For a business to be viable, it has to do something as well as its competitors; to win in a competitive market, it has to do something better than its competitors. Most early stage entrepreneurs are strongly product focussed‚ but it is crucial at this emerging stage that the entrepreneur thinks about getting into the customers mind.
THE KEY STEPS
The key steps are (1) clearly identifying how the product differs from competitor offerings on attributes/benefits that matter most to the target buyer and (2) communicating this advantage to impress it in the market mind.
The resulting clear ‚product positioning‚ reduces the costs of ineffective marketing and selling.
1. WHAT IS THE UNIQUE SELLING PROPOSITION?
Consumers and businesses are bombarded daily with promotional and advertising noise; they receive hundreds of textual and auditory messages from morning until night, 24/7 and 365 days a year. To cut through this clutter, the products competitive advantage must be translated into a compelling, attractive and singular ‚unique selling proposition. Several questions need to be answered to arrive at this concise description of the product USP:
- What is unique about the product versus the direct competitors?
- Of the differences, which are the most important for a buyer of this product (category)?
- Of the differences, which are not easily imitated by the competitors?
- Of the differences, which can be easily communicated and understood by the buyer?
- Of the differences, at what stage of the buying process are they most relevant awareness creation/attention grabbing, fostering the interest of the buyer, creating a buying desire and finally the buying action itself?
- Can a memorable message be created about these differences/USP?
- What marketing communication and channels can be used to get the message to the target buyers?
2. HOW TO POSITION THIS IN THE CONSUMERS MIND
Product positioning is the unique or first place your product benefits have in the minds of your target customer. There are many ways for a product to be unique and distinctive: from small pricing, packaging and service differences to significant feature benefit and performance differences to the competitor products.
In situations where the entrepreneur is entering an existing product market, his/her new product‚ uniqueness will be assessed and stated in relation to the other products that the target buyer already uses, as supplied by competitors. How important the ‚unique‚ product benefits are will be determined by the impact they have on the customer‚buying criteria, decisions and process.
In entirely new product markets, where there are no existing products and competitors for target customers to use as reference points, customers will assess the product benefits in relation to their current situation and any old solutions.
Meaningful and valued differences in product benefits compared to the competitors can be created and communicated to the target buyer group via:
- features and benefits
- product design
- advertising and promotion mediums
- public relations and media reach
- trade events
- sales materials
- sales people
Once the USP and positioning has been established the task is then to symbolise and impress it in the market mind with the right Brand Personality. Many businesses create very strong competitive advantages, only to allow their competitors steal the market through superior branding.
The Brand Personality must be distinctive (stand out in the market) and be carried through all interface and communication channels with the customer systematically and consistently. The elements of the Brand Personality developed for the product can include a specific product brand name, logo, tag-line, colouring, typeface and packaging. It important to use and follow a branding architecture to avoid confusion about the company, product, feature and other names used in the market.
- The company – this is the most important name you have to have. This represents your values, personality, mission, vision etc as your brand (e.g. Microsoft)
- The product line – a family of multiple products that are related to each other (e.g. Office)
- Individual products – the products within a family, either different variations or component products of the core family (e.g. OfficePro)
- Product versions – as the specific individual products evolve, this is the means of keeping track (e.g. OfficePro 95)
- Ingredient names – the lasting technologies or unique concepts that cut across more than one product (e.g. Intellisense, Retsin)
- Feature names – usually version specific functionality, that you want to highlight in promotion but not in packaging (e.g. Pivot Tables, the Blue Dot)
- Program names – not products, but supporting efforts that are worthy of naming, putting marketing investment behind