But 1967, 7UP made the phrase “UNCOLA” part of most American’s vocabulary.
Fighting to separate itself from its competition, Pepsi and Coke, 7UP’s UNCOLA campaign became a cultural symbol for individualism and rejecting the status quo.
7UP became an iconic brand, and it did so by connecting its product to a product that already lived in the prospect’s mind – cola.
Positioning may not be a “little known secret” as my title implied, but it’s certainly a commonly overlooked element in building a profitable business.
One of my favorite marketing books of all time is Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Al Ries & Jack Trout.
Seth Godin called it “one of the most important marketing books ever,” universities use it as recommended reading for marketing students, and people have built entire info-marketing curriculums around the content.
Because understanding the importance of positioning is essential to your ability to compete in the marketplace, and no one demonstrates that more clearly than Ries and Trout.
What Is Positioning?
Positioning has been defined several ways, but I like to define it is as follows:
Positioning is identifying a market niche for a brand, product or service that resonates with an idea, belief, or knowledge already existing in your prospects mind.
Notice that I emphasized “already existing.”
This is a crucial part of the positioning formula, and if you leave it out your positioning efforts are likely to fail.
Communication, psychology, and psychographic understanding are all part of executing positioning, marketing, and advertising efforts that work.
If you want to get your products and services into the hands of customers who need them most, you need to understand them on these levels.
Figuring out how your product relates to an idea, belief, or knowledge already existing in your prospects mind is necessary for successful positioning, because the mind only automatically acknowledges what it already knows.
Trying to change the mind of your prospect is a battle unworthy of fighting. Instead, seek to join the conversation already taking place in your prospects head to garner instant attention and significance.
When you can link your market niche to a preexisting idea, belief, or understanding you set yourself apart from your competition and establish a strong position in the marketplace (much like 7UP did circa 1970).
How Do I Develop a Strong “Position” In My Industry?
“The first rule of positioning is: To win the battle for the mind, you can’t compete head-on against a company that has a strong established position. You can go around, under or over, but never head to head.” (Ries, Trout Loc. 3041, Kindle Edition)
If you’ve ever struggled with trying to differentiate your businesses from your competitors in a meaningful way today is your lucky day, because today I’m going to tell you about “Cherchez le creneau.”
As explained by Ries and Trout, a creneau is French for “hole.” And “Cherchez le creneau” which translates to “Look for the hole,” is a French marketing expression that suggests that success in the marketplace rests on your ability to find a hole in your competition’s offering and fill it.
For example, let’s say you are a yoga instructor and you’re trying to build your book of business. And, let’s say that in your town, yoga studios are a dime a dozen. The local gyms offer classes on the cheap, and there are several trendy yoga spots within a few miles. Plus, the Y dominates the airwaves with promotions for their generous yoga packages.
How are on earth are you going to compete with all of that competition?
Easy. Find your creneau.
In Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind , Ries and Trout offer the following common “creneaus” to consider in developing your competitive position.
1. Size – You could offer private yoga lessons to people in their homes (or maybe groups of 3 or less). Yoga party anyone?
2. High-Price – Do you live near a beach, are you certified in a specialized type of yoga, do you only offer private seasons, can you guarantee a certain result, do you also offer nutritional advice? Any of these things could make you a candidate for offering a premium luxury service, so long as you have a luxury market at hand.
3. Low-Price – Although this is an option, I wouldn’t recommend it for this particular example.
4. Sex – Think yoga for men only, for women only, for couples only, or yoga designed to improve your sex-life! (I bet that would be a winner!)
5. Age – This may be yoga for peeps 60+, for student athletes, or for mommy and me.
Ries and Trout list a few more, but I’ll keep them on the wraps so you’ll go buy the book. Essentially, what you are seeing here is the importance of honing in on a niche.
In finding your creneau you are not trying to be all things to all people. Instead, you are trying to be the thing to people who already want the thing you have.
I’ve Found My Creneau! Now What?
Once you know where you can fill a hole that your competitor’s aren’t, you need to develop a brand that supports this position.
Branding is a topic that deserves an entire article on another day, but for the purposes of positioning you need to consider the following things:
1. What is your perceived value? This is your customer’s opinion of your value to them. Ask: Do they get a big bang for their buck? Do they receive an exclusive or elite product or service? Is there a tangible return on investment? What are the benefits of buying? These are the things that make up your perceived value.
2. What are you calling your products and services? Do you offer personal training? Don’t offer “coaching sessions,” offer a “Thin in 6 Package” (where you help clients lose weight in six weeks guaranteed). Do you sell custom jewelry? Name your pieces in a way that speaks to your customer’s interest’s, e.g. the “Delightful Charmer” charm bracelet. The way you name your products and services shapes the way your prospects will see their value and position.
3. What promise are you making to your customer? In a nutshell, your brand is the promise you make to your customer about your products, services, and their experience with you. How can you make sure you are delivering on that promise over and over again? Figure that out and do it!
4. What level of professionalism do you desire to project? Just because your business is all DIY doesn’t mean it has to be janky. If you want people to see your products and services as purchase worthy, don’t skimp on your image. This means you should pay a little extra for high quality business cards, spend a little more to get a nice custom website or WordPress theme, and invest in quality images of you and your products.
These things speak volumes about your position in the marketplace so make sure they support the creneau you intend to fill.
What Really Makes My Position Powerful
After you’ve found your creneau, and developed a brand to match, it’s time to craft an offer that your ideal clients simply cannot refuse.
It’s time for you to develop the 7th P of Profit – a Proposition.
Next week we will dive into the ins and outs of a killer proposition, but right now I want to focus on making your position in the marketplace powerful.
“How do I do that?” you ask.
You create a simple positioning statement, and you communicated it to your target market with extreme simplicity.
Your position is meaningless if people don’t understand it, and with so many messages coming at us every day, it’s the simple easy-to-understand ones that stick.
Look at your position, synthesize its most compelling parts, and apply the KISS method – Keep it simple, silly. Then, share it with the world!
What creneau will your business fill? Is it time to re-position your business? Let me know in the comments below!