Positioning a B2B brand in today’s age of cluttered technology start-ups can be a maddening endeavor. There are endless companies out there trying to garner the attention of the same target audience, regardless of who your audience is, and you tend to come to a position which is inevitably already owned by someone else. To be unique you have to understand two things. First; what doesn’t work? Second, what’s the right process to get to something that does work for your brand?
First order of business; what doesn’t work is what I refer to as the trifecta of lazy positioning. The trifecta of lazy positioning is simply that your company is “First, Biggest or Best”. Unscientifically I can say at least 75% of the companies you see in B2B marketing hang their hat on one of these three positions. They’re easy! They make a statement. Your audience tends to latch onto these positions. If you’re “First”, that translates to innovation. If you’re “Biggest”, that translates to scale, which implies effectiveness. If you’re “Best”, that implies effectiveness, efficiency and that your competitors are probably using the tool so you should be too.
While Biggest and Best are enviable positions, they are not the output of strong positioning work. They are lazy because you can grasp onto one and use it wherever you want without necessarily having to back it up. Even if they do help you drive results in the short term, you need more substance for the long-term marketing to be successful. When you’re “First”, your competitors will say you’re old and behind the times. When you’re “Biggest” your competitors will respond saying you’re no longer nimble enough to respond to innovation and change in the market. When you’re “Best”, there’s always someone gunning to take you down and they can use any of a handful of strategies to do it. Positioning needs more meat and something more defensible than these three broad statements.
To come up with a good position, you need a process to come to what you should be hanging your hat on. That process is actually quite simple. The first stage is to align yourself with what you’re actually selling. Go through the exercise to know what you actually generate revenue bringing to market rather than focusing solely on the vision for where you want to be. You need to balance vision with the present and that will establish credibility that the market trusts you know what you’re doing. Stage 2 of the process is to dive into the customers and understand their challenges and how they use your products to solve them. Speak to your customers and ask them what benefits they see to using your products and working with you. Don’t get caught in the product-oriented marketing cycle that most B2B companies fall into. Don’t talk about how fast you are, but talk about the business impact of that speed. Don’t talk about how big you are, rather talk about how your size enables scale which results in more impact on your business in a shorter period of time. Stage 3 is for you to surface those benefits into a clear, concise messaging framework that can be used to develop the creative portion of your message. That creative approach is where your brand personality will come alive in a way which demonstrates character through the essence of the brand while demonstrating the impact you can have on the market. This process isn’t difficult. In fact it’s quite standard and its actually pretty easy. There are specific exercises you can undergo to gather this information, but more than anything it requires to ask questions first and dive into your customer’s business’.
Positioning work can be hard, especially when you don’t have a process in place. With the right process, and an understanding of the pitfalls, you can come up with something unique, effective and ownable for your company.