Positioning step-by-step

Put your product in a context where it can shine.


This step-by-step approach is designed to make your product look awesome to the people who care.

I'll break it down for you into simple steps. Add them as tasks to your to-do list and do them in multiple short sittings, with breaks in between.

See this tweet if you want the 10-second version of this.

Get started: Positioning questions

These questions will help you get your mind to "positioning mode". They are from the book Obviously Awesome by April Dunford:

  1. Competitive alternatives: If you didn't exist, what would customers use?
  2. Key unique attributes: What features or capabilities do you have that alternatives do not?
  3. Enabling value: What value do the attributes enable for customers?
  4. Customers that care: Who cares a lot about the value?
  5. Market you win: What context makes the value obvious to your target segments?

Sit down with a bunch of sticky notes and jot down some answers. For question 1, you can use the results you got from the previous step: JTBD Analysis.

Find the Features

Question 1 made you think about competitive alternatives. (By the way, these include "do nothing", "have someone else do it", or "use Excel". Those 3 might be your biggest "competitors").

When you think of those competitive alternatives, what do you think makes your product "better"?

List the features that your product has and create one Feature box on your positioning diagram for each one you find.

Feel the Qualities

Similarly, your product can not only have features but also qualities. Features are mostly about "what does it do", where qualities are about "how does it feel".

Sample qualities:

  • fast
  • easy to use
  • easy to understand
  • efficient
  • high value for money
  • elegant, sophisticated, complete
  • rough, basic, down-to-earth
  • robust, mature, works every time
  • innovative, quirky, new
  • etc.

(For the software engineers among you, read ISO 25010 for a good shopping list of necessary qualities for software).

List the qualities that your product has, and create one Quality box on your positioning diagram for each quality you find.

Collect the Benefits

Question 3 made you think about what value the features enable for your customers. If you peek at the "Persona" section below, you will see that there are at least 4 different types of people that your product will target.

For each feature or quality that you brainstormed in the previous steps, find a Benefit that this feature or quality has for at least one persona. Feel lucky if you can find more than one per feature. Be creative here!

Example: Let's say your product is an app that measures how many steps you walked outside, and how much time you spent in fresh air today.

Yeah okay, but how does that benefit your users or customers? How can they make their lives more awesome, using those metrics feature?

Ha, maybe sunlight and fresh air make them healthier and happier? Of course, you bet!

List the benefits that your product features are causing, and create one Benefit box on your positioning diagram for each benefit you find.

Remember, the same feature can have multiple benefits, for the same person, or for different people.

Serve your Personas

Question 4 asked you to think about the people that you're trying to serve with your product. Who are they, what are they like, and: what do they call themselves?

Ana Bibikova (@NotechAna on Twitter) recently made me think about 4 different types of people:

  1. the one who uses
  2. the one who chooses
  3. the one who benefits
  4. the one who pays

For the "walking app" example that I used above, numbers 1 and 3 are called "Couch potato", whereas numbers 2 and 4 are called "Spouse". 😄

List the concrete types of people whom you will serve, and create one Persona box on your positioning diagram for each persona you find.

Prepare your Stories

Marketing is storytelling. Question 5 asked you to think about a context that makes the value of your product totally obvious to possible customers.

This is similar to the plot of a story where a hero (your future customer) faces a problem, uses your product, and gets transformed into a better state while using it.

Your product renders the value, the plot shows the context in which this happens.

This is how to begin with your stories:

  • Leave your desk, get something hot to drink, sit down with pen and paper on your couch, and jot down some notes about the transformational story you want to tell.

  • Find the title of that story (two to four words long).

  • Find multiple smaller stories if one becomes too big.

  • For each story title that you find, create one Story box on your positioning diagram.

Later, in Messaging, you will add the real marketing copy to your stories.

Comments welcome: