Marketing is probably the business discipline with the longest of buzzwords that have been popularised the world over. One of these buzzwords that really took root is positioning. Positioning in itself is more than a buzzword of course. It’s all about occupying a place (position) in the minds (and hearts) of your customer base. You may have come across it being referred to as product positioning. It has been heralded as the silent P in the marketing mix. Let’s take a dive into this positioning concept and learn how to employ to for our small businesses.

What is it?

Positioning refers to the place that a brand occupies in the minds of the customers and how it is distinguished from the products of the competitors and different from the concept of brand awareness. It ties closely to concepts such as the unique selling proposition and niche marketing. The idea is to create a constant association in the minds of your prospects with the problem your product or business proposes a solution to.

How does it work?

A simple example of great positioning is the work of Coca Cola and how they have placed their flagship drink firmly in the minds of people as they are go-to when you need something to drink. It is more than a great product (and that greatness debatable), it is a combination of the incredible reach of the product, it’s incessant marketing and simplicity of the offering. Through years of hard work and working hand in hand with small businesses, they have firmly created a position in the minds of all of us and the hearts of some of us.  You can employ the same tactics and a lot of people have. You don’t even need the financial muscle of Coca Cola to do it. You just need a viable positioning strategy.

Positioning Strategy

A positioning strategy is what will get you to the desired position and it consists of identifying the areas that will promote particular associations with your product or business. If you want to position your clothing line for example as a luxury brand this must echo in your marketing messages and conduct. Similarly, if you set up a graphic design studio and want to occupy the position of a low-cost quick turnaround this must also be matched in all you do. Before we go on to look at how this works for business, products and brands there’s one very important thing to note: it’s not about you. That is to say, the positioning job is to be done the customers mind so your reference points should be how customers look at the product. I have told the story before of my friend who makes world-class graphic designs who had his packaging design for budget tissue brand turned down because it made the brand look expensive. It all counts.

Product

Many of the examples I have given thus far have to do with positioning a product so I won’t dwell on it too much. When it comes to positioning a product it helps to align aspects such as the product name. Names like EcoCash, EcoHealth and EcoSure are not results of laziness in the marketing department but a combination of product positioning and leveraging on the existing Eco brand. In each case, you get a quick idea of who is delivering it and what it is. Roughly.

Brand

Brands are a little bit more tricky. Colgate wasn’t the name for all toothpaste when it started but now it is. Unlike products, brands do not need definitive names. Apple, Samsung, Dolce and Gabbana, Mercedes and many more were just names at best. They have however built a meaning to the brand names the same Econet did with the Eco brand. Brand positioning works great for those who sell on products that they are not in control off. Look at OK supermarkets brands OK and Bon Marche. The two brands have been positioned differently in the market but are the fruit of the same tree.

Personal

The same concept can be employed if you have a personality based business. I mentioned Dolce and Gabbana among brands but the luxury and couture design world is largely built on persons. So how do you position a person?  One of my favourite examples of this is Memory Nguwi of IPC consultants who has done a lot of work to show people he is all about Human Resource Management and Industrial relations. It’s not just about vocation. Other powerful personalities have positioned themself by making it clear who they work with. Women, children and other distinct demographics work well for this.

So what do I do?

As with all things you must first decide who or what you want to be. The second step is o understand from a customer point of view what that means and what symbols they associate with that. If you want to be a high-quality supplier what do the customers associate with high quality exactly? Once you know what they associate with the desired quality get to work on how you will communicate this. You may need to measure and review your efforts to make sure it’s working.