The positioning of your company, meaning “the image that your company sends to your prospects, customers, competitors and partners”, is a major lever for success.
Do you have a business idea? Are you making progress in modelling it and people are talking to you about positioning and differentiation? Or perhaps you have already launched your business and now realise that you are struggling to stand out? Whatever the reasons and the stage of your entrepreneurial journey, if you are reading this article now, chances are that you are wondering how this positioning stuff will help your approach to the market...
To help you see things more clearly, and with the aim of establishing and developing your business, I have chosen to list 8 major truths about positioning.
What does brand positioning mean in short and simple terms?
The positioning of an offer or a brand corresponds to how it is perceived by consumers in relation to its competitors.
This perception is determined by tangible elements and criteria such as price, associated images, characteristics, etc. The interesting thing here is that we are talking about the consumer's or buyer's vision, not the company's! And this perception sometimes differs from the vision that the company has of itself... Needless to say, if you can avoid this pattern, it's better!
The 8 big truths about positioning
#1 : It's not the companies that decide
Yes, as I said earlier, it is the consumer's vision that is key to your positioning! If in the eyes of your buyers your company has an image that is different from the one you want to give it, it is this image that will become the positioning of your company, whether you like it or not!
#2 : Aiming wide is not the best strategy
It may seem counter-intuitive, right? You might be tempted to think that the more potential customers you have, the better your chances of selling your product or service. Well, no. All these different prospects will have different expectations and criteria.
If you go off in all directions, you will exhaust yourself trying to meet the majority of them and you will end up not really matching any of them... Instead, look at the market, your competitors, their positioning but also work on refining your target audience. Use this work to support your decisions.
#3 : You will ALWAYS have competitors
When asked the innocuous question “who are your competitors?”, most aspiring entrepreneurs we meet will answer “none”. If you can't find any competitors then you don't know your market well enough. I can say this, even though I know nothing about your project, because this is always, always true! Only, some competitors are less spontaneously visible than others, they are harder to find because they are smaller, less well referenced, operate mainly on word of mouth, etc. (the reasons differ according to the sector, the budget, the internal resources, etc.).
Anyway, a precise Google search can tell you about your direct competitors easily. I strongly recommend that you start there.
You should also consider your indirect competitors, which are often both numerous and underestimated. In order to come up with a realistic list, put yourself in the shoes of your target audience, understand their desires and needs and know their selection criteria.
Here's an example: you plan to offer musical performances with international artists. You have checked that no one in Luxembourg offers this. No direct competitor... phew! However, did you think that your prospects, who love music and entertainment in general, have many other choices in these areas? If you weren't there, how would they spend their evening? Your competitors could be concert halls, cinemas, dinner shows, circus troupes, improvisation matches, romantic restaurants, even musical films on Netflix! And that is the case in reality. It is therefore by studying the expectations and criteria of your target audience that you can refine this list and approach the market with a better grasp of the facts.
#4 : Start by targeting a small portion of a large market
Don't waste time nurturing a hypothetical market! You will already have enough effort and work to do to convince a market that is already ripe for your solution. In other words, don't try to create a new market at all costs, it requires phenomenal efforts in many ways, with a relative chance of success your customers would have to be convinced to go to this brand new market first. This takes time, money and energy). This is not true in all cases, but it will be true for the majority of you.
Don't try to compete with the market giants either, they are too well established to be pushed around by a start-up company right from the start. Your goal will be to find a portion of the market that is small enough so that you can address it very specifically and make a place for yourself. On the other hand, it also needs to be large enough for you to be able to make a living from it. Finally, your target clientele should of course fit with the vision you have for your business. In short, start by addressing consumers who are not (entirely) satisfied with existing solutions.
#5 : Finding the best positioning takes time
There are no shortcuts! You are now aware that you will always have competitors, and that you will have to work hard to get your prospects to buy. On this point, there are two aspects to take into account: mental and physical availability. “Mental availability” is when the consumer thinks about your company when he or she has a specific need. “Physical availability” means that your product or service is available where people are (obviously, this is easier if you offer digital!).
The best (but not the easiest or quickest, I'll give you that) way to do this is in several steps: firstly, identify the problem to be solved; secondly, the decision criteria for buying; and thirdly, the alternatives that a buyer might consider. And for this – I repeat, because it is essential – you need to have identified your target audience! Once you have done this, go and engage with them! Ask your buyer personas to tell you in detail about the moment they decided to find a solution to their problem, what their mental path was and their decision criteria. Interview a representative sample and then use your personal experience and common sense to draw out the information that is useful for your business. You then need to be where and when your prospects are making their decision and differentiate yourself from competitors they may be considering.
#6 : It is up to you to make it easy for your target audience
Don't expect your prospects to do a broad and thorough analysis of the entire market before making their decision. Your customers are in a hurry, they have other concerns. They will not consider all the players in the market. They will compare two or three at most, usually the ones they already know or the ones they have found most quickly. By the way, what do you do when you are looking for a new product or service?
To make life easier for your prospects, work on your brand awareness, optimise the SEO or even SEA of your site, post content online, etc. The Meet an Entrepreneur platform is full of articles and video testimonials on this subject and there are plenty of training courses and workshops if you feel the need.
#7 : First impressions are important
Customers do not remember the details, the small differences between two competitors. They often don't even see them! However, they will remember the first impression your company made on them. This is called the “primacy effect”. So, pay special attention to showing yourself in the best light and take care of first impressions. This is also why the importance of the visual identity is emphasised, even for a young company. It is not the only criterion, but it is one of the most important. I also recommend that you learn the basics of copywriting to present your product or service in the most effective way. You can also use concepts that they already know to help your prospects quickly understand what you are offering. For example: "the AirBnB of cars" to describe a carsharing platform.
#8 : Strengthen your positions before you do anything
Once you have found your relevant market area (see point 4), your priority should be to secure it to protect yourself from your competitors. But you need to do this in a way that will resonate strongly with your customers, that will turn them into ambassadors and that will increase the attractiveness of your brand. To do this, talk to your customers, find THE element(s) that made them choose your company and capitalise on that. Give your full attention to consolidating this! It's your best chance to last.
I hope these elements will be useful to you in developing (or revising) your positioning strategy. I'll say it again, because it's the most important thing: it's not your vision as an entrepreneur that counts, but how customers see you. Find your target audience and engage with them, put yourself in their shoes before you make any decisions.
Find more practical resources to hellp you on your entrepreneurial journey here!
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