<img alt="" src="https://secure.leadforensics.com/222484.png" style="display:none;">
Skip to content
They’re Just Not That into You
Francesca Moretti17 Jun 202410 min

Positioning: They’re Just Not That into You

Positioning: They’re Just Not That into You

When it comes to positioning, your product may be awesome, but your audience doesn’t know it yet. Like a famous film once said, they’re “just not that into you”.


Positioning pains

We often come across companies and clients that are unable to effectively articulate the value of what they do to their target audience. 
In other words, they find themselves face-to-face with a prospect, or better still, a lead, and the latter is confused and has too many questions: Why should I pay for this? Or even worse, “do they do the same as competitor x?”

It’s brutal. But they don’t get you. 
It’s as plain as day for you, or as a “droog” in A Clockwork Orange would put it, “As an unmuddied lake, sir. As clear as an azure sky of deepest summer”, but others don’t see it.

You may not know it yet, but you have a positioning problem. We’ve seen it all before and can give you a hand to tackle the issue.

What is positioning and why is it important?

Everyone has something to say about positioning. If we were to sit 10 marketing managers from leading companies around a table, no two of them would say the same thing. 
For us, the definition of April Dunford — a respected American consultant, speaker and actress in the field, with particular expertise in digital start-ups — hits the nail on the head:

Positioning defines how your product/service is a leader at delivering something that a well-defined set of customers cares a lot about.


Basically, what she is saying is that positioning defines why people should choose your product in a sea of alternatives. 


A practical method for addressing positioning

We’ll touch on a bit of theory in this section, but we’ll try to keep it short and sweet.
Whether your company is a start-up or has been around a while, you’ll still need to get to grips with your positioning for one reason or another, and figure out how to stand out from the crowd in a competitive market where your solution is just one of many in an ocean of products, services and brands.

The best way to approach positioning is to break it down into bite-sized pieces and ask yourself the right questions: our guru, April Dunford, has identified five. 
The clearer and more detailed your answers, the more able you’ll be to define the correct positioning for your products or services.


Let’s take a look at these together.

  1. Alternatives
    Or in other words: “what would your customers do if your product/service didn’t exist?”
    This question calls for more than just a summary of your direct competitors (those that spring to mind first, that do the same thing as you): have a good think about all the different alternatives possible. What would your customers do if your service didn’t exist? The answer might even be “nothing”.  

    Here’s a well-known example — Netflix — to help you get started:
    Netflix’s direct competitors are other video streaming platforms such as Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Disney+, and so on.
    But they aren’t the only alternatives: “what would Netflix’s customers do if Netflix didn’t exist?” They’d PANIC
    After the initial shock reaction, they might go on social media, watch a video on YouTube, go to the movies or read a book. These are all (indirect) alternatives, and yes, they’re all valid.  
  2. Unique attributes
    Now ask yourself, “what do you offer that your competitors don’t have or do/make?”.
    Identify the attributes of your product or service that make you unique, special and different. For example, if you’re a restaurant, your unique value might be your exclusive location, or your kitchen staff, the locally-sourced natural ingredients you use, or perhaps your sustainable supply chain. 
    Identify your unique aspects, your distinctive hallmark features.
  3. Benefits
    What are the benefits for your customers?
    For each of the attributes you listed a moment ago, think about the value they bring to the customer. A customer who chooses a restaurant with a sustainable supply chain feels they are contributing to change and doing something for the environment and the community. This is the value you offer to your prospect.
  4. Target audience
    Who cares about your product/service and can’t do without it?
    You’ll need to construct a kind of descriptive profile of the people who buy your product or service, based on demographic, cultural, generational, economic and any other characteristics.
    For example: Netflix has a huge customer base. Let's take Netflix subscribers born in 2000 (the famous Gen Z) and have a go at describing them in detail.
    Born in the digital age, they were brought up on smartphones and social media. They want services to be as personalized as possible, even better when recommended by an influencer. 
    Seventy-five percent of them say that the smartphone is their go-to tool for making purchases and enjoying content. Oh, and they're renowned for their lack of patience and highly impulsive behavior. Do you feel you can picture this person now? Go ahead and give them a name, age, a hobby and a job and you’ll have created your first user persona
    What was the point of constructing the descriptive profile of a Netflix subscriber? This is the first step to finding out who you’re dealing with, and therefore communicating your service in the best possible way. For instance, Netflix knows that when it deals with this audience it needs to tailor its communication and ensure they can watch their favorite TV series or shows without interruption! Not much to ask! 
  5. Market
    In which market category are your products bought?
    If you’re a start-up, it’s arguably worth your while to opt for an existing market category and win a sub-segment of that market before gradually expanding.
    It stands to reason that choosing wisely the category in which your product or service is sold is crucial.  For example, imagine you're a pastry chef. You make muffins with your cake mix. You can sell them in cafés and coffee shops, they’ll be competing with croissants and doughnuts and customers can buy them for 4-5 Swiss francs.
    But what if you were to make a gourmet dessert with your cake mix? What then? Your muffin is now a show-stopping designer cake.
    And it’s no longer served in coffee shops, but in chic restaurants, where it competes with other desserts like crème caramel. The customers buying it are different, too, not to mention the profits and prices, which are something else. 
    Sometimes it's not your product that’s wrong: maybe it’s just not the right market!


