Health check tells you how effective your positioning really is

Based on the results from the survey I’m conducting, B2B software and technology marketers desperately need a realistic way to self-assess their positioning effectiveness. That’s because 69% of respondents (137) think they are doing a good job of positioning, but the evidence suggests many are kidding themselves.

I did health checks on 24 websites of respondents who judged their positioning to be “effective” or “very effective,” and found that only six are doing it effectively. The other 18 companies are doing a marginal to poor job of positioning on their websites.

Why respondents might not be positioning effectively

Why the disconnect? One reason may be that there’s been no objective, standardized way of evaluating positioning effectiveness until now. Do your own positioning health check by answering the questions below. The health check overcomes preconceived notions about positioning effectiveness and gives you a proven way to realistically perform an assessment.

Another reason respondents might think they are doing a good job of positioning is that they don’t realize it’s not something done by the seat-of-the-pants. Only 44% of respondents have a formal process for positioning. Sixty-eight percent either learned positioning on the job or by trial and error. Very few learned it in college.

Therefore, I think a lot of B2B marketers are winging it while doing positioning right requires process, structure and discipline. Here’s why. I define positioning as 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 your solution to the target audience’s most pressing problem meet and form a meaningful relationship.

That means you need to understand your customer and their problems as well as you know your own product. Research is critical yet 51% of respondents say they don’t do enough. Only 33% say they spend enough time on all aspects of positioning.

Good positioning states a benefit that solves a pressing customer problem

But no matter how much time you spend on positioning, you’ll fail to do it right unless your positioning statement makes a benefit claim that solves an important customer problem. You can claim a position by using your positioning statement as the central theme for everything you do in marketing. But only if you repeat your position so often you get sick of it. That’s because the decision making part of the brain notes as important claims that are repeated and remembers them.

Lack of repetition – common to many of the 24 websites I examined – is one of the biggest positioning mistakes B2B software and technology marketers make. They come up with a compelling claim on their home page, but never use it again or repeat it anywhere on the website.

The other major problem prevalent in B2B positioning is lack of differentiation. Just about every market I follow has at least two companies – and often more – making identical claims. It’s what I call “me-too” positioning and is easy to avoid. Read my blog about how to differentiate.

Positioning health check self-assessment

Now it’s time to perform your own positioning health check. Find out how effective your positioning really is by answering these questions:

  1. Is your positioning statement important? Does it solve a pressing customer problem?
  2. Does your positioning statement express a benefit? Does it align with a pressing customer problem? If you haven’t stack ranked customer problems with the most pressing problem first, then you need to.
  3. Is your positioning statement unique? Does it differentiate you from your competitors? Answer “yes” only if you are certain you are the only company in your market claiming the position you are claiming.
  4. Is your positioning statement believable? Does it seem to be inherently true? Can you prove it?
  5. Does your positioning statement adapt to all marketing communications and situations? Your positioning statement should be the theme for everything you do in marketing. Is it? Does it work on your website and in e-mail marketing, public relations, social media, etc.?
  6. Are your practicing buzzword positioning by using in-vogue words such “transform” and “empower” to name a few?
  7. Are you claiming that you are the industry leader or No. 1 in your market? Or any claim that touts your company’s prowess except those that focus on the customer?
  8. Do you make more than one compelling benefit claim on your home page? If more than one, pick the one that solves the most important problem; use it and kill the others.
  9. Do your competitors’ websites – and yours – use common language to describe what they do, and the benefits and advantages of their offerings? In other words, does your content read like some of your competitors’? An example in the CRM space – “gain the insight you need to close more deals.”
  10. Do you use rotating panels on your home page? Using rotating panels improperly is a sure way to fail to claim a position in your market. Few do it right. Read my blog about why you should kill rotating panels on your home page.
  11. Is your positioning statement the theme for content on your website? For example, if your main claim is that you help companies make better decisions, then you should be repeating it often throughout your site. It doesn’t have to be the exact words; just the same idea. For example, the position “accelerate decision making throughout the enterprise” was executed in a campaign as “see how fast your business can run.”
  12. Do you prove the claim you make in your positioning statement? For example, if you claim to transform the way work gets done, you need to substantiate it by presenting the supporting evidence.

What your positioning health check tells you

If you answered “No” to any of the first five questions, and “Yes” to six and seven, it is probably time to change your positioning. Answer “Yes” to questions eight through 10, and “No” to the rest, it is time to learn how to more effectively execute your positioning. Or consider finding a skilled writer who knows how to tell a good story, and understands the importance of focus and repetition.

I recommend that you perform a positioning health check at the end of each quarter. Why? Most websites – including yours – are always changing. Typically, new content is added regularly, so make sure it is on message. Equally important, pay close attention to your competitors’ websites. If one changes their positioning, it may encroach on yours. What you do in response depends on the health of your positioning and the health of your competitor’s.