Three Approaches to Reinvigorating Your Positioning

By Trusted CMO

In part one of this blog series, we covered five common signs that it’s time to revisit your market positioning: a stale or undifferentiated story; the need to inspire new personas; chronic internal misalignment; taking too long to explain what you do; and a change to your offering portfolio (typically an expansion following a merger or acquisition or the release of a new product or service.)

Positioning should be seen as the critical foundation in which all of your go-to-market decisions and investments are made. Nailing your positioning now will lead to only good things: stronger messaging and storytelling, higher competitive win rates, sound prioritization for your product roadmap, a more resilient customer and partner community, and ultimately greater growth. 

Deciding which category you are in is a key aspect of your positioning. You may need a stronger definition of your position to stand out in an existing category (your corner of the room), or you may push to modify how an existing category could tilt in your favor. Your positioning work could also lead you to create an entirely new category. No matter which of these category approaches you choose, you’ll need to carve out a leadership position and set the buying criteria.

But where to start? There are plenty of podcasts, books, and content on the topic, but you can’t simply read or listen to a directive and expect great positioning to happen. For positioning to succeed – and to stick – you need collaboration and buy-in. And you need to test to make sure your positioning is resonating as expected.

Positioning approaches

There are three different ways you can address your positioning narrative, with  pros and cons for each. We’ll cover our preferred approach first, and then review the other options.

1. Collaborative, research-backed and externally-partnered positioning

“Breathing our own air” is an adage that most of us understand: We get too acclimated to our current situation, making it harder to see things through a different lens. So rather than go solo with just your own internal resources and great thinkers, we strongly recommend following a best practice like the one defined by positioning expert consultancy Firebrick, which is to collaborate with an external partner who knows how to guide and inspire the process and who brings deep experience in B2B tech positioning and go-to-market strategy. (Trusted CMO specializes in positioning for early-stage startups and has been trained and uses the Firebrick methodology to do so.)

This type of project follows a proven formula: First, your external partner and your leadership stakeholders define clear challenges and goals. Next, your partner embarks on a discovery and research phase: speaking with internal team members, hearing directly from customers about the value they experience, reviewing key competitors, understanding pressures and trends in your market, and learning about your offerings. Then a workshop session brings your leadership stakeholders back together to review those discovery phase findings. This is a crucial step, as the candid and facilitated discussion and prioritization exercises ultimately lead to stronger alignment and agreement on the direction of your new positioning. 

At that stage, your positioning project partner sees a new buyer-centric narrative emerging, helps you name the problem that you solve, define the corner of the market you will own (and why), and presents several options for a new story, which will be further refined and rolled out by your GTM team.

  • Pros: Collaborative and cross-departmental. Impartially facilitated by an independent positioning expert, which introduces less bias. Goal-oriented and prescriptive, with a clear time frame for completion.
  • Cons: Added cost due to involvement of external third party. Enterprise-wide, requiring CEO support and participation from key leadership stakeholders across the company.  

With external positioning expertise, we have seen companies gain more buy-in and adoption of their new positioning story, and more importantly stronger market acceptance because the positioning is buyer-centric. Also, this collaborative approach to positioning can have other profound, positive impacts on your company, e.g. “light bulb” moments around product roadmap decisions, customer retention programs, and partnering strategies.

2. Brute-force internal training: “You must comply!”

This approach assumes that someone on your team (C-suite, sales, product etc.) believes you have already have the right positioning story, so it’s seen as low-hanging fruit to simply reverse internal non-compliance and misalignment. The proposed remedy typically involves product marketing and sales enablement closing the gap: re-certifying, new materials, training etc.

  • Pros: Low cost since it’s often handled internally. Timeframe for conducting the training can be relatively fast.
  • Cons: May not get at the heart of the issue, which is that your positioning story is just not clicking with the market. The team members who fundamentally disagree with your positioning will not be convinced by training alone, and you quickly find yourself back to where you started.

3. Using a brand agency to co-develop new messaging and content

Most creative agencies would love to workshop a pithy messaging approach and realizing these words in your content and campaigns. There is value to testing and improving your messaging, but we discussed in part one of this blog series, messaging is not positioning. Further, creative agencies are usually hired by the marketing team, which means this project may be perceived as a departmental effort even if you pull in other stakeholders.

  • Pros: Can bring a fresh, outsider’s perspective and be useful in flowing messaging into campaigns. Can help refresh and align branding with words.
  • Cons: May not have a proven expertise in positioning and how to develop messaging from it. Doesn’t go as in-depth in the process, e.g. thinking about your value to buyers. May be seen as a department-level vs. strategic, company wide initiative, therefore harder to get buy-in. 

Now that we have reviewed three different approaches, it will be up to your team to determine the right course for you. At the end of the day, your positioning should resonate strongly with your desired buyers. They should be able to quickly and clearly understand the value you will bring to them, how you can help change their worlds, and separate you from the pack.

Using the best practices methodology and narrative structure as perfected by Firebrick across more than 400 mid- to large-sized tech clients, Trusted CMO is ready to apply this process and “alchemy” to earlier-stage companies. Reach out to us to learn more.

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