Simplify Positioning For Your Startup, Product or Offer
After getting some web copy positioning advice from a friend and fellow entrepreneur, Steph Hay @steph_hay — co-founder of FastCustomer and mentor at 500 Startups, I decided to brush up and blog about positioning and copywriting for startups to help make my communications a bit sharper and hopefully leading to higher conversions for my business and startup BrandVizor. Startups must position their offer in the market in order to get closer to converting customers.
To brush up on this topic, I decided to pull out an old audio book I had from Al Ries & Jack Trout’s 1981 book “Positioning: The Battle for your Mind by Al Ries and Jack Trout” — an awesome time tested reference from two thought leaders on branding and marketing. Ries and Trout explain that while positioning begins with a product, the concept really is about positioning that product in the mind of the customer. This approach is needed because consumers are bombarded with a continuous stream of advertising, with advertisers spending several hundred dollars annually per consumer in the U.S. The consumer’s mind reacts to this high volume of advertising by accepting only what is consistent with prior knowledge or experience.
Positioning has come to mean the process by which marketers try to create an image or identity in the minds of their target market for its product, brand, or organization. Positioning is about selling, marketing, branding, packaging but NOT changing your product — it’s changing your prospect or audience’s minds to identify and remember the value of your offer.
Positioning is not to create something new or different but to re-tie what exists as perception of value in a prospect’s mind. Don’t overstate the potential in your message, instead be selective — practice segmentation and positioning of your copy.
It turns out that when you’re writing copy on a webpage, advertisement, magazine, product data sheet, branded materials, presentation or proposal — you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Therefore it’s important to consider the position of your message that you want your audience to consider.
The truth is that we’re an over communicating society. Consumers are exposed to too much noise and marketers are fighting for some of the same spots in the consumer’s mind. The number of products for consumers or organizations in existence is enormous. Just to give an example, 12000+ food products exist for food consumers. There are 100,000 prescription drugs on the market. There are 80,000 companies in industrial sector. There are over half a million trademarks with 25000 new trademarks yearly with hundreds of thousands of new unmarked products being offered yearly.
The average person can’t be told they are wrong. The average person is continuously already a dripping sponge of information. A person is capable of receiving only a certain amount of information — sensory overload is happening often. Only a tiny fraction of the information ends up in the receiver from your message. You need to get your message accepted by the receiver. Focus on the prospect not the product to greatly increase the communication effectiveness.
It used to be that product features or benefits would be enough to position your product, then focusing on the image of your offer, brand, product was also important but as more ‘copy cat’ or ‘me too’ and the internet became pervasive, positioning on your unique focused value to the right target prospect or audience became paramount.
Before you sharpen your public positioning, consider positioning against competition and consider building a positioning statement for your internal clarity that will help lead you to the ideal messages for your public positioning. Ask questions to brainstorm your positioning statement like :
- Who is your ideal customer?
- What are your ideal customers’ pain points?
- What is the general category of your product?
- What is the primary benefit of what you are offering and the key reason your ideal customer would buy it?
- What is your unique selling proposition?
To build a positioning statement use a template like this :
target customer that Needs/cares about, company/product/service is a category/solution that benefit. Unlike competitor, company/product/service is unique differentiator.
The ideal goal is to over-simplify the message! Less is more! Sharpen your message and especially your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) to cut into the mind. Simplify it, simplify it, simplify it — oversimplification is a necessity in all communications!
Look for the simplification of the problem inside the prospect’s perceptions of the value — not the reality or features of the product. Look for ways to position your product against existing known leading products such as “unleaded gas” or 7-ups “the uncola drink”.
Test what works and what doesn’t by getting out of the building as Steve Blank suggests — talk to people and advisors and customer prospects — be a marketer to learn how to frame it — find out who your customers are, how they work, and what you need to do to sell them. If you’re a entrepreneur, remember to keep spending about 50% of your time out of the building.
Once you have some theories for your startup or offer that you’d like to launch a test or begin marketing for setup a website. Be sure to pick a good name to brand your idea, startup, product or offer — this can’t be stressed enough and probably deserves it’s own blog post. Once your site is up with branding and messaging, it’s easy to use tools like Optimize.ly to perform A/B test experiments to optimize your messages or positioning with web site landing pages for your product (a form of MVP – minimum viable product) possibly even before you create your product. This also generates potential beta testers for your app or product and a potential list of early adopters.