"Aha!" Factor: Positioning So Your Audience "gets it"
A true story:
A luminary and well-respected leader was invited to attend a critical board meeting
of a Silicon Valley start-up. The executive team had feverishly worked to reinvent
and reposition the company, and this meeting was their one chance to gain a critical
endorsement. With introductions completed, the CEO and VP of Marketing began to
relay the genesis of the start-up with eagerness and passion. Fifteen minutes
later, the luminary politely raised his hand and asked them to stop. He said,
“I still don’t get what you do.” The silence was palpable.
What went wrong?
There was no “Aha!” moment as they described the business problem
they address and the benefits of their solution. The good news is that disasters
like this are avoidable. This article highlights the single most important exercise
executive teams should conduct to craft messages that ensure that board members,
analysts, partners, and sales prospects alike, “get it.”
the positioning statement
The lack of a clear message confuses prospects and other critical audiences,
yet few executives dedicate the time and talent required to transform their ideas
into crisp messages.
The solution is
to dedicate executives’ time and focus on building a consensus around a
clear, specific positioning statement. This exercise may be the responsibility
of the marketing VP, but it will require the entire organization to embrace it
and communicate it.
Positioning Statement is…
Positioning Statement is not…
description used for internal purposes to align all employees. It specifies:
• the target audience,
• the name of the product or service,
• the category of the product or service,
• the primary benefit(s) offered, and
• the points of differentiation
a tag line,
• an advertising slogan,
• a word-for-word message for customer viewing, nor
• a business plan.
Although it appears
at first to be a simple “fill in the blank” exercise, executive teams
can wrestle with this exercise for days. Testing and evaluating it with prospects
and business partners may take several weeks.
have a positioning crisis?
Without a common framework and agreement on the words to use to communicate
the value of the product and service, the members of the executive team will not
be aligned. The result: mis-directed sales reps, ineffective marketing campaigns,
and avoidable conflicts between marketing and engineering regarding the product
road map. This table will help you assess your “crisis level.” If
you agree with one or more of the items listed, it’s time to revisit your
that your positioning statement should be revisited
takes the average sales rep more than 30 seconds to describe the product or service.
|• Each sales
rep has a different “elevator pitch.”
|• Your company
has changed markets, investors, price points, sales model, or partnering/channel
been a year since the executive team has reviewed the company’s positioning.
|• It takes
the marketing/PR team more than 3 drafts to finalize press release messages.
|• The VP
of Marketing and VP of Sales have conflicting perspectives on the positioning
and sales tactics.
With these turbulent
economic times and the rapid evolution of technology, smart companies review their
positioning once or twice a year.
Where to start
The most productive positioning exercises or workshops include the participation
of a board member or other outside industry leader. Although it is sometimes difficult
to set aside time for this type of activity, the insights gained tend to greatly
improve the go-to-market strategy.
The best place to begin is with a clear understanding of your competition. Many
startup executives claim that their product or service has no competition. This
is most likely untrue, in that prospects usually are using some other product
or approach to solve the problem.
Aside from the involvement and partnership with marketing and sales teams
in this exercise, the positioning and its resulting messages must be tested and
nurtured with both prospects and customers.
are vigilant in testing their messages to match the most relevant message to a
specific target audience. Messages can be tested formally (via focus groups),
informally (via “friendly” prospects and customers), or through a
variety of well-targeted market outreach mechanisms. With careful planning, testing
can be executed quickly and inexpensively.
it all together
Bottom line: improved messaging will have a direct impact on the ROI
of any marketing and sales program. For more than 10 years, members of the KickStart
team have conducted executive positioning workshops for both established and start-up
businesses. We’d like to tell you more. aTo request additional information
on these or other KickStart programs, please contact Mike
Gospe at 650.464.7662.
2004 KickStart Alliance www.kickstartall.com