Positioning – The Startup Entrepreneur’s Guide

Positioning – Where did this word come from? In the “The Battle for your Mind”, a book by Al Ries and Jack Trout, the word positioning was used to indicate how companies reach their consumers in the noise of a crowded marketplace…

Positioning is about cutting through long verbose descriptions and features to facilitating a clear image in the mind of the client about your company, brand, product or service.

As a result of this concept, advertising companies enthusiastically began to use positioning statements to help their clients get into the most difficult-to-get- into advertising space in existence, the human mind.

What is positioning?

Positioning starts with your product, service or your company. Positioning is not about what you do to the product, it is about what you do to the mind of the customer.

Marketing and promotion is therefore more an issue of perceptions, of how customers think when they think of you, if at all they think of you! Successful marketing knows that positioning starts from the customer’s mind then works backwards into how your product or service is packaged.

You can think long and hard, you can be creative, you can analyze internally until you are blue in the face but this will not really provide you with the insights required to map onto the perceptions of the customer. The answer lies neither within you, nor your company nor your fantastic product. The secret lies in the inner recesses of the customer’s mind and you have to find a way to get to know what that is.

This is not easy. If it was, everyone would be a marketing guru.

Al Ries and Jack Trout suggested that in order to succeed, you must first get close to reality, the one that exists in your customer’s mind, not what you think it is. They suggest that rather than trying to “overturn” or replace what is in the customer’s mind with your version, you help them to shape their version a bit more advantageously for yourself.

Much of the reason for this is human psychology and the way people are wired. The average person does not want to be told they are wrong or uninformed. They want to believe they are in control, that they have made the decision themselves. Your job is simply to get them safely (without any ego harmed along the way) from where they are to where you want them to be.

At close quarters, one on one, this is also called Selling. In markets, where it is many clients that you are trying to reach, it is called Marketing.

Here are some ways the human mind reacts to new messages coming its way:

a) Its opening stance is one of cynicism and rejection
b) It will only accept information that validates prior knowledge and experience
c) It will not easily change once it has decided on something
d) It will be particularly resistant if it already has multiple entries in your domain

The human mind has a really hard time working with more than 6-7 entries of anything important at any one time and usually not more than 2-3 entries for inconsequential entries. When it is exposed to more, it rebels.

Marketing wisdom and experience now suggest that in order to cut through all the noise, all the filters, all the hardened logic, you need:

-a brief, sharp, crystal clear message that cuts its way into the mind
-a clear niche or edge where you are alone or not overcrowded (blue ocean strategy).

If you are a startup, evaluate how many other competitors exist in the niche you haves elected who have been there before you. If it is already 6-7 other competitors, it is going to be extremely difficult to dislodge them. Think of changing your positioning – the space – the way you wish to be perceived – until you have as little competition as possible.


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