In a day and age where anyone can market themselves and obtain at least a moderate amount of traffic using the bare minimum of SEO tactics, it may seem like actual strategy is a thing of the past. With the way the internet has seeped into everything, effectively becoming a life staple in most of the developed world, it’s safe to say a little goes a long way…
In the grand scheme of things, you’re in a world where any business can be seen if they try hard enough, and they most certainly do. It’s easier than ever to touch base with what your audience wants, but it’s far more challenging to stand out from the neverending competition.
That’s why strategic marketing positioning is so worthwhile. It allows you to think outside of the box, find the right messaging, and really put it to the test before you even put it into action.
Let’s dive in.
Defining Strategic Marketing Positioning
You might have heard of strategic marketing positioning already; it’s also known as strategic communication or messaging, so we’ll be alternating between these throughout the guide. It’s the act of positioning your brand and message in your customers’ minds. That means communicating simply, and consistently, with everyone in your organization communicating the same product value.
Of course, it helps to explain everything with a diagram. Consider the one below and notice all the lead magnets that are used in the “what” category. These are how you deliver your messages. Then we move onto the “how,” which is all about positioning, problem descriptions and value propositions. These help explain how a company organizes their vision and value.
Finally, we get to the “why” section, which explains why organizations do what they do. What their missions are, what their slogans are, and even their backstories are good indicators of their visions.
And although copywriting is at the center of this, largely because it uses wording to convey a message so it’s very direct, it’s important to note that your message gets carried in everything else that you do as well, including but not limited to email campaigns, social media, advertising, landing pages, YouTube videos, etc. It’s not just about blog posts and case studies, but your copy should still take center stage, as its the voice of your brand.
Even things like taglines, logos, and color schemes (branding) play a role in communicating a message to your customers.
If it isn’t obvious already, the only thing that makes you stand out from a sea of competition is your messaging. It’s the key part of every business that strikes it rich. Just think about bandages: no one asks for them by that name. Everyone uses Band-Aid, which is actually the brand name.
Get the messaging right, and you can become the staple of your niche, the first thought in people’s minds, the generic term referring an object that technically has its own name.
Be strategic enough, and you can create customers, have an easier time scoring prospects based on FIT and PAIN, as well as the super difficult company/market fit (when your company as a whole satisfies market needs).
In other words, if the goal of marketing is to control perception and change behavior, the only way you can obtain the results you want is to clearly and effectively communicate a message you’re proud of.
If your customers know what you do and what goods and services you provide, you’re already on the right track.
Evaluating Your Message
Consider this the act of determining your current brand positioning, since your message and your brand go hand-in-hand.
Currently, are you marketing your product/service as just another item on the market, or are you taking the steps necessary to showcase it as something distinctive?
If you’re unsure, start by looking at your target customer base. Who are they and where do they like to shop? Why? Browse their demographics, get your answers. Ultimately, you want to know your audience really well, so you can point at something in your store, or otherwise, and say “This is what they want.”
Once you know who they are, it’s time to focus on your mission and values. Is there something you stand for? It could be environmental, political, health related, all about ethics, or it could be something much simpler, like providing representation for your culture within a market.
For example, in the fitness space, you see influencers who make a living off of selling how-to guides, nutrition plans, and exercise regimens for people typically looking to lose weight. So, if someone were to become an influencer and aim their target on people who already have reached their desired weight, and want to maintain that, or tone up, then you have someone who’s thinking outside of the box.
The whole idea is to find something that makes you different from the rest of the market. Something that makes you appealing, and yet, is sustainable enough as a business model to last you until… you’re ready to sell your business, if ever.
Once you’re done with that, you should take stock of the value proposition, brand persona and voice. Is it all aligned? Value proposition is the reason why anyone should purchase from you, so it needs to be strong. Why you, versus anyone else?
The answer to that question should be reflected in both your brand persona and voice.
For instance, going back to the fitness example, say your brand voice is much more informed and serious than other influencers’, and you justify that with the fact that your target audience already lost the weight they set out to lose. They know their stuff, clearly, and they are comfortable with you throwing fitness and nutrition lingo that newbies would have a tough time understanding.
That means your brand persona is different too. As a refresher, this covers all personality traits, attitudes and values that your brand uses to connect with a desired audience. That means your branding should be reflective of what you’re all about, and yet, align with the target audience. There should be common ground there.
Because your target audience would be the experienced people who already lost their weight, your brand persona would be all about maintaining success, and improving small habits, rather than being focused on achieving a goal.
If you feel like you’ve missed the mark, this is something you should be tending to before doing anything else that this guide suggests. Make sure you are standing out from the pack before continuing on.
Evaluate Your Competition
Here’s the thing: you could be the most confident, independent thinker on the planet, but you’re still bound to be influenced by others in the slightest of ways, even if it isn’t outright noticeable. It’s the reason advertising works so well, it’s why reviews and testimonials work. It’s even why the media (TV shows and movies) has such a strong grip on society.
