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In 1969, Jack Trout introduced the idea of market positioning in a paper published by Industrial Marketing Magazine. Later, along with colleague Al Reis, he popularized the concept with their bestselling book under the title, Positioning – The Battle for Your Mind (1981). Since then, we’ve all come to accept that proper positioning improves your probability of success.

A 2015 study by Carat found that 41% of people are overwhelmed by the volume of information and choice. Numerous factors influence our decisions, such as prior experience and personal relevance. Positioning is about influencing choice. It is about making the choice of your company, brand, and solutions easier. This is why brand preference is an important Marketing metric. It provides an indicator of your competitiveness.

Positioning takes a significant amount of investment over a long period. The basic premise of a positioning strategy is that meanings, associations, and words resonate with customers. Armed with data from customer research, you can understand how to best connect your company and product with your customers and build a strategy that helps customers make the connection between what they value and the promise you deliver.

The purpose of positioning is to:

  • solidify the identity of your company, and its products or services, in a unique space within the minds of your prospective and existing customers
  • set your company apart from the competitive set, and
  • positively influence the way your target market perceives your company and its products

As the competitive environment heats up and new technologies and methodologies come into play, it may be necessary to revisit your positioning.

Change is the Tell-tale Sign You Need to Initiate Repositioning

Pay attention when you begin to see or make changes. In some instances, the change may be external, something that is occurring in the market that is outside of your control. Policy and regulations are obvious changes but many changes are not so blatant. You may not know what has changed but you see the result in changes to your rate of growth in the category compared to the category. Or you may see it reflected in number of sales and the average value of sales. For example, slumping sales in a growing category should sound the alarm. This was the case for one of our customers. They weren’t maintaining market traction for a premier product. Repositioning the product was “instrumental to driving record sales.” Change in the types of customers buying your product is another indicator of an external effect. All of these are market signals that you need to adapt to competitive forces or changing customer requirements.

In other instances, the changes may be internal. For instance, when you are making deliberate changes to your company (often a result of M&A) or its business model. Or, when you want to intentionally change the customers and/or markets you serve. For example, if you’re a technology company that positions your offer to IT managers, you may need to revisit your positioning if your strategy is to connect with CTOs. Or, when you are successfully releasing new products regularly to the market. Often this indicates that your business is evolving and your original positioning strategy may no longer tell the complete or accurate story.

The Critical First Step for Successful Repositioning

Often companies think that modifying their tactics, such as redoing their website, will be enough. However, when the target market and existing customers no longer know what you’re offering and your value proposition, then all the tactics in the world won’t matter. It’s time to revisit your positioning. Step back and consider what your new place in the market is and whether that’s what you want it to be. If not, bite the bullet

Your first step is to have clarity about who your company is, what is wants to achieve, and how you want customers to perceive you. What is your band mission and vision? A brand mission is the one thing you set out to do with your business. Write it down.

Then you need data to understand to what degree the market perceives you in this light, how you compare to your competition within the content of your vision, and what your customers want and need. You can do this by talking with your customer advisory board, market partners, reviewing customer feedback (call center, help desk data), analyzing customer sentiment (for example through social media) and conducting primary research. Remember to include your employees in this investigative process. If necessary, seek outside expertise for this type of work. It’s important to study both your customers as well as your competition and understand their positioning. The last thing you want to do is try to take a position that a competitor already owns.

Use your brand mission, vision, and your data to formulate a new brand strategy and plan to connect and engage with customers and influence choice.