Positioning is a cornerstone branding topic. It’s how your brand is known, and how you want it to be known.
In the classic marketing book, Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, Al Ries and Jack Trout define the concept as “an organized system for finding a window in the mind” that distinguishes it from competitors.
The authors make a compelling argument that the best brands find an opening in the marketplace and work to own it. For instance, Hubspot coined the term “Inbound Marketing” to position its brand. The company states, “Inbound marketing helps you attract customers with content designed to attract qualified prospects, convert them into leads and customers, and grow your business.”
Since its founding in 2006, Hubspot has grown into an inbound marketing juggernaut. The company competes across multiple fronts — CRM, email marketing, marketing automation, search engine marketing, content marketing, and content management systems — but it doesn’t get lost in the cacophony of competitors. Hubspot owns the positioning for inbound marketing software. This isn’t simply for email or SEO, it’s for attracting, engaging and selling to people who find you on the internet.
Hubspot’s positioning is so effective that it goes toe-to-toe with massive competitors like Salesforce.com, and wins. Its customers believe in the message of inbound marketing, and they apply it to their businesses with Hubspot’s products.
Owning a position in your customers’ minds is powerful, but I also find the idea too cerebral. This type of discussion is smart and interesting, but you have to take a big leap to make the concept tangible, tactical and actionable.
To bring the conversation down to earth, I like to flip things. Positioning is the result of an effective strategy for your business and brand.
Think of defining your brand’s positioning as a set of strategic choices:
- Where will you play?
- How will you win?
- How will you be known?
By clearly answering each question you are making decisions that will shape your business strategy. You are deciding what your brand will be and what it won’t be. You are determining who it serves, and you are capturing what you want it to become.
The key to positioning your brand is making strategic choices.
In one of my favorite books on strategy, Playing To Win: How Strategy Really Works, Roger Martin and A.G Lafley write, “Strategy can seem mystical and mysterious. It isn’t. It is easily defined. It is a set of choices about winning.”
When your brand is positioned effectively it wins — and not because it has the best brand name or best website. A well positioned brand wins, because it serves a defined need better than anyone else. Customers choose it first, because they know it’s the best option.
A positioning strategy isn’t about making your brand more beautiful than the competition. It’s about making your business successful in a defined market.
This requires making hard choices on where to play, how to win, and how to be known. Martin and Lafley continue, “Attempting to be all things to all customers tends to result in under serving everyone. Even the strongest company or brand will be positioned to serve some customers better than others. If your customer segment is ‘everyone’ or your geographic choice is ‘everywhere,’ you haven’t truly come to grips with the need to choose.”
Positioning is a set of strategic decisions on how you will grow your business and brand to the next level. What do you think?