Winning your market - second in a series

Positioning Part 2: Choosing what you want to say

In Part 1, I introduced positioning and talked about how easy it is to miss your mark. This time, we focus on how successful campaign positioning depends on saying and doing just the right thing—at the right time—for the right audience.

IT Marketing Guy - Choosing what to say

Advertising is great fun in that you can choose what you want to say about a product or service—but it’s also where trouble begins. Just as there are great salespeople who can captivate their prospects by saying just the right thing—they seem to be far outnumbered by those who boor, badger and don’t seem to understand the needs or concerns of their prospects. Wouldn’t you agree?

Your campaign = your sales person

Like the great salesperson, advertising can be tailored to present different positions of the same products or services for different audiences and motivations—highlighting aspects that are important to the specific audience. However, unlike a salesperson, we don’t get to see the reaction of a prospect during our pitch—and we can’t change course mid-sentence when we see him looking for the exit. We write it, we live with it.

"We don’t get to see the reaction of a prospect during our pitch."

This concept of positioning first gained prominence with a book published by renowned marketing strategists Al Ries and Jack Trout titled, Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind (1981). It was revelatory in its time and, like many watershed concepts in marketing, its game-changing significance remains the same today.

Quite simply, how you position your product, your collateral, your company, and (perhaps, most importantly) your sales call, makes the difference between success and failure.

SAP is not a software company

A laudable example of this is the way some enterprise software vendors position and promote their products. Do they create collateral describing their software? Of course, but the smart ones spend much more time developing collateral (such as white papers) which aim to help businesses solve a variety of critical issues dealing with operations, finance, sales and so on. They know that none of their prospects say, “Man, we’re getting killed by the competition; we need an SAP system!” They’re more likely to say, “Our supply chain needs to be improved—how do we do that?”

“Man, we’re getting killed by the competition;
we need an SAP system!”

In response, SAP creates documents to help these types of customers understand how they can optimize their supply chain to win more business and improve profitability. THAT sounds more attractive than the idea of unloading buckets of cash for some code on a CD. Of course we'll probably need new technology to achieve it, but the white paper shows the benefit of the expenditure. It’s like getting the software for free—isn’t it? Thus, SAP becomes a solver of problems, not a software vendor. And though the customer understands there are many options for their technology requirements, SAP has put itself in a great position to be strongly considered.

But does your white paper sell me?

Of course, life is not quite that simple. Your white paper can have useful information, but how it’s titled and written will determine if your target reads it or ignores it—or falls asleep. At TEC, we see and (try to) read plenty of white papers. It can be mind-numbing. A common problem in many white papers is a lack of focus on an overriding benefit to attract and hold our attention. Migraine-inducing complexity leads you from one sentence to another before realizing you have no idea what you just read. Who are we selling here?

"A common problem is a lack of focus on an overriding benefit."

Long-suffering TEC Senior Copy Writer, Larry Blitz can be heard (at least once a day) carping, “What’s this? A bloody Easter egg hunt?” as he looks for an angle to promote a research paper. What is the positioning? Who is this for?—and why should they read it? Are prospects going work as hard as Larry (who’s often reminded he’s paid) to find out what the heck the vendor is talking about? The prospect says, “Tell me quickly why I should care—or I’m gone.”

“Tell me quickly why I should care—or I’m gone.”

That’s why it can be invaluable to have a knowledgeable outside party take the ideas and data compiled by your "committee" (as with too many cooks, good ingredients can end up being less than palatable as a meal) and come up with something that speaks to a real person.

Do you have any thoughts on this post or less than friendly vendor collateral? I welcome your comments below.

Next post: Why we should love dumb questions
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