April Dunford extracts from her own 20+ years of real-world tech marketing experience a basic positioning framework that actually works, because she sees that positioning is often misunderstood, and can be really powerful, especially for saas startups
Definition: Positioning is the act of deliberately defining how you are the best at something that a defined market cares a lot about.
When customers first encounter your product they look for "signals" to try to understand what box to put your product in. These include your messaging, features, price, other customers, and most importantly, your competitive alternatives.
Customers use what they know, to make sense of what they don’t know.
Product categories and trends
Linking your product to a category immediately triggers a bunch of assumptions about price, target customers, features, competitors etc.
You win at positioning by deliberately choosing a market category where you expect to win and identify who your "best fit" customers are.
Dunford identifies three different ways you can compete in a market category:
- head-to-head (you see yourself as the dominant player), works only in fragmented market,
- dominate a subsegment (you're not the overall market leader but you serve some segment of the market (e.g. customers using AWS) better than anyone), or
- by creating a new market category altogether (awesome if you can make it work but comes with the burden of educating your customer base about the new category).
Companies fall into common positioning traps:
- They think a product can only be positioned in one way, when in reality the same product can be positioned in multiple ways for multiple different markets (though admittedly one at a time).
- They carefully design a product for a market but that market has changed.
- Figure out which customers care the most about those value themes.
Shift your sales and marketing to target as narrow of a customer segment as you can while still making your sales targets, as more narrow marketing is more effective.
About the author
April Dunford is an executive consultant, speaker and author who helps technology companies make complicated products easy for customers to understand and love.
She is a globally recognized expert in positioning and market strategy, and has launched 16 products into market across her 25-year career as VP of marketing at a series of successful high-growth startups.
April advises leadership, sales and marketing teams through training, workshops and keynote talks. She is also a board member, investor and advisor to dozens of high-growth businesses.
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