Positioning will dictate the success or failure of your offering.

Some companies do not spend time on positioning until the offering is ready for market. Other companies begin the positioning process when the resources are allocated to create the offering. The latter is the ideal scenario, but in either case, here are some thoughts to think about when positioning is discussed at your company.

What’s the Big Deal

Proper positioning is the centerpiece of your product marketing strategy. It’s your offering’s relative position in the market that determines the target audience, price point, distribution and communications. If your positioning is not clear, not relevant or misses the mark, people will typically not spend time trying to decipher it for you – other than your competitors. Buyers have choices (there are many substitutes and alternatives available) and if you can’t explain what your product does, why it is important and how it is different they will move on.

Unique Positioning

The ultimate goal of successful positioning is to package the essence of the offering in a unique and compelling manner. At the core of effective position, there are a series of carefully constructed concepts, ideas and positive associations that are capable of being communicated to potential buyers with a minimum of confusion. Positioning utopia occurs when an offering description is created that unconsciously triggers an “aha” moment and the motivation to act upon it.

It’s important that the positioning statement be unique. No other offering that your company provides can make the same claim. And, your competitor’s name should not be able to be replaced in the positioning statement and it remain credible.

Market Category

Offerings typically fill a gap in an existing market category, replace an existing player or create a new category in an existing market or create a new market. Buyers understand existing markets but are quick to pigeonhole vendors based upon their prior knowledge and experiences. And, developers believe that because they understand have been working on a set of functionality and use cases that it must be apparent to all users. The benefits and capabilities of the offering need to be effectively positioned in the mind of the buyer before they can be understood and accepted as providing value.


The cornerstone of successfully categorizing your offering is the process of conceptualization. The basic premise is that abstraction is a good way to elevate an offering to strategic buyers. And, the best way to explain an abstraction is to connect it to the physical, a coherent image or concept that is known and trusted by the buyer.

Shields & Air Cover

The concept of a shield is to leverage the existing positioning of an offering that is already clearly established in the mind of the buyer. The tactic is of most value when the shield has positive connotations and the adoption of the offering is at the early majority stage of the adoption curve.

Air Cover is a related concept that provides a buyer with an initial mental reference point. The process starts by introducing the known, then add the new functionality or twist and finally the offering is positioned as an extension to something that is familiar.

Shields and covers are best used when the market category and products are mid product lifecycle and are perceived to provide value.


Nailing the perfect positioning is very hard but making fundamental positioning mistakes is very expensive to recover from – if recovery is even an option. There are confusing resources available to help companies position their products and that adds to the difficulty of creating a truly unique value proposition. Hopefully, the insights in this post help fill this void. And remember, field test your positioning with customers, prospects, analysts, subject matter experts and thought leaders before you finalize it.