“Strategy is about making choices, trade-offs; it’s about deliberately choosing to be different.”Michael Porter
Recently, I read the book ‘Obviously Awesome’ by April Dunford. April is an executive consultant who helps technology companies make complicated products easy for customers to understand and love. She’s also a globally recognized expert in positioning and marketing strategy.
I was looking for advice on how to position Chatnels’ latest product, our AI-powered chat platform. While there is no magical recipe in this book, the best positioning centres around the strongest use case and important product values perceived by our most enthusiastic customers.
The book describes 6 components of effective positioning:
1. Competitive Alternatives – what customers would do if you didn’t exist.
For Chatnels, other conferencing solutions, such as GotoMeeting and Zoom, make it easy for participants to collaborate. However, it can be challenging to coordinate a meeting time, and there is no conversation context or chat history.
Team collaboration solutions, such as Slack and Microsoft Team, make it easy for teams to collaborate on projects. But ad hoc or unstructured tasks may require bringing different or external contributors into the conversation. Setting up a collaboration workspace and managing membership for an ad hoc task also adds significant overhead.
2. Unique Attributes – the features and capabilities that you have and the alternatives lack.
For Chatnels, anyone can initiate a chat communications flow around a subject and invite participants as needed into the conversation. Our platforms easily extend to use other modes of communications, such as Zoom or communicate from within Slack. Additionally, digital assistants can help automate some of the responses to simplify the communications.
3. Value (and proof) – the benefit that those features enable for customers.
Since there are no fixed meeting times or overhead in managing memberships; with Chatnels you can quickly pull different participants into a collaboration without the limitations. .
4. Target Market Characteristics – the characteristics of a group of buyers that lead them to care about the value you deliver.
Chatnels’ target audience are business persons looking for a simpler and efficient way to communicate with co-workers and clients. Currently, we’re targeting the Greater Vancouver area, with a focus on small to medium-sized businesses in the tech, marketing/sales and health sectors.
5. Market Category – the market you describe yourself as being part of, to help customers understand your value
Any product can be positioned in multiple markets. For Chatnels, our market category is broad and can apply to any businesses looking to streamline their workflow communications. That could be a small marketing boutique collaborating across teams to present cohesive marketing campaigns to a portfolio of clients, or a nationwide enterprise that administers and inspects various safety permits.
6. Relevant Trends – trends your target customers understand or are interested in.
The current trends relevant to Chatnels are the increase in use and uptake of virtual collaboration software and apps; and this is occurring as businesses are trying to return to normality due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The key takeaway I got from the book is that strong positioning is centred on what a product does best.
The book describes a 10 step positioning process to follow:
Understand the customers that love your product.
- Your best fit customers hold the key to understanding what your product is, so hold off on tightening positioning until you have enough happy customers to see a pattern.
Form a positioning team.
- The positioning process works best when it’s a team effort; ideally from different functions within the company, as each team can bring a unique p.o.v. relative to how customers perceive the product.
Align your positioning vocabulary and let go of your positioning baggage.
- We have to consciously set aside our old ways of thinking to consider possible new ways to think about a product, because most products can be many things to many types of buyers.
List your true competitive alternatives.
- Be honest and look to your best fit customers. What your best customers see as true alternatives to your solution will lead you to your differentiators.
Isolate your unique attributes.
- Strong positioning is centred on how are you different and better than competitive alternatives. Concentrate on what customers care about when evaluating whether or not to make a purchase.
Map the attributes to value ‘themes’.
- Features enable benefits which can be translated into value in unique customer terms.
Determine who cares a lot.
- Which customers really care a lot about that value? Target as narrowly as you can to meet near-term sales objectives, you can broaden the targets later.
Find a frame of reference that puts your strengths at the center and determine how to position in it.
- Head to head = positioning to win an existing market. The advantage of positioning in an existing category is that you don’t need to convince people the category needs to exist
- Big fish, small pond = positioning to win a subsegment of an existing market. Get the advantage of a well-defined category without stiff competition as dominating a small piece of the market is generally much easier than attempting to directly take on a larger leader
- Create a new game = positioning to win a market you create. Category creation is about selling the market on the problem first rather than on your solution
Layer on a trend.
- Use trends to make your product more interesting to customers right now, but be cautious. Don’t layer on a trend just for the sake of being trendy; it’s better to be successful and boring than fashionable and bewildering.
Capture your positioning so it can be shared.
- Positioning needs to have company buy-in so it can be used to inform all strategies; translate your positioning into a sales story.
And that’s the summary. Great positioning rarely comes by default. Also, remember to track your positioning over time as a sudden change in the competitive landscape could signal a need to adjust your positioning.
Think you our next best fit customer? Try Chatnels free today.