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Building a well-constructed positioning statement April 9, 2010

Posted by Mike Gospe in Integrated Marketing, Just for Campaign Managers, Positioning.
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People often ask me for a definition of a good value proposition or positioning statement.  Indeed, there is a lot of confusion about “good” versus “not so good.”  To understand the difference, I often point folks to a 2006 Harvard Business Review article entitled, “Customer Value Propositions in Business Markets” by Jamie Anderson, James Narus, and Wouter van Rossum.  They classify the three types of value propositions and positioning statements as shown below.

The starting point:  The most common positioning statements I see are really no more than a long laundry list of features disguised as benefits, with some true benefits thrown in.   The more, the better, so they think.  The problem is that features do not equal benefits.  And, do customers really care about every benefit?  There is so much information contained in this type of positioning statement, that the key points are drowned out by the surrounding noise.

Refinement:  Other marketers go further to consider that the customer always has an alternative.  They pay attention to differentiators against all competitors.   Unfortunately, they often make the mistake of assuming that any and every  favorable point of difference they find must therefore also be communicated to every customer, whether it’s relevant or not.   They err on the side of being complete, not realizing  that they’ve over-complicated the positioning statement.  And, of course, saying your solution is better than competitor X’s is only relevant if the customer is viewing competitor X’s solution as an alternative. 

Getting to great:  Best-practice marketers base their positioning statements on only those few elements that matter most to target customers, focusing on the clear, differentiated value relevant to that particular market segment. Then, they are able to credibly demonstrate the superiority of their offering and communicate it in a way that conveys a sophisticated understanding of the target segement’s pain points and business priorities.

Remember that the positioning statement is a tool for internal use only.  The positioning statement is not the message to the customer.  However, the positioning statement will frame your messaging.   Think of it as a guide for aligning your corporate marketing & marcom teams and demand gen partners when it comes to implementing your marketing blueprint.  Being able to understand “just what the customer values” gives marketers the advantage of knowing where focus the campaign for optimum success.

For more on positioning, check out these additional blog posts:

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