by Robert M. Wright, Partner, Firebrick

Our markets are noisier, categories are crowded, no buyer wants another tech vendor, and economic uncertainty halts momentum. This is the perfect moment to wake up the market with a different viewpoint and build a differentiated category leadership position. 

Positioning is a powerful means of bringing strategy to life. It has become the CEO’s North Star and a lever for accelerating revenue, building category leadership, and higher valuations. In fact, every significant category leader has one thing in common – a strong, compelling narrative.  

How do you know if you have a positioning problem?  Some symptoms

·       It takes 38 slides and a demo to explain your product

·       Every sales rep is using a different deck

·       Your product is a “nice-to-have”  – no urgency

·       Your win/loss ratio is dismal – competition is beating you badly 

Breakthrough Positioning is not for the faint of heart. 

After working with almost 400 B2B technology companies, we have a unique vantage point and experience on what it takes for Breakthrough Positioning and to separate from the pack.

Breakthrough Positioning Principle 1: Positioning is NOT branding or messaging

Branding is visual identity and tone. Messaging is incremental. Positioning is about shaping a category – and “owning” a unique place in the mind of your buyers. If you want to truly differentiate and stand out from the crowd, you could hire branding agencies to make you look good, PR companies to spread the word and product marketing to communicate your features and functions.  But that’s all a waste of time and money if you haven’t first identified your own unique genius and crafted a compelling strategic narrative that conveys your core essence and shows how you will change your buyer’s world. This is the heart of Breakthrough Positioning.  

Breakthrough Positioning Principle 2: Shift to a Buyer-Centric narrative

Stop explaining, start inspiring. It’s not about you and your features. Category leaders are exquisitely clear about explaining “why they matter” versus “how it works.” Buyers don’t care about how your product works. This comes later. They want to know how you will rock their world. Engaging today’s buyers requires a fundamental shift from product-centric positioning to positioning that puts buyers in the center.

Breakthrough Positioning Principle 3: “Name” the $MM buyer problem

Winning strategies “sell” the problem, not the product features. The key question – What big $MM buyer problem does your product solve? The answer to this question is everything. Place your product in the context of the problem it solves and become the provocative, informed source of a problem your buyer deeply cares about. Every category leader “owns” an executive buyer problem. This is the heart of buyer-centric positioning.   

Breakthrough Positioning Principle 4: Have a viewpoint

Today, every company is being called upon to have a viewpoint – to take a stand – buyers, analysts – even employees expect this. 

A winning positioning strategy is brought to life with a company narrative that answers three questions for your buyers:  

Why your product, NOW? What is the urgent problem of mine that you solve? 

How are you different? How can your product uniquely solve my big hairy problem? 

How will your product make my life better? How do you make me a hero? 

Have a viewpoint about the problem. Give your product the narrative it deserves. Bring your product to life in the mind of your buyers. Stop explaining. Start inspiring. 

Breakthrough Positioning Principle 5: “Take” a corner of the room

Category leaders enjoy much higher valuations. Winning positioning strategies carve out a unique position in the minds of their buyer. They own their own “corner” – and likewise “box” their competitors in other corners of the category to help draw clear distinctions and differentiation for their buyers. Sadly, in most categories, the competitors are all bunched up in the middle of the room with no clear differentiation from each other. In this case, buyers cannot tell the difference between the companies and their products  – so they will not make a decision because they can’t figure it out, go with the low-cost leader – or with the brand name company. 

In summary, you know you have created something great, why are you playing at the level of your competition? Why settle for the status quo? 

Positioning is a game-changing, CEO initiative that builds category leadership, accelerates revenue, and creates substantial value. 

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