• Eileen Licitra

5 Product Positioning Pitfalls

Updated: Sep 21, 2020

Product positioning is the “mental space” your products and services occupy in your target customers’ mind, relative to other solutions in the specific category you compete in.

Great positioning will help you craft compelling messages that distinguish your product within that category, in a way that is important and meaningful to your target customers. It’s what communicates your value, differentiates you from competitors, and targets the best customers for your business. It’s the thing you want your product to be known for.

Why then, is it so challenging to pull off well-targeted and compelling positioning and messaging? Often, the difficulty lies in the approach companies take or, in many cases, the steps they skip over.

Here are five reasons why product positioning and messaging strategies often fall short:

Failure to deeply understand your target customers: Positioning is the mental space your products occupy in your customers’ minds. Not your mind. To earn the right space, you need to deeply understand your target customers, their challenges, and their objectives – ideally, before you begin building your product. With the best of intentions, leaders often make assumptions about what buyers need and want, usually based on a limited perspective. Set your assumptions aside, communicate with your audience, and test your value proposition and messaging. There are many cost-effective methods and channels to accomplish this. Taking the time up front to understand the market you are serving will save you time, costs and resources in the long run, and result in more successful products.

Describing, not distinguishing your solution: Describing what your product does isn’t positioning. Positioning is about describing what your product delivers in terms of outcomes and value. Know how your products fill gaps that existing (competitive) solutions don’t fill, and why this is important. Hint: If you are having a difficult time articulating the ultimate value, beneficial outcomes, or critical gaps that your solution addresses, in a way that clearly distinguishes you from existing products, either you haven’t invested the time to deeply understand your audience, or you are building the wrong product.

Focusing more on competitors than customers: Competitors won’t be buying your products. Customers will. In the quest to find points of differentiation, companies often scrutinize their competitors’ product features and marketing messages to come up with a “differentiator.” Competitive analysis is without question an important element in developing strong product positioning – just don’t put a primary focus on it. Use competitive research and analysis to understand existing options that address the problem you are trying to solve. Figure out how you solve that problem better in a way that customers will care about and will compel them to consider your solution instead.

Obscuring with clever jargon: How many times have you visited a company’s website and spent the first few minutes trying to figure out what they really did? Most likely, those few minutes were your last on that website. Why do some companies communicate with complex jargon that confuses and alienates the very people they are trying to attract and engage? They may be more focused on their product than their prospects and believe visitors will be impressed with colorful descriptions of what their product does but fail to understand what information their prospects are really seeking. Maybe they’re trying too hard to sound different from their competitors, so they come up with clever phrases. Drop the jargon. Keep it simple. Connect with the pains your prospects are experiencing, and the gains they want to achieve. Say exactly what you deliver and why your audience should care. Even better: Ask your best customers how they would describe your product and the value they derive from using it. Then use their words.

Thinking the words alone will make a difference: Putting together a great sounding positioning statement and key message points is one thing. Being able to demonstrate those message points are quite another. Your positioning isn’t about words. It’s about how your product delivers value in a way that’s important to the market segment you serve, about what you stand for, and your unique differentiators. It’s demonstrated through the results your customers experience better than other products in the market.

When developing your product positioning and messaging framework, ask these key questions, and validate them with your target customers:

  • What problem are we solving and why?

  • Why should our target buyers care?

  • How are customers currently addressing this problem today?

  • Do we know why our solution is better than our competitors? Have we validated this through market and customer validation?

  • What is meaningfully different or unique about our solution, and how will we demonstrate this?

Remember that product positioning isn’t what you think. It’s what your prospects and customers think. To develop powerful positioning and messaging you need objective research, market feedback, and a clear focus to ensure that your product or service occupies the right space in the mind of your prospects.

Curious how Insight Out Marketing can help you with your positioning and messaging strategy? Schedule a 30 minute call to find out.

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