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The traditional positioning exercise, where ventures craft a concise statement to articulate their category definition, benefits, and advantages, may no longer be very effective in helping companies stand out from competitors.
For [target customer description…]…our product is a [product category] that provides [compelling reason to buy]. Unlike [the product alternative], we have assembled [key features…].
This approach certainly gained traction and credibility, delivering some value in the commercial world of 30 years ago. However, business philosophy has evolved in recent decades to a much more agile ecosystem, where businesses can adapt and tailor their offering much more quickly and effectively to meet potential customer requirements. So entrenching yourself in such a trite and simplistic elevator pitch can cause more harm than good, these days.
The concept of the positioning statement can be traced back to Geoffrey Moore’s book “Crossing the Chasm” published in 1991.
Moore’s book uses a military invasion metaphor, equating the company’s expansion into mainstream markets with the Allied invasion of Normandy during World War II.
Our long-term goal is to enter and take control of a mainstream market (Western Europe) that is currently dominated by an entrenched competitor (the Axis). For our product to wrest the mainstream market from this competitor, we must assemble an invasion force comprising other products and companies (the Allies). By way of entry into this market, our immediate goal is to transition from an early market base (England) to a strategic target market segment in the mainstream (the beaches at Normandy).
Positioning statements often cast the venture as the conquering hero and the customer as territory to be conquered, which may well not resonate with customers!
Successful companies like Salesforce, Zuora, and Drift have positioned themselves as market leaders by inviting the customer on a journey to a promised land. The promised land is a new, happier place that companies can offer to customers, and demonstrating the ability to get customers there fast and reliably is crucial. This has a good deal in common with the “solutions focus” business philosophy, which stemmed originally from psychotherapeutic techniques.
Encouraging the potential customer to visualise utopian concepts of how their business would look if everything was just perfect, has now become a standard approach for sales and marketing. this is a departure from self-centred mission and vision statements. Ventures should focus on getting customers to their promised land.
The customer should be cast as the hero of their own epic adventure in a company’s positioning.