The Right Time(s) for Positioning

This post is for you product marketing types and entrepreneurs who are busy positioning your solutions. Once you have solidified your positioning and launched your product, now you are ready to kick back with your feet on your desk. Right? Wrong! There are going to points in time when you will need to revisit your positioning.

The obvious time that we focus on positioning is when a new product is in development and as we are getting it ready for launch. I can recount many a time gathering VoC, creating a positioning matrix, testing it with customers, debating it with engineering, staying up late worrying about it…. But I digress. Back to the topic at hand.

If done well positioning should “stick.” In other words, it is not something that should change with the weather. It should be in place for the many seasons. Your message (and evidence supporting your position) may and will change periodically, but your positioning should be on fairly firm ground for the long haul. However, there are catalysts that prompt a review of positioning along the way.

Here are four catalysts to look for:

When a new competitor enters the market
Any time a competitor of significance enters the market you need to revisit your positioning. Be careful to not underestimate a small, less established entrant who may be more nimble than an established player.

You must also beware of substitutes who may not look like competitors but can be the toughest competitors of all. An example, email vendors have noticed the use of email declining while social networks are picking up some of the volume. Not a direct competitor, but one that is undoubtedly prompting email vendors to revisit their positioning.

When a major market trend emerges or shifts
The second catalyst for reevaluating your positioning occurs when there is a change in dynamics in your market. This could include a new technology trend, a shift in the way customers use a product or an alliance of several related technology suppliers. When this occurs it’s time to review your positioning and evaluate whether this trend makes your current position stronger, weaker or has no impact.

When significant pricing moves are made in your market
The third catalyst, pricing moves, are fairly easy to spot. While working in technology companies the closest I came to a “price war” was in the consumer marketplace. But in lower tech industries I’ve seen pricing moves have dramatic affect on market dynamics and to a product’s positioning.

Additionally, in our struggling economy we must keep an eye out for short-term pricing incentives. I recently noticed a small technology company who is offering free implementation services for a specified period of time. Be mindful of how pricing moves can impact your position.

When your current strategy isn’t working
This is a tricky one. You can’t give up too quickly but if your current positioning isn’t working you need to take a close look at understanding why. Do not take this close look from the comfort of your office or conference room. You must engage with customers to get the type of insight you need. This fourth catalyst is perhaps the toughest catalyst to spot, and a critical one to not ignore.

Keep an eye out for the positioning catalysts! They are out there lurking in your markets more often that you might notice.

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