Brian Rhea Brian Rhea

Positioning Your Product

Chances are strong to quite strong that April Dunford’s book, “Obviously Awesome” has shown up on your radar this year.

April was the most recent guest on my podcast, “Bright & Early,” and there are a couple of big ideas from that conversation I’d like to share with you.

What is Positioning?

April’s “thing” is positioning. The subtitle of her book is “How to Nail Product Positioning so Customers Get It, Buy It, Love It.”

Ok. I’m in. I’d like for my customers to understand what I’m selling, decide to buy it, and love it when they do.

Let’s begin with this easy-to-understand definition of positioning:

Positioning defines how your product is the best in the world at delivering something that a well-defined set of customers cares a lot about. – April Dunford

You don’t want to try to be the best CRM in the world.

You want to be the best CRM for contractors.

That provides a level of focus that gives small teams like yours an advantage over heavily-staffed, well-funded incumbents and enterprises.

You cannot beat Salesforce across the entire marketplace. But you can kick their ass within a segment that you choose to focus on.

Components of Positioning

In our interview, April talked about the five component pieces of positioning:

  • Competitive alternatives
  • Unique capabilities
  • Value
  • Target customer
  • Market category

What’s fascinating, is that those pieces are all interrelated.

For example, the unique capabilities you provide depend on the competitive alternatives for your target customer.

If you switch up your target customer, the unique capabilities you think you’re able to provide with your product may not be so unique because what they value is different and their competitive alternatives might be good enough compared to your flashy mobile app.

You’ve Got to Start Somewhere

Because of the interrelatedness of each component, you could spin yourself in circles and go down a spiral as you tweak and change. April and I chatted about this on the podcast, and I’ll let her answer speak for itself:

_“If everything is related to everything else, where do I start? For a long time, I thought, there is no good place to start because everything depends on everything else.

“You take a crack at one of them, you work your way through, you test it, you see if it works, and you try again.

“For three or four years, I attempted to do positioning that way until I had a bit of an epiphany. I noticed that if I did not start with competitive alternatives, I often got to positioning that looked good, but it didn’t work because it was non-differentiated.

“If what you want is positioning that makes it obvious how your product is uniquely awesome, then I have to start by thinking about competitive alternatives.

“Then I say, ‘Ok if these are the actual alternatives, this is what I have that they don’t have. These capabilities translate to value.

“Then I can say, ‘these are the characteristics of a customer that makes them care about my value.’ Now I’ve got value and customer and I can figure out the market context I want to wrap around my product that makes this value obvious to these people.

“So you’ve got to flow through the five components in that order to end up with positioning that’s differentiated.”_

And to review, that order is:

  • Competitive alternatives
  • Unique capabilities
  • Value
  • Target customer
  • Market category

Position Yourself to Be a No-brainer

April’s book goes into her step-by-step methodology for arriving at strong positioning with those characteristics.

If you haven’t read it, I think you should check it out. It’s a ~4-6 hour read, very actionable, with none of the typical “business-book-case-study” filler garbage.

It’s important to dig into this because strong positioning makes you look like a no-brainer against your target customer’s competitive alternatives.

Not your competitors.

The competitive alternatives (spreadsheets, interns, kicking the can down the road.)

What are you displacing? What is the current solution that your customers are choosing and can you offer enough value to make that switch worth it?

Crack those questions open and you’re on the right path.

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