Positioning Part 1: Putting a wet finger into the wind
There is nothing more important to the success of your venture than proper positioning—at every step of your marketing and sales process. I see positioning as not just a branding exercise, but a powerful tool in the nuts and bolts of campaign creation and process.
My own definition: “Positioning” is what you CHOOSE to say about anything—your product, service, sales call, or girlfriend.
Let’s start with a background story:
Years ago, working in the creative department of a newspaper publisher in Edmonton, I was asked to help save a large account who was threatening to pull his advertising. “Make it work,” commanded the publisher. With that, his part in a familiar exercise was pretty much over. My part—saving an advertiser from himself—would be more difficult.
“Make it work, commanded the publisher”
A real estate developer had been running full page ads for a new housing development, just north of the city, and getting nowhere fast. Not wanting to lose this cash cow, the publisher took a personal interest in “helping” to get things moving in a better direction.
Back in 1982, we didn’t have ready access to reliable campaign or market data, or the option of copying stuff from the internet, no Photoshop, and a Marketing Sherpa might have been a guy with a mountain of industry brochures.
We read books on advertising, learned from trial and error, and regularly made marketing decisions by putting a wet finger into the wind. At the newspaper, we relied a lot on advertiser feedback. Did the ads get warm bodies through the door, or was it a bust? Anecdotal evidence was greatly appreciated.
“Go big! Get customers by osmosis”
The advertiser I was supposed to save didn’t seem to have any discernible marketing strategy—other than spending lots of money at our newspaper. Go big! Get customers by osmosis. They will be miraculously sucked through huge display ads and land in your sales offices—checkbooks primed for action!
Where do customers come from?
As ridiculous as this seems, it was relatively common for advertisers to spend huge sums of money on campaigns that were delightfully unsupported by anything resembling logic. Under these circumstances, failure on an epic scale was almost automatic. Luckily for those of us in the publishing business, these same customers rarely had a clue where their customers (or lack of customers) were coming from. Failures were seldom blamed on brilliant advertising.
“There are just too many opportunities to screw up”
An inescapable fact: most advertising fails—even today—which is ridiculous, considering the multitude of marketing tools and data available to any business with an internet connection. More than ever, true campaign success stories are pretty rare—a reality made more poignant by the avalanche of e-marketing shoveled into your inbox every day. There are just too many opportunities in the marketing process to screw up—if your definition of success is based on revenue generated. (Is there another definition?)
In the olden days, advertising agencies lined up to collect awards for campaigns for clients who were struggling to avoid bankruptcy. The same disconnect still happens today. You can get great campaign numbers for an audience that won’t buy your product—it’s easy.
Have some thoughts on positioning—or an interesting positioning success story? Post your comments below.
Stay tuned for my next post on positioning on the TEC Blog, June 2nd:
Positioning Part 2: Choosing what you want to say
That was intersting an article that seemed to boast effectiveness in a marketing concept that really had very little to say! I was expecting a positioning light bulb to come on but instead found it was very similiar to the problems addressed in the article. Hmmm?
It’s coming. It’s the first of multi-part blog on the subject–meant to introduce positioning and “set the table” for illustrating its potency and application in marketing strategies and campaigns. Stay tuned.
You bring up an excellent point. Using a shotgun approach to advertising is definitively not an effective use of marketing dollars. Even with the wealth of information available online that says otherwise, small and large businesses alike still fall victim and unwisely invest time and money targeting an audience that doesn’t particularly care about or understand their offering. Segmentation will help you reach the right prospects- but positioning is the real key to attracting and resonating with your target audience.
Roy - again, very interesting read here.
I cannot help but thinking of the salesman parallel here. When I had started out in the messaging space, I was in Manhattan…the “land of opportunity”…at the time, my organization was the pioneer in broadcast fax messaging (Xpedite). There was a window of opportunity where the value prop was conceptual…not everyone had been faxing at the time and it was still a very new concept. I recall pitching to the AAA (American Arbitration Association)..very large building adjacent to Bryant Park..very ominous target for me…proportionate to the opportunity. I had met with my contact and went right into my pitch (laden with features) only to watch him kick his chair back, put his feet up, and open a newspaper right in front of me. Here is the interesting item to note…HE NEEDED what I was pitching but simply did not appreciate the means with which I went about positioning it…it begs the question, even if we are in the vein of segmentation and being relevant, have we considered the human/buyer variable? I feel this variable is the wildcard…the hardest to traverse and understand…moreover, how do we sell through it.
I keep going back to the “Jerry Maguire” model of less is more…a more customized approach…a more intimate approach. In todays times, we are all very much like the agency within that film…convert more, bring on more customers…streamline business process so that we can make room for more clients, etc. In all of that, we are left with what could be a VERY commoditized/generic approach to marketing or selling in general.
It was also back in those Manhattan days that I was surrounded by the gnarled veterans that came from one of 2 schools of thought: crush the phones and sell on price (this was typically more prominent once the “concpetual sale” wore off and more competitors filled out space) versus the niche/intellgent salemsan that jumped into ROI almost immediately. I like to think of the Ad space as being one of these sales floors…where today, and the economy has alot to do with it, we are predominantly of the “crush the phones” ilk versus taking the time (in the Jerry Maguire model) to understand the needs of the prospect and position our wares accordingly.
Again, if everyone can slow down and take the “peppers and rogers” approach and actually implement the proper use of data with less sends, they may realize a larger impact from the email channel…but trying to sell that concept almost always fails…it is apparent that there is a natural tendency to want to just “get it out”..when we look at who is reading wheat we are sending, we are almost always deflated…the reaction therefore should not be to send more (which it almost always is…) but to send less, more powerful/intimate copy to those of interest.
Jennifer said it very well “even with the wealth ofinformation available onlione..small and large business still fall victim” to this “disease”.
I think the market has alot to do with the frantic pace and the poor practices in email marketing these days…it will take patience to work through it but the change of pace will be worth the pain.
again, great piece.