Positioning in Marketing: Carving Out Your Business Niche
by Cydney Hatch • October 3, 2018
No matter what sector you’re in, it’s a safe bet that you’re facing stiff competition these days. The reality of today’s competitive online marketplace means that most businesses now compete with one another on a global scale. That means that to succeed, you need to differentiate yourself from every other company in your sector.
Does that sound like a tall order? It all comes down to learning how to define your business and carving out a unique niche for yourself. That’s all part of a process known as positioning marketing — and it is very much within your reach.
Intrigued? This article will explain exactly what you need to do to make a name for yourself, establish your brand in your given industry, and set up positioning strategies. Keep reading to find out how to successfully use positioning in marketing to grow your business and stand apart from the competition.
What is Market Positioning?
Market positioning is the process of defining your business’s brand and associating that brand with a particular set of values. The goal behind market positioning is not only to increase sales but also to create a clear public perception of what your brand stands for.
This isn’t just a matter of creating positive associations with your brand. It’s a matter of creating highly specific, unique associations. You want to ensure that whenever consumers see your logo, they think about what differentiates your company from the rest.
Think about what happens, for example, when most people see a Rolls-Royce logo. They immediately think of luxury, high quality, and status. They may picture themselves behind the wheel of a Rolls-Royce and think, with pleasure, of what they’d do and how they’d feel. It’s not just a positive connection — it’s a very unique set of associations.
In contrast, think about what happens when people see a McDonald’s logo. They might think about fun, flavor, and low-cost relaxation. They may remember all the times they’ve visited McDonald’s throughout their lives and think fondly about the good times they’ve had there with their friends.
The McDonald’s logo brings up very different associations from the Rolls-Royce logo. But both are positive and strong, and both create connections between consumers and the brand. That’s the goal of market positioning.
What Are the Key Elements of Market Positioning?
An effective market positioning strategy will use what are known as the four P’s — promotion, price, place, and product. Here’s how those P’s operate.
This is where consumers can buy your products or services. Most businesses will benefit from making their products available in several different places. Ideally, your customers should be able to buy products from you in-store, at trade shows, and in a variety of online locations. You can sell your products through apps, affiliate marketing, and third-party vendors.
Remember that the places your products are sold should reflect positively on your brand. If you’re using a third-party vendor, make sure that their website or store shares the same values as your business does. You want to create a consistent image of your brand. Imagine how confusing it would be to find your favorite fast food hamburgers, for example, being sold in an upscale French restaurant. Go for a coherent, reliable market position that sends a clear message to consumers.
This refers to the cost of your product. Ideally, your price should remain fairly stable across different locations. There may be some fluctuation, but you’ll want consumers to associate your brand with a certain price range. If customers think of you as an affordable brand, for example, you’ll want to make sure that you maintain that image.
Your price is a key aspect of your brand positioning effort. This does not necessarily mean that you need to offer low-cost products; as we saw with the Rolls-Royce example, some consumers place a high value on luxury goods. However, it does mean that your pricing should be consistent and clear.
This includes all of the products your company provides. A fast food company like McDonald’s or Burger King, for example, provides hamburgers, chicken nuggets, French fries, and a range of other foods. An automotive business like Ford provides cars, trucks, and other motor vehicles.
Typically, each company has a few stand-out products that consumers associate closely with their brand. They then build on those core products over time. McDonald’s may be best-known for their hamburgers and French fries but they are becoming known for their salads and coffees, as well.
Your business’ products should be recognizable and reliable, but you should never let your offerings grow stale. Keep an eye on the market as demands change so that you’ll have the flexibility to meet demands without losing your brand positioning.
This covers all of the marketing efforts that a business uses to inform connect with consumers. Everything from social media marketing to billboards falls into this broad category.
Promotion doesn’t just inform consumers about your new products — it also helps to achieve brand positioning. Your promotional style, the visuals and the language that you choose, and even the medium that you use for advertising, all help to establish a clear brand voice.
How to Apply Market Positioning Strategy
The more narrowly you can define how each of the four P’s apply to your brand, the better. After all, the overarching goals should be to stand out from the competition and present a clear, consistent image of your business. Let’s look at how some leading brands do this.
Audi and Tesla
Audi and Tesla both position themselves as high-priced, luxury status symbols. Beyond this similarity, though, the two brands differ significantly. Audi is a long-standing luxury auto brand, while Tesla is a trendy and sometimes rowdy upstart. Tesla’s products are designed to be eco-friendly, whereas Audi’s are not.
The cars will appeal to a different clientele, and this difference will be reflected in their promotional material.
