Every week I get a handful of questions from my B2B Marketing followers, and lately, I’ve noticed a recurring theme – people want to better understand product positioning and segmentation.
A specific instance came recently from Cliff, a client who asked me to help him develop an effective messaging framework. After a 15 minute discussion, we came to realize that we wouldn’t be able to do it because he hadn’t clearly defined his products and services yet.
To get the ball rolling, I gave Cliff the rundown on product positioning and segmentation. I’ll break down what I told him in this blog post; after reading, you’ll have a basic understanding of the topic, as well as some key tools to get started.
Remember – knowing your product well helps your overall marketing communications, especially in the area of content creation and content marketing.
So, let’s start with the fundamentals.
- What is product positioning?
- What is the difference between product positioning and a messaging framework?
- What are the key elements to consider for positioning your products?
If this sounds foreign to you, I promise it’s not as complicated as it seems! Let’s not waste any time and get started demystifying it all.
(And if you like my way of explaining the material, I’d appreciate it if you could subscribe to my newsletter to access tools, templates, and more!)
First things first. Positioning your product is incredibly important. You can’t market unless you know clearly, and I mean clearly, what you are selling and how it is positioned in the market you are in. Once you know where you stand, you’ll have a stronger grasp of what you need to communicate.
What is product positioning?
Product positioning is the process of deciding and communicating how you want your audience to think and feel about your product.
Examples of questions you’ll want to ask yourself and your team could include:
- What is the experience you want to provide?
- What is the first thing you want your customer base to think when they hear about your product?
- What is the first word they would say when they see the product?
I know you can’t control their entire thought process, but you can influence them by thoroughly assessing what you want them to know and what you want to share. You can educate them.
In many ways, product positioning is mixed in with customer experience, brand personas, and even design. I mean, just think about the physical look and feel of your product, your store, your logo, your content, even your whole communication style.
It sounds very abstract, I know. But, to make the concept feel more concrete, there are 4 elements that I would like to share so that it’s easy for you to define your product positioning. I will get to that shortly.
Before I do that, I want to address another source of confusion:
What is the difference between product positioning and a messaging framework?
Remember how I said that product positioning is the way you want your audience to think and feel about your product?
Well, a messaging framework is a logical and structured representation of your products’ and services’ unique promises and differentiation.
That formal definition might leave you scratching your head, so let me explain it another way:
Product positioning is “What.”
What is your product about? What should your customer think and feel when they hear about your product?
A messaging framework, meanwhile, is “How.”
How should you talk about your product to your customers?
See? It’s very simple. Product positioning is what, and your messaging framework is how.
You need to define, develop and finalize your product before determining what to say and how to say it.
Therefore, product positioning will come first, the messaging framework will come second.
Let me sidebar for a minute – if you want to know more about developing a messaging framework, I created a blog post to show you how to do exactly that. The title of the blog is How to Create A Solid Messaging Framework: A Guide for B2B Marketers (+ Templates).
Bookmark it to check it out at your own leisure.
If you are a YouTube person, I’ve also created a few videos covering the ins and outs of messaging framework.
With each one clocking in at just 6-8 min, they’re perfect to watch whenever you have a few free moments to spare:
How to create product-specific messaging?
How to create thought leadership messaging?
How to create high-volume product messaging?
How to create product-specific messaging?
Okay, let’s circle back. We’ve been talking about product positioning.
So far, I’ve covered:
- the definition of product positioning
- the differences between product positioning and a messaging framework
- The sequence of developing product positioning and messaging framework
See, these two terms seem complicated and overwhelming, but now that you know the key differences it’s not that hard, right?
What are the key elements to consider for positioning your products?
Since it’s all about the look-and-feel and guiding people’s thought processes, ask yourself these questions first:
- Do you need to name your product?
- What is a short description of your product?
- What do you want to call your product?
- Should the product name be the same as your company name?
When it comes to naming products, there are many strategic discussions that have to happen at the executive level.
You may not be the decision-maker in those instances, but you still need to understand the logic behind whether to name a product or not.
A unique name would evoke a visual or spark imagination in a person’s mind.
For example, if you know my name is Pam Didner and you’ve heard my podcast or have seen me at a conference when someone says Pam Didner, a visual should come to mind. How I presented myself during those experiences will dictate how you feel about me.
Therefore, a name is important. So, another question arises: should the company’s name be your product name?
