Back in elementary school, do you remember trying to be the first one in line to go to the lunchroom, go out for recess, or start a game? Regardless, at some point in your life, you probably have experienced that feeling of wanting to be in a favorable position so you could receive a benefit or perform a task more easily and better than others around you.
This desire to position yourself favorably in life is not an option in business. In business, it is a necessity for successfully marketing your product or service against those of your competitors.
To win your product positioning battle in business, you must constantly remind your market of your uniqueness. If you don’t, you will become one of the missing in action and miss all the action.
No matter what product or service you sell, you can differentiate your business or products from those of your competitors. Therefore, your job in positioning starts with determining what makes your products or services unique to your marketplace.
Soft Factors and Added Values
For companies without a long track record, positioning starts with their product(s). Even if you offer a product that is identical in composition to others in the market, you can differentiate your product based on “soft” factors or “added values” that are almost always unique to an individual company.
To discover any soft factors or added values for your product, ask yourself:
- Do you offer a better service policy, an extended warranty, or oilier intangibles or hidden attributes?
- In what ways do you increase the value of your products or services?
- Are there other factors that differentiate your product from your competitors?
Other factors on which you can differentiate your products include:
- Target audience
Eight Ways to Position & Differentiate Your Product
Keeping in mind any soft factors or added values your product has, consider the eight methods discussed below when evaluating your product’s uniqueness. Positioning your product over your competitors’ will be easier when using one or more of these eight strategies.
Position on Specific Product Features
Positioning your product in terms of its particular features or physical characteristics is a common approach in the marketing industry, especially for industrial and some consumer products.
To get a quick idea of any specific features of your product, briefly brainstorm and list any of its physical characteristics on a piece of paper.
When you are done brainstorming, review the list and highlight any features that you feel make your product stand out from the rest of the competition.
Volvo advertisements are a good example of product feature positioning. Through its ads, the company positions its automobiles by emphasizing numerous safety features.
Another good example of feature positioning can be seen in Bowflex direct response tv ads, where a piece of physical fitness equipment is advertised as providing several different toning and strengthening exercises on its “all-in-one,” lightweight frame. Instead of buying separate weightlifting equipment, a consumer can purchase the Bowflex machine and meet several fitness needs.
Your list of product features will come in handy when you complete the Differentiating Your Product, Service or Business Checklist here.
Position on Specific Product Benefits
When you position your product on benefits, you focus on what the product can do for the consumer rather than on the product’s physical features.
Product features and benefits, however, can be closely related. Often, a product’s particular feature may in fact be the reason for the product’s benefit.
The Bowflex example illustrates this point because even though the product’s physical design is unique and provides the consumer with multiple uses, itts design can also provide the consumer with muscle strengthening and overall health benefits. Not to mention the benefit of the product’s design taking up less space than other more bulky weightlifting equipment.
Take the time now to determine if your product’s features and benefits are closely related, and if so, decide which aspect you are going to position on. Keep in mind that even though feature positioning is quite common, many businesses have found benefit positioning to be more effective.
For example, in the marketing of pharmaceutical products, studies have shown that physicians are more interested in the benefits of a given drug – such as fewer side effects and easier administration – than in the chemical ingredients (features) that lead to a drug’s benefit.
Another example can be found in the computer industry that initially positioned their products on features. They were dissatisfied with their results and created a focus group to assess the problem.
This group contended that computer manufacturers needed to position their products on their benefits, not their features. If you remember the computer advertising from the 1980s, 1990s or even 2000s, you can see how their advertising has evolved.
Gone are the ads featuring advanced CPUs, RAM memory or “gigabytes” of hard drive. Today, computer ads are benefit-oriented, depicting scenes such as an executive leaving the office early because her computer made her so much more efficient or a family member happily using a computer for entertainment or to keep track of the household budget and needs.
Use the factors described previously as a way to determine your product’s benefits. What about your product’s warranty? Is it superior to other competitors?
Consider Craftsman Tools, a company that positions itself on the benefits of its excellent warranty, which basically states: The consumer receives free tool replacement anytime a Craftsman Tool breaks.
Quickly brainstorm and list those benefits you feel are important and unique to your product. Save the list for when you complete the Differentiating Your Product, Service or Business Checklist here.
Position on Specific Use
Positioning on specific use is related to benefit positioning, but the difference with positioning on specific use is that you try to specify how a product can fulfill a current need or use in the marketplace rather than promoting an overall, more obvious benefit.
For example, NordicTrack exercise equipment initially was introduced to the consumer as a way to stay fit. Several years later, NordicTrack switched their positioning to take advantage of many consumers’ desire and need to maintain a healthy body weight. They now have a lose-weight-and-keep-it-off position.
Position on User Category
This form of positioning is based on demographics or psychographics, or both. For instance, “The Pepsi Generation’’ message appeals to a particular demographic target that probably represents 15- to 30-year-olds.
Nike’s “Just Do It” is an advertising slogan based on psychographics, which focuses on young, energetic people and their values of being active.
Position Against Another Product
Comparing your product with a direct competitor – usually the leading brand name competitor – is an excellent way to attract customers.
By comparing your product to a leading brand name, you imply, at a minimum, equality with that product, if not advantages or added values.
Pain relievers, cereals, and laundry detergents are notorious for this type of positioning. See if this strategy will work in your industry.
Position on Price
Unless you buy in huge quantities so you have a profitable margin even at low sale prices, price positioning probably isn’t for you. This type of positioning is most often used by big discount houses, such as Wal-Mart.
You may be tempted to position on price. However, for most small businesses, it can be extremely dangerous because most don’t move enough volume to generate the necessary operating capital and profit with low margin products.
Before you consider positioning on price, have your accountant do a detailed analysis to determine whether it is economically feasible to do so.
Position on Product Class Dissociation
Less common in today’s marketing strategies, product class dissociation positioning is used only when introducing a new product that differs from the typical products in an established category.
Lead-free gas, tubeless tires, zero-calories drinks, smokeless tobacco etc. are products that, when new, were positioned against already established products.
Position on a Hybrid Basis
Given the variety of possibilities, consider a hybrid approach that incorporates elements from several of the above categories. That’s always risky as the marketing message gets diluted.
Helpful Resources to Position Your Product
The differentiation checklists located here are designed to help you apply some of the eight positioning methods discussed above. After completing these checklists, you will have a better idea on how to position your product or service against that of your competition.
Whenever you write or speak about your product or service, keep your positioning strategies in mind so you are consistent and more effective.
- Positioning is how you use the uniqueness of your company or products to differentiate yourself from your competitors.
- Making your product, service, or company stand out as unique and special against your competition is what positioning strategy is all about. Study your product’s features and benefits carefully to help determine your uniqueness.
- Use the eight positioning methods discussed in this blog post to help you evaluate how to approach your positioning in your marketplace.
- Assess your competition thoroughly to know what you are up against. Learn from their mistakes or successes in positioning within the market.