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Is Your Business Positioned to Win?

Every company should have a positioning statement and further, every member of your C-Suite should be embracing it. While C-Suite executives are familiar with marketing terminology, the term "positioning statement" is lesser-known outside the marketing department — despite the fact that it could be the single most important sentence guiding a company's innovation, distribution, customer handling, sales, and of course marketing, among others.

A positioning statement is exactly what the name implies. It is a strategic position expressed in a single, simple and clear sentence. The purpose of a "positioning" is to develop a strategy that carves out a space to win in a competitive environment. This strategy is arrived at through a formal process of research, analysis and business intuition. The strategic work culminates in a single sentence to explain what you want your company to represent in your customer's mind, and where you sit relative to the competition. It is the heart of a brand strategy, but should also be at the center of a company's strategic planning.

The positioning statement is composed of three critical pieces.

1) The target: It defines who your products and services are for — not just in terms of industries (Business-to-Business) or demographic groups (Business-to-Consumer), but by their mindsets, shared values, and core needs. Your analysis should reveal which target audience segments are under-served, most receptive to your offerings, and/or have been disappointed by gaps in the marketplace or the competition (just as examples). The goal, of course, is to find the most lucrative segments that will buy yours, buy more, and buy more often.

2) The category: The category definition within a positioning statement challenges companies to think about what they really make. The reframing of your category could change your entire path to innovation. If you are Dove, are you a soap company or a beauty company? If you are Panera, are you a fast-casual restaurant or a clean foods purveyor? Understanding your category leads to understanding new opportunities and a vision for the future. You can start to see that through this process you are making strategic decisions which rise above marketing communications into real possibilities for steering the company.

3) The unique selling proposition: The good old USP, the standard bearer for marketers for decades to identify your point of differentiation. While going after unique targets and defining your own category help to make your business unique, the USP does the heavy lifting. Through primary research, teams identify core brand equities, consumer needs, and attitudes that can be leveraged to frame your product in a truly unique way (even for the most homogenous of products). However, this doesn't mean taking a break from true innovations that separate your product from others in tangible, measurable ways.

Once you are armed with a great brand positioning statement, it's time to get to work. A brand positioning must be operationalized beyond marketing. It must permeate the whole organization to effectively reap the rewards of growth and profits. It's not just a message-- it is the re-envisioned delivery of your products and services in the marketplace. Let's say you're a large hardware chain and you've realized that your unique position is to help busy weekend warriors get in and out of the store as quickly as possible with help from experts they trust. You are the ultimate expeditor. Much different than the long excursions and limited help you'd anticipate from a warehouse, right? But what would you do? Sure you'd run ads. But you'd also change your merchandising strategy to provide more in-aisle help with product selection. You'd train your employees to ensure customers got just what they needed the first time. You'd provide pre-assembled checklists on core home maintenance projects and provide order ahead services, maybe even delivery. You'd ensure that future real estate deals were situated in neighborhoods that kept customers away from the mega-centers and traffic. Everything you do would be designed to help people get in and out as easily as possible so that they can get back to enjoying life. So what you may think started out as a marketing exercise, becomes an over-arching business strategy to become the preferred destination, driving customer loyalty and increased sales for the future.

If you don't know your company's positioning statement, find out what it is and help leverage it. Or if you don't have one, initiate a strategic branding process to get one. Your business growth depends on it.

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