Why is this important?
Because now it’s time to determine the elements that your competition is doing better than you. Upon evaluating them, and comparing your efforts to theirs, you’ll develop a list of things you need to improve on.
Why didn’t we just wait to evaluate your business until after this?
Because you should be original and honest to yourself and your audience as much as possible. If you went into it with the mentality of “X brand does this, and Y brand does that,” then you’d wind up with a brand and message that isn’t really you.
By evaluating yourself first, and bringing the best version of your brand to the table of competition comparisons, you ensure your originality shines.
So, here are the steps:
#1 Conduct Market Research
During the sales process, a few competitors should come up. If not, do a quick search using a market keyword to see which businesses top the list. This will give you an indication of who to look out for.
#2 Browse Social Media
Next, look through social media and see which brands have the highest engagement on their posts. Use relevant hashtags to find them. Who is posting regularly and seeing a lot of positive feedback?
#3 Consider Customer Feedback
If possible, have your customers take a survey to find out which products they were considering before choosing yours. See who else they were debating on shopping from.
Things to Search For
As you go along conducting your research, you’re going to want to answer some specific questions. The answers will allow you to get a firm grasp of what others are doing better than you, so you know exactly what to improve upon.
The questions are…
What are their offerings, and how do they relate to yours?
What do they seem to excel at, and what do they clearly need to rethink?
What’s their position in the market right now? Are they super popular, or not so much?
What marketing strategies seem to really be working for them?
Once you’re done, you should collect your thoughts in a two-column list, where one side is what you’re doing better than others, and the other is what you need to go back and revisit. This will show you what your strengths are, and what product launches you might want to consider having in the future. It might even shed light on the marketing strategies that you absolutely need to try out.
Designing A Strategic Message
By this point, you should have a few things:
Your brand evaluation notes, which should answer…
What makes you distinctive.
Who your target customer is.
A clear understanding of your mission and values.
What your value proposition is.
How your brand persona and brand voice align with your value proposition.
A list of your brand message strengths.
A list of things you need to improve on.
Now that we have all the insight, and did the groundwork, it’s time to design a strategic message that resonates with your audience and makes selling a breeze.
To start off, let’s revisit the why section of the messaging diagram from earlier, better known as the vision. Your message can be broken down based on this vision, resulting in one solid brand positioning statement that you can strategically use in your marketing.
Who is your target audience?
What is your offering category?
What’s the benefit of these offerings?
And what proof do you have of this benefit?
Using the answers, you can formulate a value statement that will help guide the rest of your marketing.
For example, Walmart’s is “Save people money so they can live better.” Simple, easy, quick to the point, and surprisingly effective. Their target audience is literally anyone, but especially people looking for cheaper prices. They offer goods of all kinds, from food to clothing, so that people can purchase more things for cheaper, and therefore, live better (benefit). And the proof is in the numbers. Walmart’s revenue is well over $514 billion.
That’s a lot of people buying items from Walmart because of the pricing. Not to mention the accessibility to some of the most essential and common household/living items.
And how does this one statement impact everything they do? How does it relate to their marketing? Easy, they keep repeating it however and wherever they can.
Just take a look at this billboard ad:
Or this TV commercial:
Of course, this brings us to the next point: having the right tools selected is critical to any strategic marketing message. Your framework, the marketing elements you choose to focus on, will make all the difference in how your message is received.
This is because depending on who your target customer is, they are likely to respond well to some elements, and not so much others. For example, teenagers and those in their early to mid-20’s tend to be active on social media, which means Facebook Ads, and even Google Ads, are really beneficial. However, if your target audience is older, and thinks checking email is anything but mundane, then email marketing is probably your safest bet, not so much social media.
In other words, you’re going to want to select marketing strategies and tools that make sense for your audience. There’s no point in wasting valuable time and energy on, say video ads, if your audience is between 15 and 35 years of age, because most of these people tend to use streaming services, or even pay extra to avoid ads. But if you make video content instead, such as 10-minute video how-to’s and tutorials, or other relevant types of content that are full of actionable information, then you just might get a good ROI.
Now, these are just the two primary parts of your strategic marketing messaging. They cover the main, prominent message and the avenues in which that statement will be delivered.
But there are more aspects to a strategic marketing message.
Parts of Strategic Marketing Positioning
The other parts of strategic marketing tend to be a mixture of short and long statements, some even centered around 2-3 words. But what may seem simple at first glance tends to take a few weeks, if not months worth of research.
That means you should not expect to rush through this list. If you do, you’ve either loaded up on target audience data already, or you’re playing a dangerous guessing game.
Some tips before moving forward: interview your sales reps, customer service managers, and prospects (shadow sales calls). Interview those who have recently bought something from you, and reach out to your loyal customers who have kept buying your products for well over a year. Doing this will take a lot of time and effort, no doubt, but will make the rest of the strategic marketing messaging process much easier and accurate.
