One of the most profound statements made on the subject of positioning comes from Louis Carroll's Alice In Wonderland. When Alice asks the Cheshire Cat which path to take, he responds, "if you don't care where you're going, it doesn't make a difference which path you take."
So it is with too many company's marketing communications programs. Without direction or focus, a business or organization often acts like a multi-headed creature -speaking from many mouths, saying nothing and going nowhere.
From a management perspective, positioning is the heartbeat of an effective communications plan. A well-crafted positioning statement defines your company's direction. It answers seven essential questions:
- who you are
- what business you're in
- for whom (what people do you serve)
- what's needed by the market you serve
- against whom do you compete
- what's different about your business
- what unique benefit is derived from your product or services?
It's surprising how few companies exist where management is in total agreement on these basics or where the answers can even be found.
Don't confuse a positioning statement with market position. As Harry Beckwith states so clearly in his book Selling the Invisible, "A position (or statement of position) is a cold-hearted, no-nonsense statement of how you are perceived in the minds of your prospects. A positioning statement, by contrast expresses how you wish to be perceived. It is the core message you want to deliver in every medium." Don't get the two mixed-up. Remember, companies can't position themselves as anything. It's about what the market perceives them as standing for. Wishing it won't make it so.
So, how can you get your communications program on the right path? By creating a clear, defensible, differentiated positioning statement and supporting key messages to guide you and others along the way. In most organizations this takes introspection, selling and consensus-building.
Making It Happen