In the real world, you’ll rarely find yourself following such a linear and academic process. Nevertheless it’s vital that you can recognize all the key aspects of positioning and its crucial importance in developing your marketing and sales strategy.

Corporate positioning for a start-up

Being small and new on the market has its advantages. The agile internal structure of start-ups allows for swift decision-making and easy adaptation to change. The product often coincides with the brand, giving it a strong and recognizable identity, and the CEO is often directly involved in the company’s operations, giving them an all-embracing view.

However, we mustn’t underestimate the difficulties faced by companies when they are new on the market: the budgets available aren’t even remotely comparable to those of the sector’s big players, and having a clear picture of your target audience isn’t always straightforward. Despite this, start-ups have the opportunity to leverage their agility and flexibility to compete successfully and carve out their own space.

Our tips for positioning your start-up

  • Be flexible
    Until you’ve actually put your product or service on the market, you’ll only have mere assumptions about the positioning of your products or services. Look carefully at how the market responds and where it takes you, and adopt a flexible strategy until you’ve gathered enough feedback from the people who love (or don’t love) your product!
  • Sweep away the perception of risk!
    The hardest thing is changing people’s habits, and what they’ve always been used to doing. Your distinctive feature has to be super strong to tackle the inertia of the status quo. 
    Especially to begin with, your product or service is perceived with an aura of risk about it, because it’s new, unheard of and has never been tried before. First and foremost, try to banish your prospects’ thought of there being risk attached to your product: prove your value through case studies and testimonials, let those who have already tried your product or service do the talking, and offer free trials.
  • Remember, positioning isn’t written in stone
    Positioning is a dynamic concept. It shifts whenever the cards in play are shuffled: did a new competitor enter the market? Did you launch a new product feature? Do you have a new tool that might be of interest to a new target audience? Is the feedback you’re gathering telling you that you have a strength you hadn’t considered? Then reposition yourself accordingly.
  • Don’t bite off more than you can chew
    Position yourself based on what you are today, your capabilities and ability to satisfy your specific audience. For example, if you offer a hotel management software, start winning your market with small accommodation facilities first. Once you’ve consolidated this position, you could introduce new product features for event space management, thus extending your positioning to large hotels, too. Your product might then evolve further, by adding bar and restaurant management features, and your final positioning will be that of a management software for the entire hospitality industry.

What positioning challenges do big companies face?

Unlike start-ups, the industry’s long-established big companies can count on more generous budgets and a reputation built up over the years. And they can base their strategy on a solid foundation of surveys and feedback from their audience. But they too have to reckon with the myriad challenges associated with survival on the market.
They generally realize that they need to do something about their positioning when things have already started to take a turn for the worse:

  • Something changed
    Big companies run the risk of not picking up on obvious signs that something around them is changing — like advances in technology or a new player — and staying put, where things have always worked.
  • Execution
    It’s easier said than done, as the saying goes. Everyone leaves the meeting agreeing unanimously to a change in your positioning. But that’s the easy bit. Then, when it comes to actually executing the project, they get stuck and give up. Unwavering and steadfast execution should translate into clear and lasting marketing communication that gets the message across, and effective storytelling that enables you to forge an emotional bond with your target audience.
  • Umbrella products
    In big companies, the brand often doesn’t coincide with a single product, but encompasses many divisions, each with their own product range. The challenge therefore consists in streamlining this complex structure, without losing sight of the various levels of positioning.
    At the top is the positioning of the brand as a whole. Below this we find the positioning of the individual product divisions. Last but not least, the positioning of single products are found at the most granular level. These different levels are closely interlinked. The sales team needs a clear, consistent strategy that properly addresses both sides of the coin: the positioning of the brand as a whole on the one side, and the positioning specific to each product on the other.
    Only by keeping sight of the bigger picture while capitalizing on each division and product’s distinctive features can the company successfully manage its complex architecture of brands and products.


Over to you now!

Positioning is often taken for granted, but if you grasp and master it, it can be the most powerful strategic tool you have at your disposal.

Download our template and see how you can apply it to your own business.

If you’d like to talk this over and elevate your strategy, we’re here to help you


Francesca Moretti

In the role of Marketing & Communication Strategist at Ander Group, Francesca expresses her creativity by researching and writing content to devise campaigns, blog articles and social media posts. Her degree in Economics and Marketing is put to good use analysing results and planning digital strategies for company growth. Every day is not the same!