Foundational Marketing

Your Positioning May Have Run its Course. Here’s Why.

By Trusted CMO

Are you getting the sense that your current positioning story isn’t working as well as it could? The stakes of this can be really (really!) high—ultimately impacting revenue growth and competitive win rates. In this two-part blog series, we help you consider whether the time is right to revisit and refresh your positioning, and how to think through the pros and cons of different approaches to do that. 

However, before we dig in, it’s important that everyone is on the same page about what positioning actually is and what it does for your business. Otherwise, we’re talking past each other.

Positioning is…

Let’s take two great example descriptions of positioning (excerpts, bold added by us), the first description from MasterClass being succinct and direct: Market positioning is the strategic differentiation of a product to make it more valuable in the minds of consumers. A strong market positioning strategy will identify a clear value proposition.

And another from the Product Marketing Alliance.

A positioning strategy is a set of actions and processes that are designed to improve the image and visibility of a brand, company, or product. Product managers should plan for how people in the market will think about their product…. Successful positioning strategies not only focus on where the product is today,  but how the product could potentially progress to where you would ideally like it to be in the near future…. Positioning outlines why your product is unique in comparison to market alternatives. 

A few things jump out when reading those two descriptions:

  • Market positioning is about establishing and managing perception. How do you want your target buyers to see you?
  • How should your ideal personas see you compared to others? That’s differentiation.
  • The value you bring should be clear and not have a short shelf life. You want positioning that resonates with the here and now, but also gives buyers a reason to stay with you in the future.

Let’s also be clear that positioning is not the same as messaging, but serves as the foundation for messaging. Positioning is a truly strategic decision by your company to agree on identity and to shape and own a category. It requires collaboration with Product, Sales, Marketing, and Customer leadership to get everyone in alignment. Messaging stems from your positioning and is about communicating a clear and concise description to different personas, in a way that resonates with them.

As Bob Wright, managing director at best-in-class positioning consulting company Firebrick, says:

Strong and clearly differentiated corporate positioning is especially foundational for B2B tech success, and it’s also a hallmark of every significant category leader. Your positioning stance and story is your company’s ‘north star.’ But for most companies, it can be really hard to reach consensus and build proper positioning that communicates how you can change your customer’s world.

Every company and product has market positioning, whether you’ve been deliberate about it or not. 

Too many positioning narratives remain product-centric vs. buyer-centric in their approach (and they should be the latter). But regardless, buyers will always seek to put you into a category, compare you to other offerings, have an emotional response to your brand and offering, and think about you in a way that’s relative to their needs. 

If you don’t help your buyers understand your market positioning, they will position you on their own. Ultimately, how quickly and effectively they see your value clearly and as differentiated will directly affect your revenue and growth progress, equating to stronger ROI on your total go-to-market budget.

Is now the time to revisit positioning?

It’s time to rethink your positioning story when…


1. Sluggish growth may mean your positioning has gone stale or isn’t differentiated.

2. You need to inspire different personas.

3. Internal go-to-market teams aren’t on the same page and saying different things.

4. It takes too long to explain what you do.

5. Your portfolio has expanded due to M&A or new launches.


Sluggish growth suggests a stale story or unclear differentiation

Are the same efforts leading to reduced results: lower conversions, less pipeline, longer sales cycles, more “no decisions” or competitive losses? What worked for you the past few years might not be working as well today. Market conditions have likely changed, and your competitors haven’t been sitting still. It might be time to bring your positioning along to current buyer and market dynamics, and incorporate what you’ve more recently learned to combine with where you want to go.

You want to target new buyer personas

The most common scenarios are that you are looking to reach a more senior-level decision maker (budget influencer or owner) and/or expanding your “tent” to encompass more types of buyers across different departments, industries, or company sizes, for example. This will require you to look at how well your positioning will resonate with those new personas vs. your traditional ones and deliver the value proposition that will matter to them.

We’re not on the same page and have an inconsistent message

Are you saying different things about who you are? If, for example, marketing and sales experience ongoing misalignment, this affects everything from messaging training and sales enablement to campaign and content strategy and execution to what defines “a good lead.” Or maybe your sales or customer team is certain the market has different needs than what product is developing. And that all hurts your overall go-to-market budget efficiency and ROI. 

It takes too long to explain what we do

Competition for attention is getting more expensive. So when you have that attention, it’s crucial to “stick the landing” with a clear, crisp story about who you are and the value you bring to your target buyers. If it takes 20 slides to describe your solution and advantage, or if your top of funnel isn’t converting as well as it could, it’s likely time to figure out how to improve your positioning.

Your offering portfolio has changed

Perhaps your company has made an acquisition or been through a merger, or you have invested in and introduced new offerings. Conversely, you may have decided to discontinue an offering to instead focus resources where things have been working really well. Changes to your portfolio triggers a perfect opportunity to elevate and expand your positioning story and your value message. It’s akin to the adage of 1+1=3. 

There may be other triggers for a re-positioning investment, but regardless of the reason, the next step is the process to get to your best outcome. So now that we’ve level-set on what positioning is and when you might need to re-invest in your positioning strategy, part two of our blog post will cover three different approaches to reinvigorate your positioning.

Is it time for you to revisit your positioning? Talk to us.

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