Positioning, Segmenting, Individualizing: The Keys to Dramatic Business Growth
Answers: Apple, Amazon, Google.
Which companies are second or third in these categories? There’s no one clear answer.
This is the essence of positioning: the place a company occupies in the minds of buyers. The most valuable place is Number One. After that, opinions vary and a company has to struggle with an ever-changing place in the minds of buyers.
Apple, Amazon and Google also chose their buyers and their marketing to mesh perfectly with their positioning. While it seems that these companies are everywhere these days, don’t forget that they grew from smaller beginnings because they made these choices
You Must Choose Growth
Every company that experiences dramatic business growth (at least a 10% annual increase in revenue and profit) has chosen to do so. These increases don’t happen by accident or by throwing yourself into the market and seeing what sticks. Following is an overview of positioning, segmenting and marketing.
Use your current positioning, your current buyers and your current offerings as the starting point upon which to build dramatic growth by choosing to improve positioning, segmenting and marketing.
First, you must choose your position– or the market will push you into one. That is never to your benefit. Positioning options include:
- Me-too, only better. “We’re like the other guys only better, cheaper, faster, etc.”
- Product line extension: You know us for X, here’s X Plus or X Light.
- Number One: we’re the leader in buyer’s minds in this specific market.
- Repositioning the current number one: “You’re used to day-time cold medicines, we’ve got the only night-time cold medicine.”
Evaluate your company’s position in your buyers’ minds. What position would your current buyers assign to you? If this is not the one you want, you will have to work to change it. If it is the one you want, be sure to reinforce it.
Next, you must segment your buyers, keeping in mind your chosen or future position. People have different buying characteristics and buy for different reasons. The more deliberately you segment your buyers and market accordingly, the more likely you will increase revenue. You may choose not to market to one or more of the segments.
- Best Buyers: the buyers who love what you offer to them. They want to buy more from you. The ‘more’ has to be new, different and of high value. Best Buyers are excellent prospects for a Number One position.
- Enthusiastic Fans: always happy to buy from you and typically buy something from all your product lines. They’re receptive to new offerings and line extensions that add value. They are also great prospects for a Number One position as well as for a repositioning positioning strategy. If they love the day-time product, they’ll gravitate to your night-time product.
- Regulars: Frequent buyers, from your low to middle offerings. They have good feelings about your company and are receptive to marketing of your higher end offerings. You’ll be successful marketing your line extensions to them.
- Testers: they tend to be highly price driven (“me-too” offerings) and will shop for discounts and deals. There is a lot of turnover of these buyers. And profits are razor-thin. I do not recommend investing much marketing in the Testers segment.
Then, you must choose marketing tactics that reinforce your positioning strategy and reflect your segments.
- Best Buyers: These buyers will easily accept your new offerings as Number One as long as your marketing reinforces that position. Avoid any hints of “me-too” or line extension positioning. These buyers want originals.
- Enthusiastic Fans: These buyers will be responsive to your Number One offerings. They’ll definitely gravitate to line extensions that offer increased value. They may receptive to a repositioning position for some of your offerings. This segment should grow from the Regulars segment and deserves a lot of marketing attention.
- Regulars: Marketing to Regulars should reinforce your brand value in their eyes They’ll continue to buy what they typically buy and respond to line extensions. You can gradually move them up to the Enthusiastic Fan segment with marketing that reminds them of your brand value while telling them about your higher end offerings. The message is “same company, more value.”
What if your company has invented a great music player, with beautiful design and huge capacity in a tiny product? You could position it as “me-too, only better” than a compact disc player. Or you could position it as something entirely new that will rise or fall on its own merits.
Apple did that with the iPod. It was not like anything anyone had ever before produced. It may be hard to believe from today’s vantage point, but the first year of sales was slow and disappointing. However, Apple maintained its Number One positioning strategy for the iPod and it generated huge revenue increases and well as a revolution in digital products.
Even if your company does not have an iPod-equivalent in product development, positioning strategy is equally important for your own offerings. There are 4 well-known positioning strategies to choose from. Don’t let the market choose for you.
