Perfect Your Product Positioning

Once upon a time when it came to product marketing, it was about going beyond the features. Features meant nothing. NOTHING! It had to be all about the benefits, I'd yell. Give me the benefits, and let me create magic for you.

I understand why. When we've worked with product teams, you tend to get feature overload. And I get that a product team can work for years on that internal project. The feature, at some point, had a benefit attached but delivering on that feature was the priority. So over time, the benefit gets pushed to the back of the queue. Then, when we've come in, we unearth the benefit and shout from the rooftops to anyone listening.

But there is a better way. A way that helps your customer understand your product in relation to their context. 

Product positioning isn't about features and benefits; it's so much more. Positioning helps your potential customers place your product into a context where they understand why it has value to them. It helps your customers understand the whole market to make better choices and sell those choices to the rest of their organisation.

That context and that value is the positioning. Features and benefits certainly play a part in reaching your positioning, but when dealing with a considered purchase, you need to understand how they fit into the way your customer will be buying. So here are some points that are useful to bear in mind:

  • When it comes to a considered purchase, the biggest competitor you're facing isn't another business; it's the status quo. 30% of considered B2B purchases end up just not happening. You face the most significant hurdle: "What if we just did nothing?"
  • Generally, you're the experts in your domain. You know all the alternatives to your product, why some of the competitor's claims are nonsense and know the pitfalls of going down specific product paths. Counter that experience with your customers. They're coming into this with a blank slate. They don't know what "state of the art" looks like.
  • When looking at the competition, it's easy to get into a feature war with them. Try and reframe your thinking more around the approach they've taken to solve a problem against the way you've approached that same problem. You don't compete against companies. You are competing against different approaches to the problem.

We've taken the positioning approach as outlined by April Dunford. April's a great speaker, and I'd recommend her book, Obviously Awesome. The main takeaway from this positioning approach for me is trying to find the differentiated value for your product. It's the one step beyond features/benefits, which can still feel abstract to that blank sheet customer. Express the value that your product can provide your customers in as easy a way as possible, Don't let them have to work out how the features and benefits fit into their context; express it as clearly as possible.

Remember, the keyword here is unique. "Easy to Use" may be accurate, but it's a hygiene factor without definitive third-party proof. Which company would say that their product is "a pain in the arse to use"? It's like when businesses talk about "Customer Focused" as one of their brand values. No shit! Dig deep to understand the attributes of what makes your product unique.

This positioning approach means that you have to get all the key players involved at certain stages. For example, when working out the unique attributes of your product, you need to get the product team in place. Likewise, when trying to define your best-fit customers, the sales team is the best people to talk to; when looking to create the final product pitch, marketing is vital.

All this helps your internal team understand the point of your product, bringing everyone on the journey, all on the same path. When everyone internally feels involved and aligned, getting your positioning message to your customers is simpler.

Working on the process with clients has undoubtedly shown the value of really nailing your product positioning beyond a catchy tagline. But it also has reinforced that even with a straightforward and assured process that April Dunford presents, it does need an outside perspective to help run that process. I'm a big believer that you can't both facilitate and participate in a process like this. It needs some emotional detachment to probe, and small 'c' challenge the teams involved with the product. It's not about asking tough questions; it's about asking the stupid, obvious ones that can get you to the gold.

Bringing a bomb-proof positioning and your brand together tells a compelling product story that makes your customers sit up, take notice and clearly understand how your product solves their problems.

If you found Perfect your Product Positioning helpful, take a look at Brand Architecture - Don’t forget the due diligence, useful if you feel you have too many products and are looking to review your portfolio.