In 1983 Ries and Trout wrote the seminal book about company positioning aptly named, “Positioning, The Battle for Your Mind.” They were the first to tell marketers that brands must put a distinct stake in the ground that tells buyers, “This is why we're important.” Think of Bounty paper towels – that product’s position is as the quicker-picker-upper. Bounty doesn’t claim to be the cheapest or most durable…they’re the quicker one, and their target knows it.
What’s your positioning in the market? Many of the prospects we meet haven’t actually worked through the process of determining theirs. It can be a tedious exercise (or not), but worth the effort because it gives you a framework for all your marketing efforts—content in particular. A positioning statement tells you: who you’re talking to, what you represent to them/what you do that no one else can, and what you will present as evidence to support that.
One Basic Framework for a Positioning Statement (there are a number out there):
- Define Your Best Prospect: To [your best prospect],
- pinpoint Where Your Stake Is: our product will be [what it will represent/mean to them]
- identify the Facts You'll Use to Support That Claim: based on [the support/evidence you’ll use to support that].
Let's try looking at this framework with a real world example. Here's a conceptual positioning statement for B2B company that makes conveyor systems for paper products:
“To disposal paper/tissue manufacturers looking for conveyor equipment that increases throughput and easily integrates with existing system equipment, XYZ product will be the conveyor solution that has the greatest breadth of customization possibilities and is designed to be the easiest to connect with existing systems; the support/evidence for this position is our extensive engineering capabilities and experience successfully integrating with more than XXX different system types.”
Not only is positioning the stake in the ground that helps your target understand you, but it should act as a guide your content, too. A strong, well-reasoned positioning will help you determine the topics you’ll write about and the types of messages that should be part of your content.
The examples related to positioning are very cursory; this process deserves a great deal of thought and the input of a number of people in your organization. Work with a inbound marketing firm if you have any doubts about the format, the process or the purpose of a positioning.
Once you have your positioning down, you also have the foundation of a message strategy.
What’s A Message Strategy?
A message strategy is, in the simplest terms, what you’re going to tell your prospects. And you’ll tell it to them over and over, in different ways, using different evidence, in different formats. But everything you publish should have the same basic message(s). Going back to the Bounty example, what does the company tell you in their marketing? Do they ever go into detail about their price or size or fragrance or the patterns? Nope. They tell you that their product picks up messes faster than any other.
By honing in on a messaging you’re not limiting yourself to only talking only about that. Bounty could occasionally talk about the fibers used in the towels that make them so absorbent, and they could talk about the types of messes they’re able to clean up. In ads that include a coupon they can talk about their price and value. Based on your positioning, your messaging is simply your primary, “this is what we’re all about.” You’ll have plenty of opportunity with advanced content like ebooks and tipsheets and videos to add ancillary messages relating to related topics like improved productivity, speed, throughput, maintenance, etc.
If your company is like many we see and has not determined where you’ll put your stake, gather your key team members and ask the questions, “Who are we to our prospects and what do we want to stand for in their minds?” Be critical of your own responses: “quality” is not a differentiator, “been in business since 1952” is not something meaningful to your prospects, and “customer service” is expected – not something to hang your hat on. You need to be specific and realistic in what you’re able to stand for and how you’ll back that up.