Product positioning

Product positioning is a strategic exercise. It gives clarity on how a product matches your target audience’s needs and what sets it apart from the competition.

You can do it in-house or get the help of an external agency. It examines how your product matches an audience's needs and stands apart from the competition.

Having a positioning strategy is an important part of bringing a new product to market (or reinvigorating an existing one) and can form the foundation of your marketing and sales strategy.

What should a product positioning statement contain?

There’s no set formula for what product positioning should include, but here’s a few elements that are most common:

Your brand mission statement - You might have already written this. But if you haven’t, now’s a good time to do so! Explaining why your brand exists and your attitude to social and environmental responsibility can set a clear framework for how you can position your product. Take zero-waste make-up brand Axiology. They recognise that the beauty industry “creates 120 billion units of packaging waste every year” and have made “ending plastic waste in the ocean” a key part of their brand mission. Their plastic-free, zero-waste and refillable beauty products are a core part of how they’re achieving this.

Target market - This is where you state the audience you think is the best match for your product. When deciding this, think of the opportunities a specific target audience might represent and whether you feel like you could realistically reach them. For instance, maybe you’ve identified a specific subset of people who could form a niche market [link when live] for your product. Let’s go back to Axiology - they’ve clearly identified a niche target market of eco-conscious lipstick wearers who care about their impact on the planet, and who weren’t being served properly by bigger beauty brands.

Customer persona - A customer persona is more detailed and specific than a target market. While a target market identifies a wide group of people your product suits, a customer persona zeroes in on the different types of people within that group - and what makes them tick. That means you can have several customer personas sitting under a single target market. Knowing more about your customer is going to help you properly position your product. Think about the channels that influence them, what their biggest pain points are, and the specific features about your product that appeal to them.

Competitor analysis - What sets your product apart from your competitors? And how will you articulate this to your potential customers? In ecommerce especially, competition is fierce and you’re often going toe-to-toe with other brands in a crowded marketplace. Properly surveying your competitors and being realistic about their strengths (and weaknesses) should be an important part in your product differentiation and will help you form your go-to-market strategy. Go through a competitor’s website, social channels and reviews. What information and ideas can you pull from them? For this, use a tried-and-tested framework like SWOT (which stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats).

Messaging - Once you’ve set your brand mission, customer personas and competitive analysis, you can start to pull it all together into messaging ideas. Go back through interviews with customers, look at your reviews - and check out the reviews of your competitor’s, too. From these, put together messaging examples your marketing team can test, validate and build upon.

What are the benefits of product positioning?

A good product positioning statement can bring clarity and focus to everything product-related your brand tries to do. The benefits include:

Internal consensus - This is often an overlooked part of doing exercises like this, but it’s important. Going through product positioning should get everyone on the same page and ensure the work your company’s doing is aligned.

Getting closer to your customer - Writing a product positioning statement is a great excuse to actually talk to your customers. They’ll explain their pain points and what they like about your product - and they might say something which triggers a lightbulb moment for you.

Gives focus to your marketing - Agreeing a product position will make any marketing you do later down the line much more focused. Let’s go back to Axiology. With a clear product position and understanding of their audience, they’re able to look for targeted marketing opportunities - like working with environmentally-conscious beauty influencers.

How can a product position be used?

A clear product position that everyone agrees on can be used across different teams.

Product - Your product team can use your positioning for future development. For instance, maybe they could enhance a certain feature your customer personas find really appealing.
Sales - A succinct positioning statement can help your sales team on the road when they’re pitching to retailers or wholesalers.

Marketing - it’ll give marketing a clear direction on how your product fits in the market, and what type of audiences they need to attract. It helps cut down on wasted spend and ensures the activity they’re doing is targeted and relevant.

Design and creative - Knowing how your product stands out from the competition will give your design team direction when creating assets. Maybe you’re a waterproof jacket company and you know your customers much prefer the material your garments are made out of over your competitors. If your photographer knows that, they can make sure to take detailed shots of the fabric to show it off.

How to create your product position

First, decide whether you want to create this yourself or employ an external agency to do it for you.

For smaller and growing brands in particular, hiring a positioning agency could be too expensive. Don’t worry if that’s the case, you can create one yourself! Here’s some ideas for how you could get started:

Talk to your team - This is a good place to start. Your employees are most likely sitting on their own ideas about your product, market and audience. Run an idea-generation session which captures all of that and unearths some hidden gems.

Interview your customers - This is going to be super useful in bringing your personas to life. See if you can offer an incentive in exchange for your customers’ time, like a free product or a gift voucher. Ask what they like (and dislike) about your product. Listen to how they talk about their pain points - you might even be able to lift a few phrases to test in your marketing.

Investigate trends and statistics - This is pretty easy to do yourself. You could start with interrogating the data you already have available to you - like demographic information from recent orders for your product. Then you could look at sites like Google Trends or up-to-date industry reports to get a sense of what’s happening within your sector (and how you can best capitalise on it).