How strong is your B2B positioning?

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Doug Kessler

16. 04. 2009 | 3 min read

How strong is your B2B positioning?

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 Positioning Matters in B2B marketing

Positioning is one of the essentials of B2B marketing but it’s very rare to see it done well. It’s a simple idea: as a marketer, you should explicitly manage the place your brand holds in the minds of your target audience so that it’s clearly differentiated from the competition.

The concept gained currency in a series of Ad Age articles in the ’70s by Al Ries and Jack Trout and has kept its place in the marketing lexicon ever since — a sign that there’s something real going on.

A clear, compelling positioning statement is a kind of touchstone for all of your marketing efforts. If everyone in the company knows what you stand for, it’s a lot easier to judge whether a given tactic, headline or video is on-strategy.

We’ve adapted some ideas about positioning from the 1980s work of Bengt Anderson and Steve Trygg, two talented B2B marketers from Sweden, and over time, made them our own. We still use their simple, three-point test that says a positioning has to be:

Relevant –It has to speak to a real need at the front of the prospect’s mind.

Available – No other competitor can ‘own’ the positioning.

Attainable –It has to be credible; you have to be able to deliver on it (and prove you can).

A good positioning passes all three tests. Two out of three is not good enough.  Some examples that fail:

“Cures the common cold” – relevant, yes; available, yes; attainable… no.

“The only purple blade server on the market” – available and attainable… but irrelevant.

“The safe car company” –  relevant and attainable, but not really available (Volvo built a brand on it and many others chase safety now, too).

And a few examples that have succeeded so well, we don’t even have to tell you who they are:

“CRM without software”

“The computer for the rest of us”

“The open source operating system”

The fact that we struggled to come up with even these three tells you how rare it is for tech companies to create and sustain a clear, compelling positioning.

Sometimes, a positioning can be summed up in a strapline. More often, it takes a bit more than that — and might only have meaning for the target audience (not a bad thing).  Here’s a few we prepared earlier:

ip.access is the ‘mobile over IP’ company.
They take mobile network traffic and route it over broadband to cut costs and improve network coverage and capacity.

VNL is the microtelecom pioneer.
They’ve re-engineered GSM networks specifically for remote rural communities (just as microfinance did for banking).

Psion Teklogix helps companies maximise their Return on Mobility™.
Their rugged mobile computers increase productivity while driving down costs.

We think these ideas pass the triple test for these companies: they’re relevant, available and attainable.  And by driving them into the marketplace over and over again, we’re helping carve out a sustainable positioning that, in a world of me-too marketing, is a real competitive advantage.

How clear is your company’s positioning? Can you get it on to a T-shirt?

Published in:

  • B2B Content Marketing

  • B2B corporate positioning

  • B2B message development

  • b2b-marketing

  • b2b-technology-marketing

  • content

  • copywriting

  • positioning

  • Thought Leadership

  • web-marketing

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  1. John Hooley

    April 17th, 2009

    Nice post Doug. I always find your posts and articles to be informative and well delivered and this is no exception. I’ll have to think about the 3-fold T-shirt test when I do my site’s redesign.



  2. John Bottom

    April 20th, 2009

    Good point, well made Doug. It’s always refreshing to hear things sensibly simplified like this, but clients often struggle to keep things simple, I find. Anyway, nice blog, well done – and that’s praise coming from a (friendly) competitor!

  3. Doug Kessler

    April 20th, 2009

    Thanks John and John! Much appreciated.
    Simplicity often seems like the hardest thing to do instead of the easiest…

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