioning that you develop.
As always, you should start with your customers and consider how your product can solve a fundamental problem they are facing. Then, build on that initial problem your product solves and consider what secondary benefits it can offer.
Then, consider how your product can address those audience needs in a way that’s unique from the competition.
Finally, put together a short statement that includes:
- Who it’s for
- What problem it solves
- What the product is
- What category it belongs to
- What main benefit it encompasses
- How it’s different from others
Determining a Positioning Strategy
A product positioning strategy might be the single most important factor that determines the outcome of your campaigns.
While the quality of the products is crucial, it will only start to matter after the sale. Meanwhile, a poorly executed positioning strategy can prevent you from making a significant number of sales in the first place. What’s more, if your product isn’t aligned to attract the right buyers, it may cause dissatisfaction simply because of poor fit rather than poor quality.
To ensure you develop a product positioning strategy that’s right in your situation, let’s look at a few key aspects you will need to consider.
Know Your Audience
Developing any strategy should start with your customers and their needs. You should have a detailed understanding of who they are, what they’re looking for, the problems they are facing, and any other relevant information that could help you make better positioning decisions.
You should also consider how you can position your company in a way that aligns with what your customers are looking for. Think of the “why” behind their decision and how you can position your product to become a more appealing choice than the competition.
Look at the Competition
No product exists in a vacuum. And in order to succeed with your product positioning, you’ll need to learn as much as you can about what your product will be going up against.
Start by listing as many competing products as you can find. Then, identify the strengths, weaknesses, and positioning of each, which will help you see what areas are already covered and where you might be able to insert your product to face less competition.
Compare Your Product with Others
Once you know who you want to reach and what you’ll be competing against, it’s time to look at your own product and assess its strengths and weaknesses.
You can perform a SWOT analysis to discover opportunities to improve your chances of success and prevent any things that might be working against you.
Think of How You’ll Reach Customers
A big part of product positioning is getting in front of your customers. More specifically, getting in front of the right customers that the way you position your product will appeal to.
That’s why you need to consider where your customers are most likely to be reached and how you can use those channels to communicate the benefits of your product in the most effective way.
Positioning: Perceptual Maps
We already discussed the key elements of product positioning above. Still, there’s another way to look at how your product will compare in the market: perceptual maps.
Perceptual maps are a tool to look at how consumers perceive your and competing products. It takes the perceptions of your target audience and inserts them into a diagram, where you can quickly and easily compare different options and see how they differ.
The great thing about perceptual maps is that although they are intuitive and simple, that doesn’t take away their value. While subjective in nature, they help better understand your market through the eyes of your customers. Despite being subjective, the customer perspective might be the most important one in terms of sales potential.
Most perceptual maps use two main determinant attributes to see where a product falls on the graph in relation to other products. For instance, you may use perceived quality and price as two determinants, looking at how certain features allow your competitors to charge more for their products. At the same time, it might show how other competitors choose to emphasize the value while offering a lower price.
However, you can use almost any relevant attributes to your market, identifying the key characteristics of different competing products and getting a visual display of gaps that might turn into opportunities for you to exploit. For example, if there’s a quadrant that might be suitable for your product and is less crowded, that could make separating yourself from others easier.
Product positioning is a complicated process, but it’s an essential part of reducing the risks of entering a new market. And if you include the key elements discussed above, finding the correct positioning for your product can become an efficient process that doesn’t take up much time.
And when you have a proven and effective positioning strategy, you can use it throughout your marketing, sales, branding, and communication, resulting in a more unified approach that yields the best results.