Happy 2009! I’ve been in debate with a number of correspondents about the layout and format of the positioning statement that we use in the Lustratus REPAMA-based research. So I’m going to dedicate the next few blog entries to the positioning statement. I hope to answer the following questions.
- What is the positioning statement?
- Why use a positioning statement?
- What is the value of a positioning statement?
- What is the format of a positioning statement?
The first thing to say is that over the years, having worked with some of the best product marketing people in the industry, I’ve seen many different approaches to positioning and equally many different formats for positioning statements. Each of them, to a greater or lesser extent has been valuable. Most positioning statements that I’ve seen and used have had a very similar structure. Although I have seen some that have been very different, in fact more like a what I would refer to as a value statement or a value proposition. Perhaps I will revisit them in a future blog but here I’m going to focus on the classic positioning statement. So as I’ve mentioned there is no single way to construct a positioning statement but Lustratus has settled on a specific format that captures and conveys the seven key product marketing elements and it is this format that I will concentrate on here.
What purpose does the positioning statement serve?
It’s probably best to start with a definition for positioning first. And if positioning statements are contentious then the the broader subject of positioning is even more so. Whilst there are many views on this, for me, positioning is about creating a unique, compelling and defensible space in the minds of your prospects where your product/service and only your product/service sits. Your ideal prospect must feel that you created the product/service for them alone to answer their specific problems and very importantly they must understand exactly how you are different/better that the alternative/competition. Most product marketing professionals understand this well but as mentioned above, the development of positioning strategies and the statements that captures those strategies can take many different forms.
In my experience most positioning statements are designed to be internal tools for the development and then internal communication of a unique and compelling market proposition. The positioning statement seldom gets used externally (with customers or prospects) in its raw format. External marketing communications strategies are typically developed using the internal positioning statement as a guide.
The positioning statement conveys the following seven product marketing elements:
- The Ideal customer
- The main pain that the ideal customer has or the negative situation they find themselves in
- The name of the product
- The name of the product category – the generic way to refer to the class of product (I often see this omitted)
- The main benefit that the product provides and the key reason that the prospect should buy the product
- The primary competition or alternative
- The unique selling proposition (USP)
The format of a positioning statement
A positioning statement is natural language-based and should read fluidly and easily as a single sentence and yet should contain all seven of the marketing elements above. This sounds like a complex task and to aid us in that development we use a specific structure for the statement. This is shown below.
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].
So the “for”, “who”, “our”, “is a”, “that provides”, “unlike” and “our product” elements give our positioning statement the structure it needs.
An example positioning statement
An example positioning statement is shown below. It is taken from the upcoming Lustratus REPAMA Segment Analysis Study into the Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) market segment. In the study we reverse-engineer the seven marketing strategy elements of positioning statement (as well as many others) used by a number of the vendors in the ESB space – in this case the products examined were Microsoft ESB Guidance, Oracle Service Bus, Progress Sonic ESB and TIBCO ActiveMatrix Service Bus. In the example below we’ve attempted to capture Microsoft’s position and proposition in the ESB market.
FOR Microsoft BizTalk Developers WHO are building solutions that leverage the SOA pattern OUR Microsoft ESB Guidance IS A loosely-coupled messaging environment THAT PROVIDES an infrastructure for enabling a service-oriented architecture UNLIKE traditional ESBs OUR PRODUCT provides a superset of ESB functionality, extending the ESB pattern to include modelling and execution of business rules, workflow, and adapter integration
It’s notoriously difficult to be precise when reverse-engineering a vendor’s positioning statement and sections like the “that provides” and “our product” are especially difficult to define precisely. But hopefully it shows how an organisation like Microsoft might set about defining its approach to a particular market segment.
In the next several blogs I’ll expand on the positioning statement and cover each of the seven elements in a bit more detail. <More information can be found in the Lustratus REPAMA Guide here>
Other posts in this series
The Positioning Statement
FOR… positioning element
IS A…positioning element
THAT PROVIDES…positioning element
OUR PRODUCT…positioning element