Part 3 – The “WHO [has this specific pain or problem]” element from the positioning statement

Pain imagePain, problem, need or desire

Continuing  the series of blogs looking at the elements of the positioning statement I’m going to look at the customer pain or problem section.

In this entry I will look at the pain, problem, need or desire that we believe that target customer is looking to resolve.  So just so we have a the context for the discussion, here is the positioning statement format that Lustratus uses.

FOR [the ideal customer] WHO [has this specific pain or problem] OUR [product name] IS A[product category] THAT PROVIDES [this main benefit and reason to buy] UNLIKE [the primary alternative or competitor] OUR PRODUCT [has this unique selling proposition].

In the last blog entry we had started to create the unique position in a prospect’s mind where our products and services uniquely sit.  We did this by first identifying the ideal client.  Now we’re going to expand on the ideal client segmentation by adding a specific pain, need or desire that the ideal customer can relate to or a situation that they find themselves in.  The “who” element describes the situation, nearly always negative, that the ideal customer finds themselves in and the implication is that we can positively alter the ideal customer’s situation.

The following questions often help to narrowing down the “who” element of the positioning statement:

  • What is the ideal customer looking to do or achieve that they cannot do without help?
  • What must the ideal customer do that they are struggling to do?
  • What is the desired state that the ideal customer is looking to achieve?
  • What is the problem that the ideal customer is wrestling with?
  • What situation (needn’t be negative) does the ideal customer find themselves in?
  • etc.

Some examples

In a previous blog entry on the positioning statement we looked at an example REPAMA reverse-engineered positioning statement for Microsoft ESB Guidance.  Here, we saw that Microsoft’s “who” section was was defined as:

WHO are building solutions that leverage the SOA pattern

For those readers who are not experts in SOA (service-oriented architecture) or the infrastructure software market in general, “SOA” here is an esoteric software architecture model that many organisations believe provides great benefits.  Microsoft, amongst other vendors, claims that its products help its users to implement SOA more effectively.

Microsoft is effectively saying that it believes that the situation its target customer (Microsoft BizTalk Developers) finds themselves in is that of “building solutions that leverage the SOA pattern”.  Interestingly, in our attempt to reverse-engineer Microsoft’s positioning statement, we see that Microsoft has not aimed at an overtly negative pain for the ideal customer.  Rather it has chosen to simply focus on a situation the ideal customer finds themselves in.  Other vendors from the ESB REPAMA SAS report show a different approach to the pain.  Oracle with its Oracle Service Bus product chooses to identify the following area of pain in our reverse-engineered positioning statement:

WHO need to enforce quality of service, security and performance policies across an enterprise-wide network of multiple SOA domains

Progress with its Progress Sonic ESB product identifies this need

WHO need to connect many different IT resources using many different technologies in many physically different locations

So whilst Microsoft has chosen to simply state a situation, other vendors have chosen to highlight specific needs or deficiencies. Remember the positioning statement in its entirety should be used to make the ideal customer feel that you have designed and built the product (or service) specifically for them in response to their specific problems.  Other, more generic examples might include:

  • WHO are struggling to implement the latest governmental regulation
  • WHO need to remove costs from their IT operations
  • WHO fail to bring new products to market ahead of their competition
  • WHO are unable to ascertain their risk exposure in a timely manner
  • WHO cannot currently meet their corporate governance requirements
  • etc.

So that’s the main pain, need or desire section, I’ll tackle the “OUR [product name] section in a later blog entry.  <More information can be found in the Lustratus REPAMA Guide here>

Danny Goodall.

It should be borne in mind that Lustratus’ focus is on the high-tech software industry and whilst positioning as a concept will transfer to just about any business to business industry, many of the classifications we use assume that we’re dealing with a technical audience for infrastructure software.  So please bear that in mind for your own industry.

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