How to Write an Awesome Positioning Statement

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Question: What do these claims have in common?

  • World-class
  • First-rate
  • Industry benchmark
  • Incredible
  • Superior
  • Advanced

Answer: They are all empty platitudes.

Yet, they often find their way into capital equipment marketing messages. When they do, it’s a sign that you don’t know who the customer is, what value you bring, and what your advantages are.

Marketing managers seem to have no trouble generating reams of slideware jammed with features and data for their product. Yet, they often struggle to draft a few dozen words to capture the essence of why customers should buy it. Attempts at the elevator pitch or positioning statement too often result in nothing more than empty platitudes.

“My product is too complex to capture its advantages in a few short sentences” is a common retort. It’s true; creating a precise and concise positioning statement is difficult, especially for complex equipment. But it can be done.

A positioning statement is your most precise and concise description of how you provide unique value to your customers.

Before: Empty Platitudes

Imagine you stumbled across this attempt at a positioning statement for Mr. Melty. ( a fictional multicrystalline silicon ingot growth furnace sold to silicon-wafer manufacturers who then sell these wafers to photovoltaic (PV) solar-cell makers.)

Mr. Melty sets the industry standard for ingot growth furnaces. Its world-class technology provides unmatched performance on the most advanced multicrystalline silicon ingot manufacturing platform available today.

This positioning statement tells you nothing about who should buy Mr. Melty or why. It contains nothing but empty platitudes. Nowhere in this positioning statement will you find the product’s

  • Target market,
  • Value proposition, or
  • Unique capabilities and benefits.

As a positioning statement, it’s not very useful and is in desperate need of a makeover.

After: Precise and Concise Positioning

Here are Mr. Melty’s specific economic value, target market, and advantages in fewer than thirty words:

Mr. Melty saves PV-wafer manufacturers ~15% in capital expense. Its

  • 5kW rhenium heater produces the fastest process times
  • Closed-loop, dual-zone temperature control ensures the highest yields

From this positioning statement, you know that the value proposition of lower manufacturing costs is pinned to a unique ability to deliver the fastest process times and highest yields. Plus, you know that Mr. Melty does this specifically for PV-wafer manufacturers.

The platitudes have been eliminated, and Mr. Melty has staked out a clear position. It’s precise and concise.

The Key Elements of Positioning Statement

The most effective positioning statements contain both a value proposition and the unique positions that enable it. See below.

A positioning statement includes the value proposition and the product positions
The anatomy of a positioning statement

The value proposition needs to identify the

  • Product,
  • Target market, and
  • Quantified value.

Following the value proposition, your positioning statement needs to indicate how you can uniquely deliver that value. You do this by taking “positions.” Positions are the unique places you want to occupy in the customer’s mind. These are your competitive advantages that produce your value proposition. It’s where you claim to be the best.

Positions are the unique places you occupy in the customer’s mind where you claim to be the best.

Two key elements make up an effective position. The first is simply the position. In the case of the Mr. Melty example, the positions are

  • Fastest process times and
  • Highest yields.

Notice that both positions are “best” positions. “fast process times” or “high yields” are not positions. They don’t claim a unique space in the customer’s mind. Many suppliers can be fast. But only one can be the fastest. When constructing your positions, a good clue that you’re on the right track is the presence of an “-st” word, such as

  • Most,
  • Least,
  • Fastest,
  • Slowest,
  • Lowest, or
  • Highest

All these would describe unique positions – places where only one supplier can exist in the customer’s mind.

But your position isn’t complete until you identify the source of your advantage. The source is the unique attribute of your product that enables the position. In the Mr. Melty example, the sources of advantage that produce the fastest process times and highest yields, respectively, are

  • 5kW rhenium heater and
  • Closed-loop, dual-zone temperature control.

Having the source of your advantage in the positioning statement does two things for you:

  1. It gives your positions credibility.
  2. It associates the positions with something your competition doesn’t have.

Just claiming the high ground on something feels hollow. Your market will be suspect of your message. It leaves room for someone else to make the same claim. But when you indicate the exact reason you can claim that high ground, your credibility quotient suddenly goes up. You become more believable. Perhaps more importantly, when you indicate your source of advantage, you thwart your competition’s ability to claim the same position.

Imagine this: You are Mr. Melty’s competitor. You are sitting in your prospect’s lobby when you see the Mr. Melty sales team leave the conference room you are about to enter. They no doubt just finished delivering their pitch.

It’s your turn. About six slides into your presentation, you hit them with it. “We have the fastest process times.”

Your prospect reacts. “Oh, then you must have 5KW rhenium heaters like Mr. Melty?”

Of course, you don’t. Only Mr. Melty does. By putting this source of advantage in the positioning statement, the Mr. Melty marketing team has blocked you from taking the same position. Now you have to prove that rhenium isn’t necessary for the fastest process times. You’ve been put on the defensive. You’ve been taken off message.

Four Rules for Effective Product Positions

You need to follow only four simple rules to define effective product positions: your product positions must be true, unique, directly connected to your value proposition, and important to the buying decision.

1.       True

In capital equipment, the purchasing process is very formal, and you can expect to be asked for data and conduct live demonstrations to prove your claims. Empty claims are quickly exposed.

2.       Unique

By definition, a position is a unique place in the market relative to your competitors. If you can attribute your position to a specific product attribute that your competition doesn’t have and cannot imitate, you passed the “unique” test.

3.       Directly connected to your value proposition

All that matters is creating financial value. You need to draw a direct connection between your positions and a unique ability to generate profit for your customers.

4.       Important to the buying decision

Ultimately, you want your product position to lead to purchases. Therefore, the positions that you take must directly affect factors that are important to the buying decision. For example, positioning on a unique ability to achieve high production yields is likely a more effective position than touting the quality of your user documentation.

Why an Effective Positioning Statement is Critical

Your positioning statement has two vital roles in driving the commercial success of your product. A well-crafted positioning statement acts as the compass that will lead your customers to the conclusion that they should buy from you. This handful of words forms the fountain from which all your marketing messages and activities flow. The positioning statement also acts as the compass for your product strategy. It tells you which capabilities you must strive to excel at and how the results will be measured. For your positioning statement to fulfill these roles successfully, keep the platitudes away; instead, get precise and concise about how you will provide unique financial value to your target customers.