Product positioning in marketing is too broad of a term. There’s a mixup with regards to how positioning, messaging, and value proposition are different and how positioning fits into the broad marketing strategy.
This article will reflect on how you can develop product positioning to enhance your marketing activities and boost the sales of your products.
Spoiler alert – product positioning allows you to be unique and differentiate yourself from the competition.
What is Product Positioning in Marketing?
Product positioning connects your target market and your product. Generally, it’s a set of guidelines in any form (a PowerPoint presentation, a Word document, or a PDF) developed by a company regarding how to market a specific company’s product, the dos and don’ts.
Goals of Positioning
Here are three main goals of product positioning:
- Connect with the target audience.
- Differentiate the product from the competition.
- Manage the perception of the product in the eyes of the broad public
As each company has more than one product, there are also positioning goals regarding product lines and categories within one company. For instance, each product should target different buyer categories to prevent product cannibalism, when two products target the same customer group and eventually compete with each other.
Product positioning is vital for your company’s marketing strategy. Scroll down to read why.
Positioning in Marketing: Example
A great illustration of what positioning is and how it works is shampoo.
As the shelves display several dozens of products, it seems like there’s a shampoo for every person and every need. First, there are separate shampoo lines for men and for women. Next, there’s a specific shampoo that addresses every specific need. Got thin hair? Here’s a shampoo that’ll make your hair thicker if you use it regularly. Dandruff? No problem, take this blue bottle. Each shampoo has also a matching conditioner so that you’d take home not one but two bottles.
Meanwhile, we all suspect it’s kinda the same thing inside. In fact, BBC’ program Horizon has found that all shampoos contain similar compounds, called surfactants. A shampoo for thick hair removes the grease and dirt just as a shampoo for dandruff. It might have some extra elements that address the dandruff problem but it changes like 2% of the shampoo’s ingredients, mainly fragrances and extra conditioners.
Still, you would agree that a separate product designed exactly for your need appeals to you more than a random ‘shampoo’ from the shelf.
That’s what positioning is about. Who is your product for? What is the acute pain that your product resolves or alleviates? Which value does your product provide? How will the product be positioned against the competition?
Proper product positioning is all about the needs of your target audience and creating or modifying (or at least positioning) a product in a way so that it fits the original needs and is different from the competition.
Positioning of a Brand vs Positioning of a Product
A lot of established and well-known brands, such as Apple, Tesla, and Rolex, also have occupied a certain market niche and have their own brand positioning or a number of tangible and intangible characteristics and benefits that all company’s products provide.
However, as we think about the company, we inevitably relate to its products. Therefore, when discussing positioning, we typically imply product positioning.
The whole concept of positioning reminds me of an endless fractal. A company’s brand suggests a set of characteristics of how this company is generally perceived on the market. Let’s say Apple is innovative, aesthetically pleasing, and premium. Then Apple breaks down all its potential buyers into those who prefer ‘the ultimate iPhone’, a cheaper product (iPhone SE), and those who want productivity (iPhone 13). They can’t leave out the previous device version too.
Even the way Apple ranges these devices on their website speaks volumes about how they position each of these products in particular.
When a company releases an umbrella of products, each product is positioned differently but with the company’s positioning in mind. Within this broad positioning, it covers different groups.
Product Positioning vs Buying Persona (Ideal Customer Avatar)
Both terms refer basically to the same thing, which is the target audience. In order to create a great sellable product, you need to understand very well how broad the market is and why your product is relevant to your target audience.
In most cases, you already have this idea in mind. Alternatively, you can use an ideal customer avatar to gain more understanding of your buyer’s needs. Product positioning is typically based on your buyer persona.
So here are the steps to follow:
- Create your buying persona sheet (who is going to purchase your product)
- Create your value proposition statement (why is it valuable and relevant to their needs)
- Create your product positioning (how it connects with regard to competitors) and, depending on the niche, a product worksheet
- Create your messaging guides (how the message will be delivered and synchronized)
Positioning vs Messaging
In general, position covers the niche that your product is designed to target while messaging is about how to get the message across to the right audience. While positioning presents general ideas on how the products needs to be seen, messaging is a detailed elaboration of the tone of voice and wording that should be used while referring to the product.
When Do You Develop Positioning?
It’s interesting to note that product positioning may be developed in different stages of product creation.
The most obvious and straightforward time to create a product positioning is when you’re creating a product. Let’s say you have just opened a yoga studio in a city with over 10 million people. Chances are there is a number of yoga studios so you’ll need to stand out from the crowd.
Now you can differentiate yourself in different ways. One way to create a unique product. For instance, you are also a health coach or nutritionist and you focus on yoga as a tool to lose weight. You create a training program and launch targeting by geolocation.
Real life is different from theory. Sometimes you have a product already developed and just looking for those you might sell it to. That’s ok. I once purchased a wholesale box of swimsuits from China because I was carried away by the idea to sell swimwear.
The third option is when you have a product but you try to pump up your creative muscle and wonder if there’s another market opportunity for your existing product. That’s also absolutely normal.
No matter where you start, first, you need to find the segment you want to target.
And to find the right market segment, you need to have extensive and deep knowledge of your buyer persona’s issues and problems.
Developing Positioning in a Large Business vs in Small Business
According to the theody of marketing, to develop positioning, you need to have a deep understanding of your target market. To do that, you need market data.
However, if you’re in a small business, you don’t have a budget to order extensive marketing research for your target market. So what do you do?
In fact, there’s a wide variety of free tools that you can leverage to test out your business idea. First of all, if you’re already doing something in a certain field, chances are you are very well aware of the issues of your potential buyers. That’s good!
If you’re certain regarding these potential pains, you can investigate the issues to address by researching the following free souces:
- Local communities
- Facebook groups
- Online forums
- Competitor’s research
- Statistics found online
Large companies usually have a positioning or a messaging guide developed by, most often, a product marketing team. It’s a document that states the way the product should be described and referred to in all marketing and PR materials. This positioning is based on the competitive
Having one document with the key information on the product is essential since the larger the company, the more counterparts and freelancers it employs, thus, it’s important to keep everyone on the same page.
Summary: Do you need product positioning?
It’s not a surprise that we are living in a world of consumerism. There
Can you imagine that 70 years ago soap was only soap and people used it for the body and hair?
Personally, I feel as if 70 years ago it was just primary colors in marketing and now there are over 50 shades of grey, yellow, pink and orange. With niche marketing, the world has become a more interesting place and having more products for our needs, after all, allows us to live a fulfilled life.
So do you need product positioning? Honestly, that depends on your niche a lot but from what I can say, it will never hurt if you do one more exercise and work on your marketing muscles. Rethink the value your product brings to your target audience.
If you need any help with product positioning, I can help. With 15 years of marketing experience, I can review your positioning strategy and comment on what can be improved to increase the chances of success in your niche. Message me now and let’s get started!