If you only offer one product, chances are it’s okay that your company name represents your product. In the past 10-15 years, many SaaS-based companies have created their own categories and used fun and exciting names such as Asana, Monday, Harvest, Box, etc. Their products are their company names. That’s great.
You can certainly choose to use a creative and interesting word for your product, but your description following your naming needs to be super clear so customers don’t get confused.
For example, when people see the word, Asana, most immediately think, “What is that?” Therefore, your short description should explain the “what” questions right away so that potential customers form a product visual in their minds instantly.
What is Asana? Oh, it manages your projects, work, and tasks online. Okay, so it’s a digital management tool. Cool, got it. No confusion here.
If your company is growing, you may offer many product lines.
If that’s the case, chances are that you need to create names for each different product line to avoid confusion.
Many growing B2B companies tend to pick solid names so that people can visualize their products immediately. A great example is cybersecurity firms. They tend to use words related to auto-shield, seamless-defence, etc., to name their products because it’s easy for their customers to relate or visualize their products.
Again, the purpose of a name is to evoke a visual in a person’s mind. Therefore, naming or not naming your product is a strategic decision.
Regardless, you should always have a short and clear description to explain your product and differentiate it from others.
Okay, the naming and product description processes are the first two elements of product positioning.
The next element is determining whether or not you need a logo.
Should you give one to your product? Or is the corporate logo good enough to help your customers visualize your product in their minds? This is yet another strategic discussion.
A logo is a great visual aid to help crystalize your product in your customers’ minds. So, if you have a product name, I’d recommend having a logo associated with it. The logo can be a simple design to represent your product name with a great font. That, by itself, is a logo.
The last element we need to get into is product segmentation. I’ll just warn you now, product segmentation is complicated.
Many companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop it, so I am not going to get into the nitty-gritty of it all in this blog post.
But I want to share with you the thought process; despite it being a bit more of an advanced topic than what we’ve covered previously, you will be able to wrap your head around the nuts and bolts momentarily, I promise!
A great example of product segmentation at work is Uber Share, Uber, Uber X, and even Uber Eat – they all fall under the same ride service umbrella, but each branch targets different customer segments based on their specific needs.
You can also modify your products with different tiers, each encompassing unique features, in order to cast a wider net and target more customers.
An example can be seen in how many SaaS-based companies’ product offerings are tiered at Free, Basic, Pro, and Enterprise levels – additional features and services are incorporated at each of the different tiers.
Another well-known (and genius!) example was laid out in the marketing campaign behind BMW’s 3-series, 5-series, and 7-series. (Recently, BMW I and BMW M have also been introduced.) The car company opted to target a brand new segment of customers aged 17-23 (their existing customer segmentation was a range of 30-40, 40-55, and 55+) in order to ensure future generations would continue to identify with the brand for years to come.
It’s really fascinating stuff, so if you want to read more about how they approached the campaign as a company, head to Super Heuristics to get the full scoop.
Now, segmentations can get complicated quickly when you constantly add new product lines or serve different customers, but the bottom line is you’re trying to create value for your target audience(s).
When you are growing, it’s natural to offer more products. Over time, your segmentations would likely become messy. In that case, you’d need to reevaluate them, but be aware that segmentation overhauls are a lot of work.
Alright, we’ve covered quite a bit, so here is a quick wrap-up:
- You need to define your product before you can create a messaging framework.
- Product positioning is The What – You need to define and decide how you want your customers to think and feel about your products.
- A messaging framework is The How – You need to determine how to communicate the uniqueness and promises of your product.
- While product positioning can be complicated, there are 4 easy-to-remember main elements to consider: naming, description, logo, and segmentation.
Honestly, product positioning, corporate culture, brand persona, customer experience, design of your product, even UX (user interface), are all interconnected. All these elements will start bubbling up when you begin talking about naming, description, logo, and segmentations.
You’d need to discuss these factors internally, have a good debate, and align everyone first before moving forward.
And be aware that product positioning is a lengthy process. In a smaller company, you probably can do it on your own, but a bigger company usually hires outside consultants to facilitate that process.
Ultimately, we can’t control how customers think and feel about our brand and products, but we can position a product the way we want it to be perceived by our target audience.
In that sense, it’s important to focus on what we can control: defining our products well and making the best possible effort to present them clearly and confidently. But, most importantly, let’s always look for ways to serve our customers better.
I know that was a lot of information, so if you’ve got questions, please let me know! Schedule a call, it’s completely free.
And if you find you’re more of a visual/aural learner, be sure to check out my YouTube channel and/or my podcast for loads of free, useful content.