4 Positioning Options
Me-too, only better
- “We’re like the other guys only better, cheaper, faster, etc.”
This strategy might be good if your offerings exist in a crowded market. Be prepared to sell many, many units because you’ll have low profit margins for “me-too” offerings. People will only pay a bit more for something that is faster or better, and they will expect to pay less if you say your offering is cheaper. You might chose this positioning strategy for an entry level offering.
Product line extension
- “You know us for X, here’s X Plus or X Light.”
You’re surely familiar with the success of light beers, which are classic examples of product line extensions. They eventually became their own product category. But Miller and Budweiser were extremely well-known brands before their “lite” beers showed up. This will be much harder if the original product is not well-known.
Other examples of line extensions in consumer products are lightweight kitty litter and the many varieties of toothpaste produced by the top selling brands, Colgate and Crest. Auto companies are known for line extensions. Your company has to thoroughly understand the position of your original brand before you choose a line extension positioning strategy.
- “We’re the leader in buyer’s minds in this specific market.”
Can you choose to be number one or are you dependent on the market elevating you there? I believe you can choose this position. You start by understanding that what’s important is the position your company occupies in the minds of your buyers. Number One is not in relation to the whole market, it is in the buyer’s mind. Then all of your marketing is done with this Number One strategy in mind. This helps you avoid comparisons and features and benefits messages in your marketing.
Repositioning the current number one
- An example is night-time cold medicines: “You’re used to day-time cold medicines, we’ve got the only night-time cold medicine.”
- There is a difference between comparisons and repositioning. You allow the other company to have their position and you create a new niche with your company as Number One in that niche. Tylenol repositioned aspirin, then the leading over-the-counter medicine.
Your positioning strategy must precede your market segmentation efforts and your marketing tactics. All segments and marketing collateral flow from your position, not the other way around.
“Sell to everyone, appeal to no one.”
That’s the evidence from my clients across the spectrum of industries and markets. The more your offerings are specific and customized to buyers’ needs and priorities, the higher the likelihood those buyers will make a purchase. Thus I urge every company to focus deeply on current buyers. Current buyers in every segment will supply the vast majority of revenue growth.
You’ll need to connect two of the best positioning strategies with the process of segmentation to maximize revenue from your current buyers.
Let’s look at the different segments and see how they connect to positioning strategy.
- The buyers who love what you offer to them. They want to buy more from you. The ‘more’ has to be new, different and of high value. Positioning Strategy: Number One.
- Always happy to buy from you. They typically buy something from all your product lines. They’re receptive to new offerings. Positioning strategy: Number One for high end, Line Extensions for all, repositioning
- Frequent buyers, from your low to middle offerings. They have good feelings about your company and are receptive to marketing of your higher end offerings. Positioning Strategy: Line Extensions;
- They tend to be highly price driven and will shop for discounts and deals. There is a lot of turnover of these buyers. Positioning strategy: I do not recommend investing much marketing in the Testers segment.
Product line extensions
These will be very popular with your Regulars and some of your Enthusiastic Fans. Well-known examples of extraordinarily successful product line extensions for these segments include:
Miller Lite “Tastes great, less filling.” The message is if you love Miller you’ll love Miller Lite just as much and enjoy that it’s less filling.
Toothpaste: the best sellers in 2016 were Crest Complete Whitening Plus Scope Toothpaste and Colgate Total Whitening Toothpaste. Crest and Colgate are well-known brands. They chose to focus their line extensions on the whitening aspect of toothpaste, since cavity fighting has been instilled in consumers for decades.
Ask yourself “What kind of line extension could my company create that would appeal to our Regulars and Enthusiastic Fans?”
When you choose to position a product or service as Number One you’ll appeal to your Best Buyers and high-end Enthusiastic Fans. Examples from my clients include:
The CPA who positions his firm as the Number One in Personal Financial Performance for the owners of businesses with $15-30 million in revenue. This Number One position is unique, high value and not for everyone. It’s a perfect fit for the firm’s best buyers.
