Positioning Part 2: Choosing what you want to say
In Part 1, I introduced positioning and talked about how easy it is to miss your mark. This time, we focus on how successful campaign positioning depends on saying and doing just the right thing—at the right time—for the right audience.
Advertising is great fun in that you can choose what you want to say about a product or service—but it’s also where trouble begins. Just as there are great salespeople who can captivate their prospects by saying just the right thing—they seem to be far outnumbered by those who boor, badger and don’t seem to understand the needs or concerns of their prospects. Wouldn’t you agree?
Your campaign = your sales person
Like the great salesperson, advertising can be tailored to present different positions of the same products or services for different audiences and motivations—highlighting aspects that are important to the specific audience. However, unlike a salesperson, we don’t get to see the reaction of a prospect during our pitch—and we can’t change course mid-sentence when we see him looking for the exit. We write it, we live with it.
“We don’t get to see the reaction of a prospect during our pitch.”
This concept of positioning first gained prominence with a book published by renowned marketing strategists Al Ries and Jack Trout titled, Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind (1981). It was revelatory in its time and, like many watershed concepts in marketing, its game-changing significance remains the same today.
Quite simply, how you position your product, your collateral, your company, and (perhaps, most importantly) your sales call, makes the difference between success and failure.
SAP is not a software company
A laudable example of this is the way some enterprise software vendors position and promote their products. Do they create collateral describing their software? Of course, but the smart ones spend much more time developing collateral (such as white papers) which aim to help businesses solve a variety of critical issues dealing with operations, finance, sales and so on. They know that none of their prospects say, “Man, we’re getting killed by the competition; we need an SAP system!” They’re more likely to say, “Our supply chain needs to be improved—how do we do that?”
“Man, we’re getting killed by the competition;
we need an SAP system!”
In response, SAP creates documents to help these types of customers understand how they can optimize their supply chain to win more business and improve profitability. THAT sounds more attractive than the idea of unloading buckets of cash for some code on a CD. Of course we’ll probably need new technology to achieve it, but the white paper shows the benefit of the expenditure. It’s like getting the software for free—isn’t it? Thus, SAP becomes a solver of problems, not a software vendor. And though the customer understands there are many options for their technology requirements, SAP has put itself in a great position to be strongly considered.
But does your white paper sell me?
Of course, life is not quite that simple. Your white paper can have useful information, but how it’s titled and written will determine if your target reads it or ignores it—or falls asleep. At TEC, we see and (try to) read plenty of white papers. It can be mind-numbing. A common problem in many white papers is a lack of focus on an overriding benefit to attract and hold our attention. Migraine-inducing complexity leads you from one sentence to another before realizing you have no idea what you just read. Who are we selling here?
“A common problem is a lack of focus on an overriding benefit.”
Long-suffering TEC Senior Copy Writer, Larry Blitz can be heard (at least once a day) carping, “What’s this? A bloody Easter egg hunt?” as he looks for an angle to promote a research paper. What is the positioning? Who is this for?—and why should they read it? Are prospects going work as hard as Larry (who’s often reminded he’s paid) to find out what the heck the vendor is talking about? The prospect says, “Tell me quickly why I should care—or I’m gone.”
“Tell me quickly why I should care—or I’m gone.”
That’s why it can be invaluable to have a knowledgeable outside party take the ideas and data compiled by your “committee” (as with too many cooks, good ingredients can end up being less than palatable as a meal) and come up with something that speaks to a real person.
Do you have any thoughts on this post or less than friendly vendor collateral? I welcome your comments below.
Next post: Why we should love dumb questions
the Article was very interesting and Highlighted a fetal Mistake usually the Software Marketeers lies on , which is being driven by the features not by the value behind the features .
there are many excellent software that haven’t achieved the suitable success due to the way of formulating the Marketing message to be technical driven or focus on the dozen of features that the system has .
actually , what stimulate the customer attention is the value not the features . “What in it for me” is the key word that guide the copy writers and the Marketers in formulating the Marketing message and developing the Marketing Collaterals.
As you point out, there are a lot of very good software solutions out there that never come close to achieving sales potential due to a lack of understanding of the various positions the software could occupy for different markets—this is a huge subject on its own.
I remember selling graphics production software to a company based on a single feature—it worked with their authoring software (which happened to be FrameMaker). They really didn’t care about all the other wonderful features—which I was tempted to talk about, but I shut up because they were already sold. They wanted to take advantage of our type of automation tool, but had not found one compatible with their existing workflows.
Seeing an opportunity, we made sure our software could work with over 100 different systems, and then promoted “seamless compatibility” as a key positioning to these types of prospects—a decisive benefit that resonated with a large, and for us captive, part of the market.
This is an excellent article as it portrays the “targets” perspective very well. Moreover, I appreciate how it helpfully points out (to sales folks) that we need to understand our target and speak to need as opposed to a “general capabilities info dump”. To this point, I agree whole heartedly…we need to be more proficient when it comes to understanding needs as opposed to understanding the functionality from a generic sense.
Tangentially, I ask that you consider this; I represent the messaging space…an ESP out of Bethesda called Real Magnet. Now, while I understand and appreciate what Real Magnet brings to the table (Niche play, solid people and support, nimble development), I have also come to see a very crowded market segment begin to perpetuate this “generic sales” approach.
Consider this: the market…the economy is upside down…we all need to SELL MORE for less. this may not always give us the time to take the right approach…this is analogous to most email campaiagns themselves right? It is a “blast” mentality. Now, best practices states that we should be relevant as we will outperform a generla “blast” message every time. To do this, we need to lean on our data and be as dynamic and relavant as possible…we need to remarket only to those that have historically clicked on link “x” and are from Nova Scotia and earn upwards to “y” amount every year….etc. But now, most eMarketers dont have the time (or so I am told) and what eneds up being pushed out to the market is a “blast message” designed to convert .001% of the overall group…and we will just keep on blasting.
If I had my way…we would all SLOW DOWN, Understand the needs of our constituents and have an intelligent discussion around requirements and, conversely, speak to those needs. Less is more…less volume…less information…as long as it is relevant.
Now…I have to get fill up my coffee…I have cold calls to make!
Thanks for your continued thought leadership Roy.
It’s great to hear from a sales guy who is sensitive to all the marketing “noise” his prospects are constantly subjected to. It makes it that much more important to be “relevant” to him and choose the sales and/or marketing position that targets his real needs.
Unfortunately, to do that you have to get to know your prospect–something many in e-marketing and sales don’t seem to make the time to do properly. So, as you said, we blast everybody with an “impotent” message–hoping to get the (small) percentage who will respond.
It’s a lazy way of conducting business–with the result being missed opportunities.