Now that you've chosen a segment (or segments) you're ready to position your product or service in each segment. You'll need a positioning statement for each targeted segment.

But what does positioning mean? It simply means how you want your target segment to perceive you. Note that this is not necessarily how they see you now, but how you want them to see you. In essence, then, it is a promise to the target segment that you will provide them with the benefits they care about the most.

Looking at a perceptual map for the segment you're targeting gives a good indication of the benefits that are desired by the segment, and also the challenges you may face given any perceptual gaps. Assuming you have the requisite capabilities to close those gaps, you can simply use those most desired benefits as the basis of the positioning statement. But what is a positioning statement?

Basically a positioning statement has four parts: the name of the customer segment, the most important benefits to that segment, the primary competitors (however this is not that important), and the key reasons why you can provide the customer benefits better than the competition. In template form it might look like this:

The most difficult part about writing a positioning statement is identifying the key reasons for differentiation from competitors. This information, of course, comes from the company analysis. The question to ask is why can your company promise these benefits better than the competition? You can't just talk about any competencies or strengths, but rather only those strengths that directly relate to the benefits desired by the customer segment. This is the essence of finding a differential advantage over the competition.

One way to think about the importance of the positioning statement is that if you can't write one, perhaps because you don't have the competencies called for in the last part of the statement or because a competitor could easily match this statement, maybe this isn't a segment you should be targeting!

In any event, you need to have a positioning statement if you're going to enter a segment. Why?

Because if you don't position your product in the market, the competition will do it for you! (and they won't position you favorably, that's for sure).

With a positioning statement in hand, you have the foundation for guiding the entire marketing effort. Just as examples, consider how the positioning statement can be used:

Marketing Communications Specialists - helps identify the key verbal points to emphasize, eliminate unnecessary arguments that tend to overwhelm rather than enhance communication with customers. It will even help when making graphic design decisions (e.g, if the key benefit is "fun", think about how this translates into graphic design decisions).

Sales Managers- provide a foundation for a succinct and competitively defensible statement of why your product is the best.

Product Managers - provide a basis for bringing together all parts of the marketing mix, including pricing, distribution, and even product design. It ensures that coherence prevails throughout the entire marketing plan.

OK. Now you're ready to deliver on the promise. That's going going to be accomplished with the tactics of marketing.

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image of Allen Weiss

Allen Weiss is founder, CEO, and Positioning Practice Lead at MarketingProfs. Over the years he has worked with companies such as Texas Instruments, Informix, Vanafi, and EMI Music Distribution to help them position their products defensively in a competitive environment. He is also the founder of Insight4Peace and the former director of Mindful USC.