Summertime is the best time to audit your positioning statement for effectiveness, and it’s easy to do.
A positioning statement conveys a benefit that your target audience cares about, and it serves as the central theme for everything you do in marketing. But, is your positioning statement effective? These three basic questions can help you determine that:
- [Importance] Does it state a benefit that solves one of the target audience’s most pressing problems?
- [Uniqueness] Are you the only one making the benefit claim in your positioning statement?
- [Repetition] Do you repeat your positioning statement often in all your marketing communications?
If you answered yes to the first two questions, great. Nevertheless, if you aren’t consistently repeating your positioning statement in all your marketing communications, you can forget about claiming a position in your market.
Guest Post by Lawson Abinanti, founder of Messages That Matter.
In this post, you’ll not only learn about the audit process, you’ll also learn why repetition is the key to successful positioning, that is, occupying that mental space in the mind of your target audience that you can own with a compelling idea. It’s in this mental space that your solution and your target audience’s pressing problem(s) meet and form a meaningful relationship.
It’s a good idea to audit your positioning statement every 12 months. By doing so, you’ll stay on top of your competitors’ positioning, and have confidence that you are delivering a message to the market that buyers will listen to.
Before we get into the details, here’s a quick summary of the audit process.
The thinking behind those three questions
Your positioning statement needs to feel important to prospective buyers. It has to address real problems they experience. As a point of reference, develop a list of customer problems and rank them. Does your positioning statement address your target audience’s most pressing problem? If it does, you are making a claim that is important to your target market. If it doesn’t address any of the top problems, you need to change your positioning statement.
A unique claim is one that only you are making. You can test for uniqueness by analyzing your competitors’ marketing communications. How are they positioning themselves? Create a perceptual map to see whether your claim is unique or not. If you are making an important claim, but it’s not unique, you may want to reconsider your message strategy.
The secret to successful positioning is to use your positioning statement in all your marketing communications, and repeat it over and over. Check to make sure you are repeating your positioning statement on your website as well as in banner ads, press releases, brochures, e-mail promotions, and webinar announcements (i.e., all marketing communications). Many B2B marketers simply don’t take advantage of the power of repetition, as I’ll discuss below.
Now, let’s take a closer look at how to do the audit.
Your product is only as important as the problem it solves
Your prospects are overwhelmed by marketing communications. They are exposed to so many marketing messages – somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 per day – that they have become expert at filtering them out. You can only cut through the filter with a positioning statement that is relevant and important.
A list of product features won’t cut it. Your passport through the filter is a benefit statement that addresses the primary concern that keeps your prospect up at night. Your target audience will listen when you demonstrate that you understand their problem, and clearly communicate the benefit your product offers that solves it.
If you don’t have a list of problems experienced by your target audience, you’ll want to create one by gathering intelligence from customers, prospects, and, most importantly, from folks on the front line – your sales team or channel partners.
Once you’ve developed a list of these real business problems, you need to rank them. (If you asked customers to rank problems when you surveyed them, this can go pretty quickly.)
Be alert for repetition (e.g., the same problem described in different words) and broad generalizations. The act of ranking customer problems gives you a gauge to measure the importance of your positioning statement. Simply asks yourself: Does the statement address the target audience’s most pressing problem?
If it doesn’t, you need to go back to the drawing board.
Give the prospect a break – differentiate!
It’s been more than 30 years since Al Reis and Jack Trout wrote, in their marketing classic, Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, “Too many companies embark on marketing and advertising as if the competitor’s position did not exist. They advertise their products in a vacuum and are disappointed when their messages fail to get through.”
Failure to differentiate creates market confusion and that inevitably leads to longer sales cycles. So, how do you know whether your positioning statement is unique?
Fortunately, it’s pretty easy to figure out how competitors position themselves because they do it in public. A positioning statement, concept, or idea will frequently appear prominently on a competitor’s home page. If it’s not there, try the “About” page or product pages. Check for consistency and repetition of this message by evaluating other marketing communications (collateral, press releases, banner ads, email campaigns, etc.).
You’ll probably find that a lot of the marketing communications your competitors put out there aren’t actually backed by a real position. Instead, you’ll find that they talk about themselves (‘We’re No. 1!”) or fail to address any real business problem at all.
You may find, in fact, that these communications often lack the heart and soul of good positioning: A meaningful benefit statement that gives the audience a reason to care about a particular product.
Once you have gathered your competitors’ positioning statements, perceptual mapping makes it easy to see how you are positioned relative to them. Here’s a real-world example of the competitive landscape in the Business Intelligence (BI) market:
*Note: Vendors with “no position” either failed to state a benefit or they expressed a variety benefits across their websites.
As you can see, lack of differentiation is a problem in the BI market, one that has persisted for at least three years.
In 2014, seven BI vendors had positioning around “better decisions.” In 2015, six built positioning around “insight.” This assessment, conducted in early 2017, is thus a classic example of positioning in a vacuum:
- Seven of the 15 vendors evaluated position themselves around nuanced versions of “insights,” such as “better,” “deeper,” “trusted,” and “powerful.”
- Of the seven highlighting “insight,” four also emphasize “better decisions.”
By creating a perceptual map, you can easily determine whether your positioning statement is unique, and thus avoid creating me-too marketing materials that fail to set you apart.
Testing your positioning statement for uniqueness is a critical step in the positioning process, but one that many B2B software marketers overlook. Don’t let it happen to you!
Repeat your positioning statement often
As I said at the top, just because you address a real problem and have a unique positioning statement, it doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed a position in your market. Your positioning statement also needs to be the theme for everything you do in marketing; the key words used must be repeated over and over.
Repetition – that is, repeatedly exposing the target audience to versions of the same message over an extended time – is arguably the most important factor when it comes to claiming a position and giving it staying power.
Repetition is so important that even a weak positioning statement, consistently executed and repeated, is far more effective than a strong positioning statement that isn’t.
Neuromarketing, a must-read book for B2B marketers, provides a compelling case for repetition in marketing based on one simple fact: the decision-making portion of the brain notices repetition and earmarks it as important.
The authors of Neuromarketing write that “even repetition of a few simple words sends a strong signal to the reptilian brain (which makes decisions), prompting it to note, ‘I should remember that.’ ” (You can learn more about Neuromarketing by reading a two-part series available on the MarketingProfs website.)
Want to see the power of repetition in action? Look at what Epicor [Disclosure: an Aberdeen client] has done with “Grow your business” in the accounting/ERP space. Similarly, consider what Beqom, which offers a compensation management solution, has done with “Happiness is the best driver for success.” Both are classic examples of claiming a position through the power of repetition.
The good news is that if you answered yes to the first two questions but failed the repetition test, you’ve already done the hard work!
All you have to do now is edit your marketing content so it consistently repeats the central concept of your positioning statement.
Give it try. It will set you apart from the competition while giving you ownership of the claim you keep repeating.