Develop A Competitive Position
[For Your Brand]

Strategic competitive positioning sounds like a complex term to describe a complex topic.

To make matters even more confusing, the term “competitive positioning” is used interchangeably with countless other terms that all mean more or less the same thing (hair-splitting aside).

The reality is, competitive positioning is not complex and once you understand exactly what it is and how to define it, you can maneuver your brand into a position of competitive advantage and ultimately strength.

In this article, we simplify positioning and show you the steps you can use in your own strategic process to give your brand an edge.

Discover A Competitive Position With A Positioning Matrix

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What Is Competitive Positioning

The term “competitive position” often throws people off due to the fact that it sounds like a complex topic.

Many entrepreneurs, business owners and even brand builders put it on the long finger or avoid it altogether.

The reality is, the topic itself is very simple, though the consequences of skipping this step when building a brand are not.

Competitive Positioning Definition

Whether you hear the terms:

Competitive Positioning

Positioning Strategy

Brand Positioning

Differentiation Strategy

Market Position

Key Differentiator

More often than not they’re referring to the same thing, which the Father Of Modern Marketing Philip Kotler defined as

“The act of designing the company’s offering and image to occupy a distinctive place in the mind of the target market””

To simplify this further, your competitive position is

Why your audience would choose your brand over your competitors

So as you can see, the term “competitive advantage” is not that complex after all.

Positioning Is A Battle For Your Audience’s Mind

In 1980 a book written by Al Reis and Jack Trout called Positioning: A Battle For Your Mind, shook up the marketing world.

It framed the idea that brands weren’t built in some physical marketplace.

Brands were built in the minds of the audience.

The competitive position you aim to win for your brand therefore is in the mind of your audience and it’s there you must plant the seed and shape perceptions.

So before you jump in to defining a competitive position, you must first understand the mind it will live in.


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How Competitive PositioningRelates To Competitors

Another critical consideration before defining a position for your brand is who else is playing in the market you’re entering—unless you are entering a new market or a market that’s in the early stages of its lifecycle.

The mind of your audience has already positioned multiple other competing brands in their mind based on how they perceive that brand.

Understanding the mind of the audience you want to appeal to is critical, but if you enter the market offering the same as your competitors then essentially you’re asking them to place your brand in the same place in their mind as your competitors.

This is the opposite of what effective positioning is and it brings into content the theme of Al Reis and Jack Trout’s book.

Staking a claim for a unique position that’s not already occupied by a competitor is how you win that battle for the mind.

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What Is A Competitive Positioning Map

A competitive positioning map is a visual positioning tool that compares brands, products or services.

This comparison uses a combination of two variables that consumers consider when making their decision to buy.

It’s worth noting that this is another example of a term that is widely used interchangeably with others terms including

Perceptual Maps

Market Mapping

Positioning Matrix

Perceptual Matrix

How Does Market Mapping Work?

The concept of market mapping is very simple.

You take two variables that your audience would consider before making a decision to buy placing the extremes of each on a two-dimensional X-axis.

You then place the competitors who offer the same product or service on the map based on how they’re perceived in the market pertaining to these variables.

Example Of A Positioning Map

Let’s look at a quick example.

Let’s say you’re building a brand that produces women’s moisturiser. You would think of two variables your audience would consider before making a purchase.

These variables would be based on who the audience is, their personality type and their desires.

Two variables that may influence their purchasing decision could be:

Naturalness

Effectiveness

We would then place the extremes of each variable at opposing ends of the dimensions and then plot the position of each of the competitors based on how they’re perceived in the market leaving us with something like this.

Why Use A Perceptual Map / Positioning Map?

The advantage of mapping your position is that it makes it easy to identify gaps in the market through visual representation.

After performing market research and identifying the audience’s wants and desires and then researching your competitors to identify their strengths and weaknesses, you can then plot that information.

The positioning map should then provide a visual representation of the competitive landscape relating to the variables selected.

With enough research, conducting a competitive analysis and mapping the market can help you discover opportunities you may not have otherwise seen.

You can then do a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis to develop your business strategy and shape new products around these opportunities to counter the competition from market leaders.

8-Step Competitive Positioning Process (Find Your Difference)

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How To Define A Competitive Position

Let’s cut to the chase here.

Although competitive positioning is a lot easier to understand than some would make out, finding that competitive advantage and staking a claim for it is not.

There is no silver bullet or quick fix that guarantees success but there are proven processes that will maximise your chances of finding a unique competitive advantage your audience will gravitate towards.

Step 1:
Segment Your Audience

When it comes to defining a competitive position, there is a rule that cannot be overlooked:

You cannot mean all things to everybody

This means that the more generic a vague you are about your target audience, the less likely you are to resonate with that audience and stand out in the market.

