Positioning & messaging

Messaging & Positioning

You might know why your product is perfect for your prospective customers, but without effective positioning and messaging it’s unlikely they’ll know or bother to find out.

Clearly, developing your positioning and messaging is vital to your product’s success. It’s the reason why you immediately think of Coke when someone mentions cola, it’s the reason why you’d think of a Volvo if we asked you to picture a safe car, it’s your prospect’s initial perception of your product.

Positioning and messaging go hand in hand, you simply can’t have one without the other, but how do we define them? Let’s start at the beginning.

What is positioning?

Positioning is a strategic exercise used to define what makes your product different from all of the others on the market. It involves finding out what your ideal customer looks like and why your product is perfectly suited to their needs.

Defining your ideal customer involves asking questions like:

  • What do they do for a living?
  • What are their pain points?
  • What are the key benefits of your product?
  • Who are your competitors?
  • What are your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses?

This information will help you determine the product features you’re going to focus on, the structural guide you’ll give your team to work with, how you price your product and how you set your agenda for your product’s launch.

If your brand new to positioning check out our rookies’ guide here 👇

Positioning - finding a place for your product
Product positioning is the art of identifying and tailoring your product’s benefits to different segments of your target market.

And here are a few more bits for bedtime reading:

How to pivot your positioning in times of upheaval
Since the COVID-19 outbreak hit hard in early 2020 and much of the world faced economic shutdown, businesses of all industries had to quickly pivot their models to cope.
How to nail product positioning when your company needs a refresh
“The key to nailing product positioning is storytelling - you can’t win without a good story and there are some great frameworks out there to help you create it. Coming up with the right story isn’t easy, but it’s achievable, aided by the use of the right resources.”

Why is positioning important?

Positioning creates a strong starting point for your strategy, determining:

  • Where it will fit into the market, and
  • The core benefits of your product.

Positioning therefore gives your team the edge when it comes to providing measurable benchmarks and goals, so you can see how well you’re performing against the competition, giving you the opportunity to refine your strategy along the way.

Creating a positioning statement

A positioning statement is a one or two-sentence declaration that identifies your product’s value, but a lot of research goes into those two sentences.

Disclaimer: positioning statements are somewhat controversial. A lot of you will have probably seen this statement at one point or another:

Our advice? Take it with a pinch of salt. Positioning maestro April Dunford talks about it in-depth on her blog, but these kinds of statements can feel too forced, encourage a sense of being ‘done’, and stifle creativity.

Anyway, it goes without saying, that to bring a product to market you need to know it inside out, but it really cannot be overstated when it comes to crafting your positioning strategy. If you can’t pinpoint exactly why your target market should part with their money, why should they part with it all?  

Does your product stand out? Or is it just another product in a market oversaturated with the same features and benefits, how do you make that distinction?

How to differentiate when you aren’t different
In the early days of B2B software, it was common for companies to have functionality no one else had in their market. Differentiation was relatively easy.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who is your target customer?
  • What category does your product or service belong in?
  • What unique benefit does your product offer?
  • Can you prove that benefit?

From there you can start to craft an effective positioning ‘statement’.

We know how daunting the prep for positioning statements can be, which is why we have a positioning template you can access in our members-only area.

What is messaging?

Put simply, it’s the message your product is sending to your potential customers. Developing the right messaging requires a lot of research and while there isn't one, definitive format for doing so, we have a bunch of articles and resources that can guide you in the right direction.

Product messaging - the difference between good and great
As a product marketer it’s vital you take ownership of the message your product is sending to potential customers. If you fail to at the very least define your product, other people will define it for you, and you might not appreciate the outcome.
Messaging and positioning for 2020: the customer journey as a continuum
Messaging and positioning are at the core of reaching the right audience at the right time and in the right place. Storytelling reaches far and wide where features and functionality don’t.
Understanding the evolution of product marketing to portfolio messaging
Recently, I’ve even had conversations with product marketing leaders that have shifted to referring to the role as “portfolio marketing”, which encompasses product, industry, and solutions.
How to nail your product messaging
There’s a fine line between mediocrity and greatness, with product messaging continuing to play a pivotal role. Sarah Din, Director of Product Marketing at SurveyMonkey, treated us to the pearls of her wisdom and gave her advice on how to create content messaging that’s sure to resonate.

Why is messaging important?

How people perceive your product is a direct result of messaging. The right messaging effectively communicates your product’s value, giving prospects an understanding of how your product solves their specific problem.

Your messaging will provide strategic guidance to PR teams, external marketing communications, and your sales team. And when you’re all speaking the same language, your messaging becomes more powerful and recognizable as it’s consistently applied across all media. Good messaging will prove vital when crafting a market nurturing campaign, and having a cohesive message you can apply throughout your content and communication will lay a solid foundation for lead conversion.

How to create effective product messaging

You know that old teaching method show and tell? Well, when it comes to product messaging you’re going to flip it on its head. Once you’ve settled on your product’s core value you’re going to back it up by becoming your own case study. Demonstrate your product, allow consumers to test it out themselves, ask for feedback, and if you can’t be your own case study get some beta testers involved and ask for honest feedback.

Research is a huge part of developing your messaging. As you learn more about the people who will be using your product, you’ll naturally learn more about the companies they work at, and be able to refine and target your messaging accordingly.

Once you figure out the value of your product and who your target audience is you can use that information to craft your product messaging, starting with why the consumer should buy your product while demonstrating how your product’s features improve their lives and address their specific pain points.

You’ll find everything you need in our messaging framework and templates to get you off and running.

Narrative design vs product positioning

“Product positioning adds context and structure around your solution so buyers understand it quickly and can digest its value. Narrative Design builds a new universe in their mind.”- Marcus Andrews, Principal Product Marketing Manager, Hubspot.

There’s a buzz in the industry surrounding narrative design and it’s potential to make positioning all but obsolete, and Marcus does make some compelling points in this article:

Why narrative design will replace product positioning in 2020
“Why a narrative design? Because stories are everything. There is so much noise & competition in any market/any category today. Even if your product IS better, no one is going to believe it because that is what everyone is saying.”

But he’s also keen to point out that well-researched product positioning is a great foundation for building compelling narratives.

How to master narrative design [Q&A with HubSpot]
The importance of narrative design is becoming increasingly recognized, with Marcus Andrews, HubSpot’s Product Marketing Group Lead, predicting narrative design could potentially replace product positioning.

Positioning and messaging maestro Andy Raskin spelled out the difference between narrative positioning and descriptive positioning beautifully on the product marketing life podcast.

Product Marketing Life [podcast]: Andy Raskin
We caught up with well-known positioning and messaging maestro Andy Raskin about the secret sauce behind his success, the difference between narrative positioning and descriptive positioning, the importance of getting CEOs bought in, and more.

Do you want to learn more about messaging and positioning? Check out Our Product Marketing: Core courses, available OnDemand, and Live + Online, and get PMM Certified.