January 19, 2018

Making a Big Mistake in Product Positioning?

Recently, I was at an entrepreneurial networking meeting and I saw this written on a whiteboard.

Common Misconception in Product Positioning

Common Misconception in Product Positioning

I apologize for the low quality image, but it shows a process of where your start with your product, then you determine how to position in your product in the market, which then drives your promotions for your product.

When I see positioning presented like this, I want to cringe, as this is such a common misconception of positioning.   The common mistake is that positioning occurs after the product is defined.   My response to that is, “how do you know what product you should build if you don’t know what position you want to achieve and with what market segment”.   That determination of target market segment and desired position can result in completely different products based upon those two key decisions.

So allow me to share some additional background.   The early definition of positioning by Trout and Ries clearly stated that positioning occurs in the mind of the customer.   And I agree, that ultimately, the customer (the market) owns how they want to position your product in their mind.   But our goal as product managers and product marketers is to select our desired position and effectively use our Ps of marketing (Product, Price, Place, Promotion) to influence our product’s desired position in the mind of the customer.

The mistake that people make, including some very smart marketers, is that they look at positioning as being primarily driven by promotions.  While in some consumer markets with commodity type products, where you are focused “principally” on making an emotional connection to your brand, this might be true.  But in most markets, you must leverage all of your Ps of marketing to build and support that position in the market.  Thus before you completely define your product, pricing strategy, promotion strategy and channel strategy, you need to first decide upon your positioning strategy.

Many people will argue my above point by stating that they are lean and they are iterating themselves to Problem/Solution Fit or Product/Market Fit.   And I agree that in opportunities where they is uncertainty around the problem and the right solution, you have to iterate through various positions before you arrive at the right Fit.

Why do I say iterate through positions (Positioning)?  If you read the standard format for the positioning statement (as created by Geoffrey Moore), the components include both your value proposition and your competitive differentiation.   Those are key decisions that you can begin to iterate through before you even know what your solution is.  Theoretically, I can, and should, define and validate my product positioning before I even know what my product (solution) is.

My Message – Start by defining and validating your desired product positioning before you formalize your product solution!

Please see more about my thoughts on positioning and go-to-market strategies on my SlideShare presentation.




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