Wendy’s and Starbucks
Wendy’s positions itself as an affordable place to get cheap meals. Starbucks positions itself as an upscale coffee shop and purveyor of beverages and snacks. As far as pricing and products, the two businesses are far from each other.
Their promotional materials are, likewise, very different from each other. They are designed to appeal to different consumers. Wendy’s advertisements usually promote the company’s new hamburgers, emphasizing their low price and their intense flavor.
Starbucks, in contrast, stresses the company’s luxurious offerings. One typical advertisement contains the following value proposition statements:
- The best coffee
- Rich & smooth flavors
- The finest milk used
- Natural and clean
- 100% recycled paper use
The message is clear: Starbucks is promising customers that they will receive high-quality, eco-conscious, and upscale products which they will thoroughly enjoy. In contrast to most Wendy’s ads, the Starbucks ad does not advertise low prices or talk about good deals. Instead, it focuses on the quality of the products and the value that the product will contribute to your life.
The places where Starbucks products are sold are usually upscale, while Wendy’s could be less so. Even though both companies provide food and beverages, they have effectively positioned themselves very differently and each has a very different target market, so much that they are not competing with each other.
Building a Market Positioning Strategy
Positioning your brand is not a one-time proposition. It takes constant energy and effort. Every business will need to create ongoing marketing initiatives so that consumers retain their impression of the company and the brand. Ideally, you should be constantly reinforcing your target market’s impressions of your business and brand.
How, exactly, does that work? We’ll get into the steps to building an effective market positioning strategy below.
What Is a Market Positioning Strategy?
The purpose of a great market positioning strategy is to take your marketing efforts to the next level and educate consumers about your products and services. We’ve seen how Starbucks uses its marketing to sell its products and its overall ethos. Every business can similarly use market positioning.
Successful brand positioning will entail using the correct brand values, messaging, and outreach. Market positioning is a complex process, and it will look slightly different for each business. Here are some of the key elements that should be involved in the process.
Steps to an Effective Marketing Position Strategy
It’s impossible to overstate the fact that each business is different. There is no simple, one-size-fits-all approach to market positioning strategy. Nevertheless, some basic steps apply to most businesses. Keep reading for our step-by-step guide to crafting the best possible market positioning strategy for your business.
Step One: Create a Positioning Statement
Your positioning statement defines the brand identity that your business aims to present. In short, it is the center of your business’s identity, setting out your values and your overall ethos.
Your positioning statement also sets out a plan for winning over consumers. It identifies who, exactly, your target audience is. At the same time, it identifies their major pain points and then explains how they will be resolved by your business.
Several key elements are involved in creating a great positioning statement. That includes:
- Deciding on your target audience
- Determining where your target market should be
- Crafting a unique value proposition statement
- Create content to support your value proposition statement
It can be helpful to see what a business like Amazon presents as a value proposition statement: “For internet users who want things fast and easy, Amazon.com is a retail database that provides instant access to millions of items. Unlike traditional retailers, Amazon.com provides a combination of extraordinary convenience, low prices, and comprehensive selection.”
Your positioning statement is going to be your guide, going forward, for all of the key marketing and advertising decisions that your business is responsible for making. It will continuously inform every choice that you make to positively impact your potential customer’s perception of your brand.
How can you tell whether you’ve effectively created a market positioning strategy? Here’s how you’ll know if you haven’t done it right. One of the biggest red flags to watch for, indicating that you have neglected your market positioning strategy, is that there is a disconnect from your target audience. If your audience is confused by you, there’s a good chance that you misunderstand yourself on some level.
If you are struggling to figure out what your positioning statement should look like, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you have a clear definition of your business?
- Have you clearly explained how your company is differentiated from other companies in the same sector?
- Does your positioning statement contain a unique value proposition?
- Does your positioning statement define the people in your target audience and explain their most relevant needs?
- Can you apply your positioning statement consistently across all of the areas of your business?
- Is your positioning statement clear and easy to understand for your target audience and other consumers?
- Can you deliver on the promises made in your positioning statement?
Hopefully, you should be able to answer the questions above in a positive manner. If not, they should give you a roadmap to the areas that require improvement. It can be difficult to solve all of these issues alone, of course. Sometimes, it’s a good idea to consult with experts who can offer their know-how in the field.
Step Two: Simplify and Tagline
Once you have a strong brand positioning statement you can then create a tagline, or better known as a slogan, to use externally for potential customer messaging. Instead of using the positioning statement, this is a shorter, snappier version of what you want your customers to know.
For example, here are some business taglines:
- Home Depot: “You can do it. We can help.”
- L’Oreal: “Because you’re worth it.”
- Nike: “Just do it.”
- Southwest Airlines: “The short-haul, no-frills, and low-priced airline.”
