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The Art of Positioning: Unveiling the Power of Product Positioning

Product positioning is a fundamental concept in the world of marketing. It's the art of clearly defining what you excel at in something that a specific market considers important. While it may seem simple, positioning has a profound impact. Because our brains can only handle a limited amount of information at a time, effective positioning helps customers place you in the right market category and understand how you outperform the current solution. However, there are many misconceptions about positioning that we want to dispel before moving forward.

First, positioning is not a one-time activity. With changes in consumer behaviors and government policies, it becomes necessary to constantly reevaluate your position to gain or maintain market share. Secondly, the positioning is not superficial. Due to the complex jargon associated with the topic, people often dismiss it as a useless activity reserved for large companies. However, nothing could be further from the truth.

Now that we've cleared up these myths, let's look at why positioning is crucial for all businesses:

It helps you discover your true identity and intentionally align yourself with those who need your offerings. Not everyone will be interested in or need what you have to offer, and that's perfectly normal.

It allows you to constantly innovate and meet the needs of your target audience.

Properly positioned products lead to customers who truly understand the product and need it, which results in increased sales.

It's not safe to assume that users will automatically place your product in the correct category. While there are cases where users intuitively categorize your product correctly, relying solely on this can limit the growth of your business.

In today's world, there are numerous variations of positioning statement templates. However, these models often leave companies and business owners more confused than before. However, April Dunford in her book “Obviously Awesome” explains what makes effective positioning. We will use Apple's iPhone as a case study to illustrate these concepts, as it is a globally recognized product.

Let's examine the components of effective positioning and how they relate to the iPhone:

Competitive alternatives: Consider what customers would do or use if your solution didn't exist. Look at the situation from the customer's point of view, not yours. Conduct focus groups, interviews and surveys to gain insights. In the case of the iPhone, before its launch in 2007, the most popular cell phones were flip or slide phones. People loved these phones because they were compact and eliminated the need to carry phone numbers.

Unique Attributes: Identify your “secret to success.” Avoid blanket statements like “great customer service,” as no company would admit to having bad customer service. Your unique selling points are the capabilities that set your offerings apart from the competition. These may include your talent pool, business model, financial strength, delivery model, technical features, or user experience. Research shows that the iPhone's main unique attribute was its full, unrestricted Internet browsing capability. Consumers could access the Internet from a pocket-sized device. Additionally, the iPhone's sleek design differentiated it from the clunky clamshell and slide phones of the time.

Value (and proof): Value is the benefit you can offer consumers based on your unique selling points. It's important to provide objective evidence instead of subjective claims like "easy to use interface." The value of your product should be validated by customers, reviewers and industry experts. In the case of the iPhone, one of the values offered by Apple was speed. While they weren't the first to use touchscreen technology, they were the first to refine it, offering smooth scrolling and navigation through content.

Target Market Characteristics: Understand the characteristics of your target audience that make them more likely to purchase your product. You should focus on those who make quick purchasing decisions, ask few questions, don't look for discounts, and actively promote your brand among others. While you may have different customer segments, it's best to focus on your most devoted fans when positioning your product. In the case of the iPhone, the ideal target audience in 2007 was tech-savvy individuals known as explorers. They were eager to adopt new technologies out of curiosity and a love of innovation. Nowadays, the target audience has expanded to include not only individuals who are passionate about technology, but also those who value documenting their experiences through photography and video, value aesthetics, and keep up with trends.

Market Category: When faced with something new, humans instinctively look to familiar groups to understand better. The same goes for products. Positioning your product in the right category helps customers grasp its unique value proposition. I would be inclined to categorize almond milk as a health food due to its higher price than regular milk. A better example is LinkedIn, which belongs to the category of job search toolkits and also serves as a networking platform.

Choosing your market category can make a difference in your effort to acquire customers, as customers expect your product to perform at the same level or better than others in that category. The iPhone naturally fell into the smartphone category, leading customers to assume that it could make calls, send texts, and handle emails like other phones of the time. However, the iPhone offered more features and superior design than most cell phones, earning it a place in the premium segment. When you hear the word “premium,” you expect a higher price and even better features.

Bonus: Relevant trends (optional): While not essential, keeping up with trends can be beneficial. Trends create excitement and curiosity among customers, pushing them to explore your product. However, it is essential to choose trends that align with your industry and highlight the strengths of your product. For example, the integration of artificial intelligence has become a common trend in technology, and Apple was ahead of the curve in integrating Siri, an AI-based application, long before AI gained widespread popularity.

These effective positioning components are interconnected, so we recommend going through them step by step to get the best possible results. Please note that the explanations are not exhaustive to avoid an overly long article. We highly recommend reading April Dunford's book for a deeper understanding.

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