The Cyber Security firm that offers Total Security packages for high value professional services companies and medical specialty practices. Total Security is expensive and it gives access to limited resources as well as peace of mind to this company’s Best Buyers.
Marketing: Individualized, Not One-Size
Mass or one-size-fits-all marketing seems just perfect for a busy, cost-conscious company. One big-tent message distributed through every channel possible. You’ll reach all potential buyers, spread creative expenses over many versions and the consistency will strengthen your brand identity.
This type of thinking is a fool’s errand. Why? Because all buyers are not the same, and one message does not resonate with disparate groups. I say this no matter how many social media experts tell you otherwise!
Need proof? Does every single person in your circle buy the exact same products and services? No, they do not. Neither do business buyers.
Instead, recognize that effective marketing reflects your positioning strategy infused with the preferences of your segments. Marketing that’s customized for specific segments reinforces your positioning strategy.
- Your company currently ranks Number One in the minds of your best buyers. That’s due to your positioning strategy. When you create new offerings, also position them as Number One and market them accordingly. For example, instead of marketing a new offering as a line extension—‘Old Offering Plus’ from Company X–market it as a completely new offering in a new category.
One CPA client created a new type of service for his best buyers called the Personal Financial Rewards package. He marketed it as a new category: comprehensive owner well-being. It included tax returns and audits, his traditional offerings, but only as a component of comprehensive owner well-being. His Best Buyers loved it.
- These buyers enjoy your middle to high-end offerings and typically rank you near the top of their minds in your category. Enthusiastic Fans will be receptive to some line extensions. These buyers will have confidence in these line extensions because they come from your company. They fit their buying habits and level of self-esteem. You can dramatically increase revenue from them by marketing line extensions using creative ideas around “you already know and like us, here’s more just for you.”
An interior designer has been quite successful with a line extension. She added ‘Aging in Place’ designs to her offerings. She is well known for her creativity and customization, and it’s easy for her Enthusiastic Fans to get excited about her new Aging in Place offerings.
Some Enthusiastic Fans will be receptive to the new offerings created for Best Buyers. Using your intimate knowledge of your buyers, choose receptive Enthusiastic Fans and market your new, high end unique offerings to them as well.
- Regulars are those buyers who buy pretty much the same mid-value offerings repeatedly. They like their purchases and enjoy doing business with you. Your marketing to Regulars should continue to reinforce these positive qualities. You can create line extensions for Regulars, as long as they are in the same price-point to value territory. Most Regulars will give something new a try if it feels close to what they know.
With sensitive marketing, you can move some Regulars up the GO Curve to become Enthusiastic Fans. But I do not recommend spending too much on this because the revenue growth opportunities are greater with Enthusiastic Fans and Best Buyers.
Positioning, Segmenting, Marketing: Your Next Steps
- Make a list of everything you sell/have sold in the past 12-18 months.
- Which position does each currently occupy in your buyers’ minds?
- Is this the ideal position or do you want to change it?
- Do an inventory of all your company’s buyers for the past 12-18 months.
- Sort by products and services bought
- Sort by frequency of purchases
- Make lists of Best Buyers, Enthusiastic Fans and Regulars. The parameters for each segment will vary by company.
- Evaluate your marketing
- Analyze your marketing by position. If product A is a “me-too” does our marketing reflect that?
- Analyze your marketing by segment. Are we marketing appropriately to our Best Buyers, and to the other segments?
- Create a marketing plan that combines position and segment.
Success for your company will come when you focus on one product or service at a time and apply positioning, segment and marketing to it. More than 20 years ago, I did this exact thing with the soup I offered in my Café, and sustained a 40% increase in soup revenue for three years. Then I applied it to another product line with similar results. I advise my clients across all industries to do the same thing today and the results have been overwhelmingly positive.
When was the last time you looked at the intersection of positioning, segmenting and marketing in your company? Dramatic business growth can be yours. The time to do it is Now.
©Susan Trivers 2017. All rights reserved. Reprints only with written permission from the author.