Saturday, June 16, 2012

What's the difference between a positioning statement and a value proposition?

I attended a very good webinar today broadcast by Demand Metric.  It was called 'Positioning for Market Success'.   I wrote about market positioning a few weeks ago in a blog called 'Does Your Firm Stake out a Market Position'.   The more I learn about the fundamentals of good marketing, the more I believe that many or even most firms do not adhere to fundamentals of marketing or even strategy in many cases.  Go ahead and ask one of your senior executives to tell you about their firm's market position and the accompanying market positioning statement.  I expect most of you will hear a description of the product or service that is offered to the market rather than a concise market positioning statement.

Some of you may hear a value proposition which is very similar to a market positioning statement, but still different.  This brings me back to the webinar I watched today.  One astute audience member asked the question, 'what is the difference between a positioning statement and a value proposition?'.  I admit, I did not know the answer, but the speaker explained that at positioning statement is something that is internal to the firm and used to support the overall strategy.  A value proposition is market facing and tells what value the firm offers to the market.  The words may or may not be similar.

Typically, a firm will decide on their market position first then follow up with a cogent value proposition.  Let's take a look at the automobile market.  Auto company marketers are some of the best when it comes to staking a market position and communicating the associated value proposition.   What do you think of when you think of Volvo cars?  Volvo has decided to take the position as "safe and durable".  I suspect that most of us think 'safe and durable' when we think of Volvo cars.  Families with small children are a perfect demographic for Volvo, no?  What about Mercedes Benz or Toyota?  Both of these brands conjure a different value propositions in your mind and appeal do different markets or demographics.  The value proposition is driven by the internal marketing position statement.

I'd like to challenge you, fellow modern marketers, to articulate both your positioning statement and your value proposition.  What do you think, are you able to meet the challenge?  If you can't state both clearly and with conviction, then you have work to do.

Hint:  Neither the positioning statement nor the value proposition are about features or descriptions of the offering.

This is a good reference I just came across worth checking it out.

Good luck!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

More on the 4 Ps...

I started a discussion about the 4 Ps on the LinkedIn Group, Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Network - #1 Group for CMOs.   Dr. Brian Monger contributed many comments and the latest is a link to a very good article he wrote about the Marketing Mix.  I recommend reading if you're interested in marketing fundamentals and the 4 Ps of the Marketing Mix.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Buying Criteria and your Target Market

How well do you know your prospective customers?  Do you know why your customers decide to buy from your firm?  It may surprise a Modern Marketer to find out that most senior executives cannot answer these questions definitively.  And, if the senior executives are not able to answer these questions, how can they expect the organization as a whole to be able to articulate a common, differentiated value proposition?

It's not easy.

The only way you will truly know about your market's buying criteria is to survey qualified people in your market.  We did this at my firm several months ago and some of the results were very surprising and quite different from what we assumed.

I just read a fantastic paper published by Openview LabsA Guide to Competitive Messaging, that offers a really good framework for analyzing  your market, defining a message and making it common throughout the organization.  You can register to download your own copy here if you like.  Just so you know, I don't have any affiliation with Openview, I just like the paper.

Buying criteria is not the same as importance.  For example, if you ask someone what is most important when choosing an airline.  Typically, safety is most important.  But, when you ask the same person what criteria they use when purchasing a ticket, the answer is not safety because safety is assumed in this modern age of flight.  Buying criteria could be any number of things; price, speed of delivery, availability of service, where it's made, etc.  You should also understand the relative weight each criteria carries with the market.  Perhaps low price is a criteria, but it is weighted less than speed of delivery.

Once you know the criteria and the relative weights of each criteria, you are ready to align your message, core competencies and differentiation with the target market's buying criteria.  You may look at several different segments and find different results.   For example, head of a family of 4 living in the suburbs may value fuel efficiency as number 1 and price as number 2 when purchasing a new vehicle.  Whereas a single male in an upper income bracket may value power as number 1 and prestige as number 2.  Once you know the market's criteria, you should focus on the markets where you fit or develop competencies in markets that are attractive but you do not fit at the present time.

If your firm is one of the majority who does not understand their target market's buying criteria, get busy and put together a plan today!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Graphic Design Fundamentals are C.R.A.P.

Most of us know when we see a poor design.  We've all seen a poorly designed full page ad, web page, business card, trade show booth, etc.   Most of us, however, don't know why we think it's poor or how it might be fixed so it looks better.   Do not fear, my fellow Modern Marketers, there is a simple acronym that can help evaluate the problem and propose a solution. 

C.R.A.P.;  Contrast, Repetition, Alignment, Proximity

Not to be confused with the word that means something that is rubbish or substandard.

Contrast.  The eye is drawn to contrast.  Contrast could be in color, size, font or white space.  When contrast is used in a design, the differences must be large.   The difference between a 12 pt font and a 14 pt font is not contrast.  Nor is the difference between a bold italic Times font and a regular Times font. 

This is not contrast.    This is contrast.

For some reason, it seems that white space is the bane of many CEOs and other senior managers without an eye for design.  If I had a nickel for every time a senior manager chided me for not using all the space in an advertisement space, I’d be a wealthy man.    White space is a powerful tool in design.  White space exploits the concept of contrast, don't try to fill it up, use it as an integrated part of the design.

Repetition.  This does not mean repeating the same word or phrases in a space although careful use of word repetition can be powerful.  Using bullet points is a form of repetition, for example.  The eye likes organization and repeating images, words, design aspects, etc. reinforces the message and feels comfortable.

Alignment.  As said above, the eye and the mind like organization because it is easier to make sense of it.  We humans are generally lazy creatures and will usually take the easy way to make sense of something that is presented to us.  Alignment makes it easier to comprehend a message or idea.  Use left alignment of everything on a page or, one of my favorite design techniques, right side alignment.  A word of caution about alignment, resist the urge to design with everything aligned centered.  The center alignment tricks the mind because it feels good because it’s symmetrical. Centering is typically a sign of amateur hour and non-professionalism.  There are times when centering is appropriate, but less often that one may expect.  Use center alignment very sparingly.

Proximity.  This could also be called ‘grouping’.  The eye tends to jump from one group to another.  Group words, images, or messages for easier reading and for organizing your message.  Proximity goes hand in hand with white space to draw the eye.

Next time you pick up a magazine, look at the ads and apply the C.R.A.P. criteria.   I guarantee you will quickly see that most ads are truly crappy because they do not follow the basic C.R.A.P. design criteria.

Robin Williams (not the actor) authored a great book called 'Non-Designer's Design Book' that goes in to detail about these principles.