Mind share. It's important. Your company and/or products need to capture and own the hearts and minds of customers, prospects, the media, venture capitalists, and others for you to be successful in today's fired-up marketplace.

Positioning can help you win mind (and market) share. Here's some of the what, why, and how.

One Simple Definition...

Positioning is a method of demonstrating to your audience how your company and/or products relate to others in the market in a way that clearly identifies what makes yours better.

Your positioning is what currently distinguishes you in the mind of your audience.

Think of positioning as the structure -- like the steel rebar in a building -- for all the marketing, advertising, public relations, and other messages you create. All written and verbal communications must include the components of your positioning.

...And a Few Rules

Typically, companies don't use their positioning statement word for word in their marketing campaign, but use the concepts that flow from it to focus and prioritize their marketing and communications. In your positioning (or what's commonly referred to as a positioning statement), you need to reveal the "three B's":

  • The business you're in. Describe your business in a way that is clear, concise, and doesn't let competitors pigeonhole you.
  • The primary benefit of that business. "Primary" means the overriding reason customers buy any product in this category.
  • How your product is better than your competitors' products. This is the most important part of your statement.

A few more rules:

  • Always create a defensible position around what makes your company different. These differentiators should not be easy for the competition to copy - at least not until you've built a huge market lead or moved on to new differentiators.
  • Like other message building blocks, such as your brand principle or mission statement, positioning needs to be stated clearly and concisely on all your marketing peripherals, such as your Web site, press releases, and company e-mail signatures - anyplace your branding appears. Because of this, companies or product management teams typically go through a deductive process to develop and refine their positioning. They also avoid overused terms, such as "high-quality," which hold no specific meaning for customers.
  • All companies are tempted to add multiple benefits and differentiators to their positioning statement. In the case of positioning, "less is more." Pick the one piece of information you want your audience to remember.
  • Unlike your mission or vision, positioning should change as market demand, technology, competition, and products change. It's short term. Depending on how dynamic a market is, "short term" may mean three months or three years.

Finally ... Sprinkle in Positioning Liberally

For maximum impact, spread positioning around. Make it the foundation of marketing materials, advertising, and public relations messages. Use it to craft a three- to four-sentence "who we are and what we do" statement for use on your Web site home page to win over the demanding and easily distracted Web consumer, or as an easy way of explaining your business in conversation.

Whether you've captured mind share in the past (and laughed at your competitors), or lost it (and been left to wonder when and why your audience left the building), keep in mind that good, fresh positioning is a marketplace key.

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