- State Farm: “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.”
- Target: “Expect more. Pay less.”
- Walmart: “Always low prices. Always.”
By simplifying your positioning statement, you can easily use these in other marketing efforts to get your business point across a lot sexier than an internal, longer, and detailed positioning statement.
Step Three: Competitor Analysis
Investigating and analyzing the competition helps to determine the strengths and weaknesses of your own business but also helps you carve out your positioning in the market.
Understanding the differences between a business and its competitors is central to finding gaps in the market that can be filled. So, when you are looking at your competitors consider the following:
- Competitor objectives: Market share and growth rate
- Competitor history: Past marketing efforts, cultural factors, market trends, messaging, and engagement
- Competitor strategy: White papers, promotional campaigns, advertisements
- Competitor audience: Engagement, social media, features, collaborations
By understanding where your competition stands, you will better know the direction you need to go to make yourself stand out. Why be like everyone else when you can construct a positioning strategy that does things better than your competition?
Step Four: Find Current Position
After you figure out where your competition is, you might want to then understand where your business currently stands. When you understand this, you can properly compete for your market share. You cannot grow without a starting point, so define where you are with the same competition analysis questions we discussed earlier.
Step Five: Develop Your Unique Position
Since you have all the data ready to have a holistic understanding of your market, audience, and competition, you should have a better idea of who you are, who you are not, and who you want to be to the best target audience. At this point, you will be able to create strong marketing plan strategies that can effectively position your business in the market.
Make sure your marketing efforts and messaging are always reflecting your mission and positioning statement.
Step Six: Positioning in Advertisements
Advertisements are usually the first and most impactful places businesses position themselves.
Again, when creating advertisements and other content, ask yourself: Is my business and value proposition being shared clearly? If you are a facial skincare business, for example, you must determine who you are targeting and what customer needs are. If the intended target is trying to help teenage girls overcome acne issues, the content in your advertisements might need to include:
- Value statements: We help acne — easy use, customer testimonials, and success stories
- Young design: Feminine, bright, youthful, possible influencer they would recognize
- Young female models: Personal connection so they can see themselves in the product
- Comparison statements: We are different from St. Ives or other over the counter scrubs, we use different technology
- Quick usage: Text us at 1888ACNE to get 10% off, manage your mobile-friendly account online
To note the importance of positioning, this same type of advertisement might not work for a skincare company that wants to help women’s skin look younger.
Every marketing effort you make needs to intimately be a part of your positioning statement and mission.
Test Your Market Positioning
At Disruptive, we truly believe you should test everything and continue to do so throughout your business career. Testing includes qualitative and quantitative data gathering that can include focus groups, surveys, and laddering interviews.
Based on the findings of these tests, you can solidify your positioning in marketing and transform your marketing efforts. When you have a strong internal message, it can become the blueprint for the development of all that’s creative.
Now, if you find that your positioning in marketing is a bit off, you can always reposition. Let’s take a look at that process in the next section.
What Is Market Repositioning?
Unfortunately, no matter how beautifully craft your marketing positioning, people will have their ideas of what your business is. Positioning is not something you do, but rather, is the result of your customer’s perception of what you do.
So, like any marketing effort, you should be prepared to adapt and change your market position as needed. By examining the essence of what you are and comparing it with what your customers want, things might need to change. Hence, repositioning.
Market repositioning is when a company changes its existing brand or product status in the marketplace. Repositioning is usually done due to declining performance or major shifts in the environment.
It is best to see what worked and what did not work in your previous marketing efforts to best reposition yourself in the market. It also be might that you do not need to rehaul all of your positioning in marketing. Many companies, instead of repositioning, choose to launch a new product or brand because of the high cost and effort required to successfully reposition a brand or product.
By examining the essence of what you are and comparing it with what your customers want, the doors open to building a business with a strong positioning in the mind of the customer.
Positioned for Success
Positioning is often used nowadays as a broad synonym for marketing strategy, but positioning in marketing should be thought of as an element of strategy, not as the strategy itself.
Positioning is — and should be — intimately connected to the concept of “target market.” With the above elements and a solid understanding of positioning, you should be able to carve a strong place out for your business! If you focus on the potential customer, target market, and put in the efforts to see how they work together for your positioning, you will come out on top!
Working With the Experts
By now, you should have a good sense of how market positioning works. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re ready to carry it out on your own.
Ideally, business leaders should have a solid understanding of marketing strategies but should also feel comfortable outsourcing the research, pricing, and nitty-gritty implementation to others. That’s why so many businesses are turning to Disruptive Advertising to perfect their market positioning strategy. Get in touch today to start a conversation about what we can do for your business.