Go Ask Alice

One of fiction's finest marketing minds, The Cheshire Cat,once told Alice in Wonderland something all business ownersand marketers should remember:

"If you don't care where you are going, it doesn't make adifference which path you take."

For businesses bent upon success, it does matter which pathyou take. A positioning statement helps you chart your pathto success because it lets all your audiences - internal andexternal - know where your organization stands in the battlefor your consumers' minds.

Positioning: What Is It?

You should not confuse a positioning statement with yourmarket position. As Harry Beckwith states in his bookSelling the Invisible, "A position is a cold-hearted,no-nonsense statement of how you are perceived in the mindsof your prospects. A positioning statement, by contrastexpresses how you wish to be perceived. It is the coremessage you want to deliver in every medium."

Your positioning statement will be found where three itemsintersect:

- your business acumen/aspirations
- your market
- what truly differentiates you

Of the three, it is your market which holds the key to yourpositioning. That doesn't mean that your acumen andaspirations are irrelevant. You must have a clearunderstanding and shared agreement on these at themanagement level in order to develop an effectivepositioning statement.

My approach to developing an effective positioningstatement and an actionable marketing plan begins withgaining this understanding. Here's how we go about it, andyou can too:

- interviews with management and employees to learn jobresponsibilities, current marketing practices, as well as tosurface questions for customer interviews

- a review of appropriate primary and secondary research

- a series of one-on-one customer interviews

Customer interviews allow us to probe for information suchas:

- how customers perceive your "product" and other products inthe category. what the customer wants from the productcategory he is not now receiving. what is the primarycustomer benefit of your product

- how your customers currently position your brand. howcustomers perceive your competitors

- what media habits, lifestyles do customers share. whatindustries do they work in, what are their titles, whatassociations do they belong to

- how do customers want to be communicated with

Once all the information is in, you may develop apositioning statement that clearly says who you are, definesyour audiences, indicates what markets you are targeting,and states what makes you different from your competitors.

Once this is done, everyone knows where they are going andthen it's easy to find the right path.

About the author: Harry Hoover is managing principal of Hoover ink PR, http://www.hoover-ink.com. He has 26 years of experience in crafting and delivering bottom line messages that ensure success for serious businesses like Brent Dees Financial Planning, Duke Energy, Levolor, North Carolina Tourism, Ty Boyd Executive Learning Systems, VELUX and Verbatim.

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