Positioning is crucial in business. Yet, few people truly understand what it is or how to do it. In this book, April Dunford explains what positioning really is, and how to find an effective product positioning in 10 steps. In this Obviously Awesome summary, you’ll learn about the signs of weak positioning, as well as the components and steps for effective positioning. These insights are applicable to both startups and established companies, and are especially useful for business leaders/owners, marketers, salespeople, and product developers.
What’s the Book “Obviously Awesome” About?
Positioning is key to sales and marketing, which are in turn essential to any business’s survival. A strong positioning amplifies all your sales and marketing efforts. On the other hand, no amount of marketing will work if your positioning is weak or unclear.
In today’s crowded marketplace, consumers are flooded by millions of messages and options, making it even more crucial to have the right positioning. In this book, marketer and entrepreneur April Dunford specifically addresses:
• What is positioning, including its 5+1 components; and
• How to position effectively in 10 steps.
Do You Have a Positioning Problem?
There are several signs of weak positioning:
• Existing customers love you, yet new prospects don’t understand what you’re selling. Try showing your product to family and friends and ask them to describe what you do. Then, compare that with what existing customers say about your product. If there’s a gap, you probably have a positioning problem.
• You have a long sales cycle and/or low conversion rates. Prospects take a long time to evaluate your product, and may switch to a competitor at a last minute. By contrast, businesses with a strong positioning sell quickly as their value is clear to customers.
• You have high customer churn. New customers leave shortly after purchasing, or ask for features you don’t intend to offer. Weak positioning means that customers have the wrong expectations, and won’t be happy with your offering.
• People complain that your prices are too high. You can’t charge a premium if your unique value isn’t obvious to customers.
If you notice any of these signs in your business, then this is the book for you!
What is Positioning?
Positioning = Setting a Context
When people come across a new product, they use contextual cues—including the pricing, features, messaging, branding, customers, and partners—to figure out what the product is and whether it’s relevant to them. April Dunford argues that positioning is essentially about creating a frame of reference for your product/service so it’s easier to understand.
Without the right context, even a great product can fail, especially if it’s a new solution that people aren’t familiar with. When famous violinist Joshua Bell holds a concert, his tickets usually sell out at more than $300 each. Yet, when he played anonymously at a subway station in Washington, few people even noticed him. Bell’s music may be great, but it wasn’t valuable without the context of a concert hall, live orchestra, attire, etc.
Positioning can fundamentally change how people see something. Imagine if you’re launching an innovative cake that’s easy to eat on-the-go. Customers will have very different expectations if you position it as a “cake on a stick” as opposed to “a cake lollipop.”
The key to successful positioning is to intentionally define how you’re the best at something that a specific set of customers care about. In short, you want to be obviously awesome to them!
How to Position a Product or Company
Dunford recommends against using traditional positioning statements. That’s because you tend to capture your own assumptions (not the market truths), and reflect the status quo (not the best options),. Moreover, the statement is hard to remember and won’t tell you what to do.
Instead, she tried out numerous positioning tools, processes, and templates, then spent months sharing and field-testing the ideal approach. The result? A proven 10-step process to help you address 5+1 key elements of effective positioning. Here’s a visual summary:
The goal is to position your product in the best-possible market context—where its benefits over alternatives are so obvious that it can win easily.
In our full version of Obviously Awesome summary, we explain more about (i) the difference between product and company positioning, (ii) 2 common positioning mistakes to avoid, and (iii) details/examples for each of the 5+1 components and 10 steps above. Meanwhile, let’s dive right in with a quick overview.
The 5+1 Components of Effective Positioning
The 5+1 components are:
• Competitive alternatives: What would your customers do or use if your solution didn’t exist? For example, would they use other competitor products, hire an assistant, or just do nothing? These are the minimum benchmarks you must meet.
• Unique attributes: What are the things you can do (features and capabilities) that the alternatives cannot?
• Demonstrable value: What benefits do your features and attributes deliver for customers? You must be able to prove such value through facts or third-party validation.
• Target market characteristics: Which customers care the most about the value from your products? What sets them apart from other customers, and how can you identify them?
• Market category: To help customers understand your value, what category of products would you use to describe your offering? Market categories like “smartphones” or “peanut butter” instantly call up a set of assumptions about what the product offers, the price range, and market leader. Find one that makes your unique value stand out.
• Relevant trends (optional): What are the trends that your customers understand and can make your product more relevant or important right now?
The 10-Step Positioning Process
In our complete 14-page Obviously Awesome summary, we’ll elaborate (with examples) how to use these 10 steps to arrive at the 5+1 components above:
1. Understand your Happiest Customers. Your “best-fit customers” are those who “get” your product, buy it quickly, love the solution, refer you to others, and may even suggest that you increase your prices. .
2. Assemble a Positioning Team. This should be a cross-functional team with all the key functions represented.
3. Align Your Vocabulary and Release Positioning Baggage. Make sure everyone’s on the same page on what positioning is and are ready to explore options.
4. List Your Real Competitive Alternatives. To recap, these are what csutomers would do or use if your solution didn’t exist.
5. Identify Your Unique Attributes. Define the attributes (features and capabilities) that make you unique and better than your competitive alternatives.
6. Translate Attributes into Value Clusters. Map your attributes into benefits in the context of achieving the customer’s goal, then distill it down to 1-4 “value clusters”.
7. Define Customers Who Care the Most about your value clusters. These are the customers you want to focus your limited resources on.
8. Find a Great Market Frame of Reference. Choose a market category where your strengths will naturally stand out. Dunford explains several ways to choose your market, as well as 3 competitive choices: (i) enter an existing market as a market leader, (ii) enter an existing market as a niche player, or (iii) create a brand-new market.
9. Add a Supporting Trend (If There’s One). Use market categories to highlight your solution’s strengths, then use trends to highlight why they should consider your solution now.
10. Capture and Share Your Positioning. Check out Dunford’s positioning canvas to capture the key elements on 1 page and share it easily with the rest of the organization.
Implementing your Positioning
Dunford ends off by explaining how you can implement your new positioning across the company by translating it into a sales story that reflects the problem, existing solutions, gaps, and key purchase criteria for customers to evaluate a solution.
Getting More from “Obviously Awesome”
By now, you should have a good idea of what effective positioning is all about. If you’re ready to start defining your company or product positioning, do check out our full book summary bundle which includes an infographic, 14-page text summary, and a 24-minute audio summary.
This is a clearly written and structured book, packed with practical insights and tips. April Dunford includes numerous examples and short case studies to illustrate how positioning can be applied in the real world. You can purchase the book here or visit aprildunford.com for more information.
About the Author of Obviously Awesome
Obviously Awesome: How to Nail Product Positioning so Customers Get It, Buy It, Love It was written by April Dunford–a marketing consultant, entrepreneur, speaker, author, board member and angel investor. She specializes in product positioning and market strategy, and has launched 16 products over her 25 years’ career with various technology startups and organizations like IBM and Siebel. Dunford is an engineering graduate of the University of Waterloo.
Obviously Awesome Quotes
“You have a positioning problem. I have a solution in 10 easy steps.”
“While most people think of positioning as a marketing concept, a shift in positioning feels more like a shift in business strategy.”
“How you position your offerings is the underpinning of your entire business strategy and can mean the difference between success and failure.”
“Context can completely transform the way we think about a product.”
“You need to create a position that highlights the unique strengths of your product as customers perceive them.”