Should you change positioning and messaging because of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Have you been thinking about changing your position because of the COVID-19 pandemic? Much has been written about the need to adjust your marketing to take into the account the crisis.

Be more empathetic, some suggest. Others say you need to change your message because what buyers are concerned about has changed.

I say don’t change anything unless the reason buyers buy has changed or your position is fundamentally flawed. By flawed I mean you’re not claiming a unique position or it’s not important to buyers; i.e., it doesn’t express a benefit that solves their pressing problem.

Double check your research – why did customers buy from you?

Let’s first explore whether the Coronavirus has changed the reason prospects become serious buyers. Go back to the research you did to identify problems that caused your customers to buy from you. You should have a list of problems ranked by importance.

Now ask yourself whether these problems have changed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. If they have changed, then create new messaging that addresses the new set of problems that cause prospects to become buyers.

Has the reason buyers buy really changed?

If I were a betting man, I’d bet your customer problems haven’t changed. If I’m right, you still need to determine if your position is flawed or not. I use four criteria to evaluate the effectiveness of a position – that mental space in your target audience’s mind that you can occupy with idea that has compelling meaning to the recipient.

It’s in this mental space where your solution to the target’s pressing problem meet and form a meaningful relationship.

Below are four questions about your current position. Answer “yes” to all of them and you have a position that has staying power for years to come. Answer “no” to any of them tells you it’s time to change your position:

  1. Is your position important to your target audience?
    Explanation: Your positioning statement is important if it expresses a benefit that solves a pressing customer/buyer problem. Test for importance by ranking customer problems – what causes them to be a buyer. Then determine if your positioning statement aligns with one of the most pressing problems. If it doesn’t, it’s time to change your position.
  2. Is your positioning statement unique? Does it differentiate you from your competitors?
    Explanation:
    Positioning always occurs in a competitive environment. Therefore, your positioning statement must express a benefit that no other competitor is claiming. If other competitors have the same position, change yours as soon as possible.

    I use a technique called perceptual mapping that makes it easy to see how you are positioned relative to the competition. You can learn more about perceptual mapping and differentiation on this page on the Messages that Matter website.Why is it critical that you differentiate? When you make a unique claim, two things happen. First, you raise a significant barrier to competition. Second, you increase the desirability of your offering. These two outcomes can significantly impact sales volume, market share, and profitability.

  3. Is your positioning statement believable?
    Explanation:
    B2B technology buyers have learned to doubt nearly every claim they read or hear. Effective positioning allows us to cut through cynicism by making our case in simple, believable, compelling language. It’s time to change your position if you can’t prove it or it makes common, overused claims such as transform, empower, deliver insight, etc.

    Effective positioning statements recognize prospects’ inherent skepticism by avoiding exaggerated or meaningless claims. A believable positioning statement “rings true” by referencing existing market conditions. It reinforces your company’s brand identity and signals that you understand the prospect’s concerns.

  4. Is your positioning statement usable? Does it adapt to all marketing communications and situations?
    Explanation:
    There’s only one way to claim a position and that is by using it consistently and repeating it so often you get sick of it. Then keep repeating it!

    A positioning statement becomes the theme for everything you do in marketing from website copy to campaigns to press releases to social media, etc. You should be able to use your positioning statement in all marketing communications and situations. If you can’t, you’re not going to be able to claim your position and it needs to be changed.

    That’s because the most thoughtful and logical position will not trigger a buying decision unless your target audience understands and remembers it. You can make your position more memorable by repeating it. Even repetition of a few simple words sends a strong signal to the decision-making portion of our brain, prompting it to note, “I should remember that.”

    Repeat your often so your target audience bookmarks it as important.  Donald Trump uses this technique to great effect.

If you’ve determined you need to change your position, there’s a bigger challenge ahead – finding the time to do positioning. But you probably spend a lot of time figuring out what to say every time you create a new marketing campaign. The next time you begin to plan one, use the time to create a new message strategy. The campaign will come together in 25% of the time it usually takes. And you’ll save time every time you create a new campaign.

Not sure the best approach to positioning your product? You can get started by reading a short white paper that provides an overview of my positioning framework.

Photo by: by João Jesus