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Effective Marketing Part IV: Positioning

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This section deals with Positioning. My cryptic recommendation is read the book by Trout and Reis and apply it:

Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, by Al Ries and Jack Trout

Now that doesn’t make for a very good blog post, so let’s dive into it a little.

First, let me say that the book, Positioning, should not only be part of every marketing person’s thought process, it ought to be part of every company exec’s as well. In fact, all three books I have recommended should be. In order to succeeed, any strategies to grow and expand a company must follow the natural laws these books document.

The theory behind positioning is that you have to 1) position your company and/or your product in the mind of the consumer, and 2) a very effective way to position is against other know products or companies.

For example, Mercedes-Benz is a known quantity with a reputation that people recognize. M-B has a position in people’s minds. When Lexus came out, they compared themselves against Mercedes. They didn’t compare against Cadillac or Lincoln, they compared themselves against Mercedes. Interestingly, they didn’t compare themselves as equal to or better than but similar to and striving to become that.

In doing that, they effectively leapfrogged over other cars in the luxury sedan segment and have now positioned themselves in the mind of customers. If you think of Lexus today, you think of quality, luxury, low maintenance, a pleasure to drive and own.

Take a look at Saturn, the car company. Their pitch was, “A different kind of company, a different kind of car.” Their unique pitch was one-price shopping with a mediocre car. They didn’t have a campaign that positioned Saturn cars in people’s mind. The only thing unique about a Saturn was the buying experience.

While an important part of the total car ownership process, people don’t spend nearly as much time buying a car as they do driving or owning a car. Once the buying process is done, it’s done. Two, three, five years later, if the customer is happy they’ll go back to the Saturn dealership to buy another car. But if the car is mediocre (and it was) and there’s nothing to fix Saturn as a desirable car to own and drive in people’s minds, they’ve got nothing.

Today Saturn is out of business. I’d say that the GM marketing gurus didn’t do their market research very well because not only did they miss on the car, they missed on the marketing by a mile.

Conversely, when the Dodge Viper came out, I was in LA and the 6:00 news had a segment on the first Viper to hit the LA basin. They videoed the car being backed off the car hauler and driven into the car lot. That is a PR coup of all coups, let me tell you!

Now how did Chrysler position the Viper? No holds barred, pure heart-pumping performance. Raw torque and horspepower, a pure American sports car. No roof, for crying out loud! They even had a Shelby Cobra as part of their marketing pitch, a car with a legendary following. They presented the Viper as a successor to the Cobra, an evolution, even making posters of the Cobra and Shelby Daytona Coupe in the background behind a Viper.

They took an existing car with a strong position in the enthusiast marketplace and positioned the Viper against that. Customers could identify what the Viper was because it was compared against something they already knew well.

When you’re creating your marketing campaigns, you MUST MUST MUST pay attention to Positioning.

Define what that position needs to be, figure out what is going to get your customers to place your product in that position in their mind, and have at it.

Do your market research, find out what the buttons are, define your message, and make sure your message and your marketing campaigns position your company or product in the minds of your customers.

And just like that, we’ve wrapped up the Marketing overview of Going Viral.

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Effective Marketing Part III

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It’s been a bit busy with the Thanksgiving holiday and I’m behind on my posts. My apologies! Continuing in the series on Going Viral, here’s Part III.

In Effective Marketing Part II, I listed three references and a company. I’ll list those here again:

  1. Crossing the Chasm, by Geoffrey Moore
  2. Tuned In, by Craig Stull, Phil Myers and David Meerman Scott
  3. Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind, by Al Ries and Jack Trout

And the company: Pragmatic Marketing

Effective Marketing Part II covered Buttons. Finding out what the customer problems are and the specific words or phrases that represent those problems, and are the specific words or phrases that customers RESPOND to.

All a Button does is capture the interest of a customer or potential customer, to get them to listen, watch or read just a little bit more. The buttons provided your five seconds of potential fame to deliver your MESSAGE.

The MESSAGE is the solution. It’s what your software does that solves the customer’s problem. It’s phrased in the language and terms that resonate with the customer. Note that the MESSAGE is NOT the problem! It’s the solution, it’s what your product does that solves the customer problem.

The message must be phrased in the terminology, nomenclature and even dialect of your target audience. If you’re marketing to Valley Girls, you’re going to phrase that message in terms and language that they are familiar with. If you’re marketing to bankers, you’d better craft your message in terminology that bankers use.

The BUTTON gets them to listen to the MESSAGE. The MESSAGE is the solution to their problem.

Keep in mind that the message is not how great your software is, or how many cup holders your minivan has. The Message is that your product solves your customer’s problem. The plain Jane way to deliver a message is as simple as, “Our widget solves your problems with tribbles.” (Tribbles are little furry creatures that multiply many times faster than rabbits, from an old Star Trek TV episode.)

If you said, “Our widget solves your problems with tribbles,” and if tribbles are a huge button to your customers, they’ll pay attention. But there’s better ways to deliver a message.

If the problem is a swamped help desk, your message can be, “Fantastico improves PC uptime and reduces help desk calls by 25%.” Notice that it doesn’t say how it solves the problem. It doesn’t describe the feature. There’s no detailed diagram of how the feature functions. It simply states that it solves the problem. If you need to have proof because your audience is skeptical, back it up with detailed description.

The descriptive text that backs up the message is not the message! You could say that your message is a headline, except most headlines are pretty lousy. The message is a clean, concise statement of what benefit you’re providing the customer. It also better be true or your credibility is going to collapse, which destroys the effectiveness of future marketing.

The formula is simple: Problem → Solution. Provide details in subsequent documentation, but stick to the simplicity of Problem → Solution.

Problem → Solution. Button → Message.

Another important point about Messages: get rid of the marketing hyperbole! Customers HATE this. Don’t try to score points with your marketing buzzword bingo—tell the facts straight, speak to your customers. How many websites have you gone through, sifting through the extravagant descriptions of products and services and had no idea what the heck the product is or what it does when you were done?

You’ve gone to all the trouble of doing the required market research, found out what the buttons were and got the customer to listen, then when it’s time to deliver the message that you’ve just spent all that time and money to get him (or her) to listen to, don’t turn them off by trying to impress with your command of linguistic legerdemain. (In other words, don’t do what I just did in this paragraph.)

As the line from the old Dragnet TV show went, “Just the facts, Joe, just the facts.” Tell it straight. If you’ve nailed the buttons and delivered your message as the solution in language the customer will readily accept, you will be successful.

You’re two-thirds of the way there with achieving the necessary components for Marketing to drive viral growth. The next blog will cover the third point of Effective Marketing: Positioning.