It’s important to develop a compelling product positioning strategy, and even more important to execute it consistently and repetitively. So how important is positioning? It’s the key to successful B2B marketing because it is foundation for everything you do in marketing.
Yet, one of the biggest mistakes B2B marketers make is that they don’t use their positioning statement as the theme for all marketing they do. For example, Workday is a successful cloud accounting/human resources vendor that positions its offering as “designed to work the way you work.”
Ideally, almost every page you visit on the Workday web site should be an execution of “designed to work the way you work.” But that’s not the case. On the home page, the rotating panels don’t use it, and it’s not the theme of most of the product and solution pages.
I’ve used Workday as an example because it does a better job of positioning than most B2B technology companies. But Workday could improve significantly through consistent, repetitious execution of its positioning statement. You too can do a better job of positioning by following this simple piece of advice – whenever you are communicating about your product, first consider using your positioning statement as the theme or central idea for the marketing piece. It won’t always be appropriate, but most of the time it will.
What is positioning and other terminology used in this blog?
Before I go further, let’s make sure we have a shared understanding of what positioning is, and terminology I’m using in this discussion.
Positioning is the mental space in your target audience’s mind that you can “own” with an idea that has compelling meaning to the recipient. It’s in this mental space where the product’s most important benefit and the customer’s most important need meet, and hopefully stick.
A positioning strategy includes a five- to eight-page rationale document that supports your message strategy which has a positioning statement, three support points and as many sub and sub-sub supports points as you need to meet all your marketing communications needs.
Your positioning statement addresses a key target market problem by stating a benefit; i.e. why the target market should care about your product. “That’s interesting; tell me more” is how you want your target audience to respond to your positioning statement. Support points explain how you deliver on the promise in your positioning statement. They unfold your story in more detail.
Here are examples of good positioning statements, ones that only the following B2B software vendors are making in their markets:
- Tableau in the business intelligence market delivers a “fast, easy way to understand your data.”
- Prophix in the corporate performance management market (budgeting, planning and financial reporting) “delivers more value.”
- Vormetric in data security software “makes it simple to solve security and compliance concerns.”
An effective positioning strategy helps your target buyers associate a benefit with your product that makes them want to buy. With some effort, time and money, you can claim a position by consistently executing an idea that has meaning to the target audience in all your marketing communications and then repeating it, and repeating it, and repeating it…
Consistency and repetition are the key
A weak message strategy, consistently and repeatedly executed over a period of at least 18 months, is far more effective than a strong message strategy that is inconsistently executed, and changes every year, if not sooner.
What do I mean by consistent? I mean using the same, carefully crafted message strategy in all of your marketing communication. Your message strategy makes it easier to deliver the same message across all marketing media including web sites, brochures, advertisements and presentations to investors, industry analysts and prospects.
Banner ads, follow up e-mails from sales reps, promotional e-mails and Google Adwords advertising are becoming more and more important in the B2B marketing mix. Unfortunately many companies use these media to tell you what their product does rather than the benefit. These are examples of companies who missed an opportunity to reinforce their positioning strategy in their banner ad copy:
- Workday: The enterprise cloud for HR and finance
- Vendavo: Companies that run SAP run Vendavo
- Financial Force: The #1 cloud accounting app on the Salesforce platform
Writing copy for banner ads is a challenge because it needs to be really short. But start with your positioning statement and whittle it down from there. Then test your work by asking, “So what?” If your answer articulates a more distilled benefit statement, continue this line of questioning. Eventually, you will arrive at one important, believable and unique benefit.
Which is more important – repetition or consistency?
Although repetition and consistent execution go hand in hand, repetition is the stronger partner. Repetition – that is, repeatedly exposing the target audience to executions of the same message over an extended time – is perhaps the most important factor in claiming a position and giving it staying power.
When you feel it’s time to break the monotony, challenge your ad agency to come up with a new creative execution of the same positioning statement. Remember, your positioning statement expresses a conceptual benefit, and does not need to be regurgitated verbatim. You can express a benefit in countless variations on a consistent theme, as long as the execution expresses the same benefit that solves your prospect’s most pressing problem.
For example, a company offering budgeting and financial reporting solutions positioned itself as helping you accelerate decision making throughout your company. A colleague of mine, a clever copywriter, executed the positioning strategy with a theme that packs energy and a call to action into plain language, “See how fast your business can run.”
Another example of a core benefit claim – maximize the profit potential of your business – appeared in public as an advertisement with the theme, “No profit left behind.”
Challenge your ad agency or in-house creative staff to come up with a new spin on your positioning statement, and watch the fireworks. Just make sure you stick with the same idea or concept. Keep repeating and repeating and repeating it. And be patient. The longer you wait, the more likely you’ll be rewarded with exclusive ownership of an increasingly valuable property – your marketing position.
Read my free ebook “Positioning: How to talk so the market will listen” so you can ensure you are consistent in your messaging.