The first step to doing that is excluding who you’re not trying to target by segmenting your audience using key categories.

Example: Instead of targeting “Women”, you might target “Single, Stylish Professional Women in their 30’s”.

Market segmentation helps you target the right audience with the right marketing strategy.

Step 2:
Develop A Buyer Persona

Developing a buyer persona allows you to become a lot more specific about who you’re targeting.

The buyer persona is a fictional character that represents a specific potential customer segment.

If you’re targeting multiple segments within your market, then you would create a buyer persona for each.

As you move throughout the rest of these steps, your buyer persona will be brought to life.

Step 3:
Uncover Your Market Demographics

The demographics of your audience represent their circumstance and situation and begins to illuminate your buyer persona with some key information.

The demographics you aim to uncover include information such as

Age

Gender

Ethnicity

Geographic Location

Marital Status

Income

Home Ownership Status

Children

Although this information doesn’t give us too much in terms of who they are as a person, it does paint a picture of what their life looks like.

Step 4:
Uncover Your Market Psychographics

While demographics pain a picture of the situation and circumstances of your audiences’ lives, psychographic detail goes a lot deeper into who they are as people.

Psychographics outline the behaviours and preferences of your audience and give us the first insight into their mind.

Psychographic information include:

Interests

Hobbies

Lifestyle

Sport

Music

Food

Beliefs

Values

Religion

After extracting this information about your audience, you’ll have a much deeper insight into their core desires and the characteristics they’re attracted to.

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Step 5:
Evaluate The Competition

This step is all about recon and research.

Your audience is already flirting with your competitors or at least are aware of their presence and the potential value they can bring to their lives.

Researching your competitors is certainly about understanding what they’re doing well, but more importantly, it’s about uncovering where they’re leaving gaps in the market.

You have to utilize your competitive intelligence to its full potential to develop a winning positioning strategy.

Your audience may be aware of shortcomings in the marketplace or they may not.

Either way, if you want to effectively position your brand, you need to uncover gaps and opportunities you can exploit to turn the heads of your audience away from your competitors towards your brand.

Step 6:
Evolve Gaps Into Ideas

Carving out a unique position in the mind of your audience is no easy feat.

There’s no beautiful patch of grass on a sunny hillside untouched waiting for your brand to go in there and roll out the picnic blanket.

Identifying a small patch of grass in the form of a gap is only the first part.

Maybe your audience isn’t getting the customer service they hoped for or maybe they’re not happy with the time it takes to get the outcome they want.

Or maybe they are looking for high-quality or low-cost alternatives.

But gaps are not fully formed ideas. Using creative and strategic thinking, you need to take that gap and turn it into something extraordinary.

Step 7:
Define Your Competitive Advantage

Once you’ve evolved your opportunity into a fully formed idea, it’s time to get clarity on how you want that idea to sit in the mind of your audience.

Positioning is a battle for the mind and the idea of your brand lives in the mind of your audience.

The reality is, you don’t have control over how your audience perceives your brand.

What you do have is influence and that influence comes in the form of the position itself, the messaging around that position and the characteristics your brand displays at every touchpoint.

Step 8:
Craft Your Positioning Statement

A positioning statement is often misunderstood as a piece of external communication that a brand might put on their website.

The truth is, the positioning statement is an internal document that outlines some key information including

The Audience

The Challenge / Pain Point

The Key Benefit

The Competitive Alternative

The Unique Point Of Difference

This positioning statement acts as a compass for all brand communication so you can effectively shape the messaging of your brand that in turn shapes the perceptions in the mind of your audience.

You can align all your messaging and communications, including your value proposition, tagline, and marketing campaigns, with your positioning statement to create the right perception about your brand.

Examples Of Effective Positioning

Tesla, Apple, Nike…there are many examples of effective positioning but one of the most memorable comes from a car rental company back in the 60’s.

In the early 60s, Hertz dominated the car rental market and were trailed by a struggling Avis who was losing market share.

Rather than trying to compete with Hertz head-on by claiming they were the best, they assumed their second place role and turned it into a competitive advantage with their slogan:

We’re Number 2 So We Try Harder

With a simple adjustment to how they presented what they did for their customers, Avis turned a losing position into a profitable one which has gone down as one of the best examples of positioning in history.

Over To You

It might seem that every blade of grass is taken when it comes to framing a competitive positioning strategy for your brand but know this.

In 50 years, new brands will be breaking into markets far more saturated that what we see today and they’ll be doing it through competitive positioning.

They’ll look back at the 20s and wonder if brands back then ever knew how easy they had it.

The point is that there will always be a way to distinguish one brand from the next.

The challenge is to think outside the box and look into the mind of your audience to find a sunny patch of grass you can call your own.

I’d love to hear any your challenges, experiences or examples of effective competitive positioning.

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