How to differentiate

Differentiation made easy

It’s pretty easy to determine how competitors are positioning themselves, because they do it in public. So start reading and analyzing print advertisements, marketing collateral and web sites with an eye to deducing the positioning behind them. A positioning statement frequently appears in the first or last paragraph (or both) of an advertisement, or in a prominent place on the home page of the web site. A good one should be a focused benefit idea or concept underpinning the executional theme of the advertisement, home page, brochure, etc.

You’ll probably find that a lot of the marketing communications put out by B2B technology companies aren’t backed by real position. Often, they’re just a brain dump of product features or vague platitudes like “be more productive” or “cut costs.” They lack the heart and soul of good positioning: a meaningful benefit statement; i.e., a reason the audience should care about their product.

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Once you have determined competitors’ positioning statements, you can use an application we developed in Excel to create a perceptual map like this one for the Corporate Performance Management (CPM) market:

Benefit Lawson MBS Best SAP Oracle SSA
Understand needs of small & medium businesses X
Understand business fundamentals X
Flexible, adaptable X X X
Affordable X X
Value X X
Rapid Implementation & ROI X X

Figure 1

Perception maps make the competitive landscape obvious
OK. You’ve analyzed your competitors, and created an informative table. Now, how do you decide if there is an unclaimed gap you can claim for your own? A table won’t show where, but a map will – a perceptual map of the competitive landscape. See Figure 2 below, which maps the positioning landscape for the software companies listed in the table.

The axis labels represent abstractions based on the positioning statements found in the following vendors’ 2005 advertising:

ERP accounting vendor perceptual map

By creating a perceptual map, you can easily determine whether your proposed product positioning is unique, and avoid creating me-too marketing materials that fail to set you apart from the competition. Testing your positioning statement for uniqueness is a critical step in the positioning process, but one that many B2B software marketers overlook. It gives you confidence that you’ve discovered the right position.