What is your offering’s position in the market? Actually, what you think is not important, so strike that question. What place in your customers’ mind does your offering own? The answer to that question is important.  While it is ultimately the customer’s perception that determines your position in the market, successful companies are continually shaping the most optimal positions.

The concept of positioning was articulated by Al Ries and Jack Trout in their work entitled, Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind. A position is described as the place that an offering owns in the customer’s mind. The best positions are simple and succinct, usually captured in a single word or phrase. While the best positions are simple, there are four pitfalls in getting to them.

  1. Using meaningless differentiation: Just because you have a point of differentiation doesn’t mean it’s important to customers. Make sure that the position is based on meaningful differentiation.
  2. Obvious factor: Don’t avoid the obvious just because it’s obvious. What’s obvious to you may be obvious to your customers and be that much easier to own.
  3. The “Ideal” Blinders: There is usually an ideal position to own in the market. Unfortunately, it is not common to have what it takes to own that position in customer’s minds. Yet, the allure and pull of the ideal position is strong. As they say, “Stay away from the light!” unless of course you have what it takes to own it.
  4. “The Works”: As we discussed earlier, it’s easy to include everything and everyone in a positioning statement. The skill is to make the best trade-offs and keep it sharply focused. “The Works” is especially common in large group settings, where people mistake providing input for making the decision. Groups are for input and consensus—an individual makes the final call.

Can you describe your offering’s position in one sentence? Do other people in the organization describe it exactly the same way? If we don’t continually work to shape our position, you can be the competition will shape it for us.

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