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On Marketing: Plan your positioning to spur growth

by Josh Gordon Published: September 13, 2016 10:41 AM

Well, this is ambitious.

Is it possible to effectively articulate the importance of knowing how to position your brand or business in the market in just a few hundred words?

Nope.

So why am I writing this column on the subject of positioning your business?

Because a well-constructed and thoroughly vetted positioning statement is essential for achieving long-term, sustained success in business.

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In fact, I often joke that, in business, professionals have success on purpose while amateurs have success on accident.

A well-crafted positioning statement enables a company and its team to have success on purpose. Repeatable success is driven in part by a succinctly defined purpose, which is captured in a positioning statement.

So, what exactly is a positioning statement? In the boring technical sense, it's a strategic statement that enables consistent messaging and image (perception) building in the mind of the audience over time.

In the non-boring sense, it's often the difference between a customer buying and loving your brand.

The topic of brand positioning is fascinating and deep. Positioning includes many different exercises and a methodical, patient approach to understanding your business, products, customer base, and competition.

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When all of that effort has been completed, you end with a solid understanding of your target audience, their perception of your industry and brand, a tight definition of what makes your brand unique, proof that your brand is unique, and the desired emotional payoff for your target audience.

Positioning has been written about in depth by a host of experts, too. If you want to dive deep on this topic, I recommend two books.

/ "Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind" by Al Ries and Jack Trout is the book to outline the importance of positioning a business or brand in the mind of the consumer.

/ "Competitive Positioning: Best Practices for Creating Brand Loyalty" by Richard D. Czerniawski and Michael Maloney is actually my favorite book on the topic, though. The authors built amazing brands for Proctor & Gamble and Pepsi.

So, if positioning in business is so essential and these people have written books about it, you may be wondering why you don't see it talked about more in marketing circles?

That makes two of us.

Part of the seeming lack of interest is the fact that doing it well takes time and the right mix of marketing experts, communications experts, and research. An effective positioning statement can take weeks to produce, and more weeks to build into the fabric of a marketing team and company culture.

It is also complex in terms of the "scratch work" necessary to do it well. It's important to profile customers and your target audience in detail, build a consumer benefit ladder complete with the emotional and rational benefits of your business or brand, actually craft a concise statement, and complete an analysis on exactly where you can win.

Hence the need for experts.

Given the time commitment and the investment in expertise, the process is usually discounted in favor of something less strategic.

Despite the time commitment, positioning is useful for both a small business and a big brand. But the investment is not made as often as it should be.

The small business dismisses positioning because of the challenge in finding the time and resources to build a strategic approach. A big brand, with the possible exception of a product launch, usually avoids taking the time because the demand to make a quarterly earnings goal forces allegiance to short-term thinking.

If your business or brand is in a rut and needs a boost, work on building or rebuilding your position in the market. The sustainable and steady growth you'll build over time by crafting a strong positioning statement will make the investment well worth it.

Josh Gordon is an award-winning marketing communications professional and President of Full Spectrum Marketing, a full-service advertising agency with digital roots based in Kent, Ohio and Wooster, Ohio. You can reach Josh at jgordon@fullspectrummarketing.com.


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