Calm Down!!!! Here’s an excerpt from Chapter 5 of Storming the Castle, in which we’re discussing what it takes to create powerful positioning and the first steps for initial market entry. As always comments are more than welcome.
We’re onto the fifth major milestone in our customer-centric GTM quest — Initial Market Penetration. But before you can penetrate a market you have to develop your favorite positioning.
All Positioning is created in fact by your team. Or is it? How often do you use your customers to create positioning? I don’t just mean the occasional focus group. I’m talking about deep engagement with your customer and prospect base, prior to the launch of an initial market entry campaign or Demand Generation plan.
Developing Your Message House
I bet most of you have done this. Developed a set of core positions and supporting messages. There’s even a formula for developing such positions and it goes something like this:
Our XYZ product is the best in the market because of capabilities, A, B and C. Unlike our competitors who can’t do A, B and C and also are unable to deliver [insert weakness here] our solutions will deliver to you [insert benefit here].
Any way you look at it, that’s the organizations have been taught to develop a positioning statement and then customize it to different markets and segments. This is more exercise however, rather than usable content. It needs to be adapted to specific channels depending on your Routes to Market. On top of that, you need effective Competitive and Market Intelligence to identify those nuggets of information that will enable you to craft a compelling position. But beware, my guess is that your solution is NOT that much better/different/unique than that of your competitors.
But what you say about your solution and the feelings you can generate with your positioning IS important. Take a ride with me, back to 1990-1991, when PeopleSoft introduced its Fat Client/Server HRMS. How cool was that graphical user interface? How fun was it to use? Much of their positioning back then was all about the fun, easy to use, productive interface they were providing and less about the core HRMS functionality. Granted, they had first mover advantage but still, the users had serious feelings about and for PeopleSoft. They were evangelists!
They felt that the organization “understood them” that PeopleSoft “got” HR professionals and their desire to have powerful easy to use tools (and they were right). The goal was to evoke feelings of value, capability, and loyalty, which would translate into brand affinity and an evangelical avarice for the brand. And don’t just think you have to have a “cool” product for customers to have feelings for. Anything that they can get passionate about – including things like software which can make their lives’ easier is a recipe for generating good feelings.
Here are some key questions you should be answering as you construct your positioning.
- Do you have the ability to tell the market how your customers feel about your products and solutions?
- Have you ever asked customers how they feel about your products, services and brand? Not just a few but a whole slew of ’em
- Have customers been included in your positioning efforts this time around so that their feelings and value attributes can be shared broadly? Have you run any draft positioning past them?
- Is there a standard way you include customer “feelings” in your positioning efforts?
- How integrated is your Market Intelligence function in crafting positioning?
- Do you have a legitimate method for garnering human intelligence on competitive products that can then be integrated into your positioning efforts?
To successfully create customer-centric positioning you need to able have a 360 degree approach to including customers in the development, testing and in market usage of your positioning content. Addressing the items above are critical to driving that success.
Initial Market Entry
What do you do to find your “sneezers”? Those folks who will spread the word on your products or services? Do you invite them into early betas? Do you have them play with your solutions in a private community? There are three fundamental things that you should execute on to make your market entry efforts successful:
Communitize — I am sure most of you have community efforts in place. What an ideal place to start your market entry efforts… with your existing customers. They will provide you with a bellwether as to how your customer base will accept the new solution or not. And just as importantly, they will give you feedback on how the product is positioned. That is, if you ask for it. You see most organizations forget to do that. In the absence of that crucial customer input you’re missing an opportunity to fine tune your positioning and offer. Another way to communitize your initial market entry is to set up a private community for the purposes of product testing and feedback. Private communities give you the luxury of airing all the dirty laundry about your solution without fear of sharing that dirt with the market in general. If you’ve read any of the other chapter excerpts you will know what a big believer I am in the use of private communities to test drive products, messaging and strategy.
Evangelize – once the product is in limited beta you should have both customer and employee evangelists lined up. While employee evangelists are nice and they tend to move things along, I prefer customer evangelists. Why? Because large swaths of your market likes hearing from customers more than they want to hear from you the vendor… why? Simply because they are more credible in their eyes. This is where those communities come into play again. Many times you can recruit a core set of evangelists from either your private or public community.
Incentivize – finally you should be incentivizing folks to try your products. Whether it is with some sort of Freemium offer or just plain free for early users. Its up to you. But you need to drive usage. And the offer is beginning to become important here. We haven’t yet talked about Driving Demand but this is a Demand Generation activity – acquiring an early base of users. We will. And the lessons we will discuss apply nicely here as well.
There’s a lot more that we will be covering regarding how to get your product positioning and initial market penetration strategy in place but these are the bones. We’ll be putting meat on them as we move forward.