If you work in marketing, you’ve probably had many discussions about positioning. But if you don’t, you may not even know what positioning is. If you’re not familiar with the power of positioning, then I’m about to reveal all.
Positioning is the way that a business stands apart from its competitors. I often tell clients that it’s your marker in the sand. It’s what you do and what you stand for, and it needs to be different from what everyone else is doing.
Supermarkets are some of the easiest examples. Waitrose and M&S are positioned at the high end of the market. This isn’t an accident. It’s a deliberate business decision, and from this everything has had to follow a certain route. The quality needs to be higher. The stores need to be located in the right areas. The price needs to be a little higher - although there still needs to be perceived value. The whole experience when you shop needs to be more pleasant.
Then there is Lidl and Aldi at the complete other end. They’re cheap and practical. You go in, you buy what you need and you get out, and all of it will be kind to the pocket. You might not get all the big brands and the fancy stuff, but it’s all still good quality and it’s still perceived value for money. But the whole experience is viewed very differently.
Then in between you have Asda, Tesco and Sainsburys, and all of them still appeal to slightly different people.
All of that is positioning. And all of it was created by a team sitting in an office making deliberate decisions.
First and foremost, the worst thing you can try to be is all things to all people. Even mass market brands still don’t appeal to everyone. A position will help you to be better understood in the market and it will help you appeal to the audience you want. It will also help you clearly stand apart from the competition.
All of this requires you to first decide what that position will be, secondly integrate it across your business, and thirdly communicate it very well to your audience. For it to work, you need to see it through.
Creating Your Position
You can’t possibly even begin to consider what your particular position will be until you’ve fully researched the market. Know your audience, and then definitely find out everything there is to know about your competition. If you’re going to stand apart from the competition then you have to know them inside and out first.
When you’ve done your research, the next step is to find the gaps. What areas of the market aren’t being covered? And of the gaps (or the less populated areas) what aligns beautifully with your skillset or the products you offer?
While it might be worth slightly adjusting the odd service or product, this isn’t about re-developing anything. This is about how your business is perceived by your audience.
I highly recommend the book called "Positioning" by Ries & Trout. This book is a very easy read, but it explains just how positioning works in a lot of depth. It also shares quite a few examples of how some of the biggest brands in the world have shifted focus to increase their sales. And that’s what it is. It’s about shifting focus.
Ask yourself this: do you have a current position in the market? What is it that makes you stand out? What would your customers know you for in particular?
I’ve heard people who don’t work in marketing call positioning ‘niching down’, and it is sort of similar. But whereas ‘niching down’ might make you think you’re only going to target a certain demographic or you’re going to focus on one set product line, positioning is more about market perception.
The notion of niching down might alienate your customers. If you’re so narrow, you might deter some customers that might have otherwise been interested in finding out more about you. Positioning is lighter.
For example, if Waitrose only sold Duchy products moving forward, that would be niching down. But they’ll be alienating a great deal of their potential customers. The fact that they’ve positioned themselves as more middle to upper class sets them apart in the market, but absolutely anyone is still free to shop there, and encouraged to do so. There is still a ‘value’ brand that can be bought, and many products aren’t that much more expensive than the larger supermarkets.
What they have done instead is create larger aisles, they offer free tea and coffee, have exceptionally friendly staff, make sure the stores are extremely clean, and use better quality ingredients in their products. M&S is the same. It appeals to wealthier people, but it’s clearly not exclusively for them. Everyone is welcome, but there’s no confusion on what the experience will be like when someone shops there.
How can you focus the way your business is perceived? How can you stand apart from the competition, make it really clear what you do and appeal to a set of targets in your market without alienating anyone else?
It’s not easy. Of course it’s not. But those who do it well soar above everyone else.
If you could take some time to think about how you stand apart, I bet it would make a huge difference to your business.
If you’re interested in knowing more, definitely grab a copy of that book. Or book in a meeting with me. I’d love to offer some tips and see how I can help!