If you’re an early stage startup, focus on interviewing your prospects. They are the best lead you have into better understanding your place within the market. This is why building a thriving community comes in handy, because it’s easier to reach out. But if you have social media accounts, or a pretty good email contact list, use that. Use whatever avenues you have to reach out and get information.
It also helps to make a list of companies and people who might be interested in your goods and services, including but not limited to journalists, industry leaders, potential collaborators, and regular people in need of your solution. Anyone who’d read your press release, or email. Pay attention to their PAIN points (challenges they face), and the way they describe those points. Then see how your offerings solve those issues for them.
Whatever you do, refrain from making these conversations into sales conversations. As tempting as it might be, pushing a sale when people are willingly being informative is a bit sleazy, and makes you seem desperate. Focus on making a sale when it makes sense, which is actually later in the funnel. Remember, you have to nurture your leads, you can’t just present a product or service and expect an immediate sale. Instead, focus your attention on A/B testing and checking metrics with Google Analytics. See how your efforts are shaping up, and keep nurturing.
The following are the parts of strategic marketing messaging that you should aim to complete before focusing on tactical marketing campaigns:
Tagline: Catch phrase or product category definition.
Slogan: Short statement that summarizes your strategy.
Positioning Statement: How your offerings provide value to the customers that sets you apart from the competition.
25-Word Description: One sentence company description.
Business Function: Functions or departments involved in the buying process.
Titles: Titles of the target customers involved in the buying process.
Role In Buying Cycle: The role an individual plays in the buying process.
Value Category: The value provided using 2-3 words.
Value Statement: One sentence long (one of the two critical parts of strategic marketing messaging).
Bullet Points: Value broken down into smaller bits of information.
Features: The list of features your offerings boast, which further solidify value.
Proof Points: This includes metrics, and anything else which proves that your customers are happy with your offerings.
Once you have all of these 12 elements, along with a solid idea of the marketing tools you’ll be using, you’re done with your strategic marketing messaging planning phase. From there, it’s all about implementation, which we’ll be covering in the next section.
But first, a reminder about value: don’t mistake it with great quality, customer service, affordability, or easy integration. Value is only provided when you directly solve a customer’s problem (PAIN). If you go over the notes, you should have a clear picture of what your target customer cares about, and what they need to get out of a solution for them to feel satisfied.
Why is this reminder so important?
Because a lot of the parts of strategic marketing messaging revolve around value points. Don’t make the mistake of misunderstanding what the term means, or else you’ll derail your messaging, despite all the hard work you put into it.
Once you have a final strategic positioning map, it’s time to spread the word within your organization. Everyone working at your company needs to know what the messaging is, how you’re going to go about it, and why. That way everyone is on the same page.
And everyone really does mean everyone, not just leaders and managers. Everyone, including juniors, executives, and interns, needs to be on the same exact page.
A lot of companies opt for proper signs and brochures that employees can easily take note of as they go throughout their day. But group meetings and announcements are also encouraged. Mass emails and landing pages also work.
Of course, this means messaging needs to become a part of your new hire onboarding process as well, so those coming into the company with fresh eyes can really understand the messaging, along with everyone else.
Once you’ve informed everyone, it’s time to make some necessary updates in your sales playbook, your scripts, and enablement content. This way, you’ll have 100% accurate information in all of your business documentation, which is highly important. It will enable your sales team to ask the right questions from the start, simplifying the sales process for everyone involved.
As a bonus, this extends into your lead generation. Ideally, you want to make sure your business preaches this new message in everything, both in-house, for staff documentation, as well as every single lead magnet that gets sent to prospects. That includes ebooks, newsletters, templates, etc. Your lead generation is a primary source for your message.
In fact, taking that one step further, your networking is another opportunity to use your message. What can you say that gets your message across, and enables you to connect with other like minded entrepreneurs? You may find that it’s much easier to collaborate with people once you know what you’re all about.
Finally, you’re going to align your current content marketing strategy with your new strategic messaging, which is a whole list in and of itself. Take a look.
Merging Old & New
Remember, strategic marketing positioning is all about understanding who your audience is and and what it is they want. All of the notes you’ve collected will come in handy during this step.
For example, while most companies struggle to find blog post topics to work on, you’ll have page after page of insight and direct quotes to draw inspiration from. Your team can brainstorm topics much easier this way, and ensure that everything written about or posted hits the nail on the head with someone in your target audience.
Not only will your content be relatable, and impactful, but also organized in a way that everyone on your team will be able to explain what that post covered, and why it’s important to the audience. They will know the value, they will understand, and therefore know how to get you that same level of prospect enthusiasm every time.
A good idea is to have a portion of the content cater to the economic buyers and other decision makers as well, since they have a major say in your business. The rule of thumb for this is 50% of all content needs to be CMO/CDO―for the economic buyer, 30% needs to be engineering related, and the other 20% is for IT operations.
To keep tabs on it all, you can keep track of how often you create content for each value. Maybe the CMO/CDO has 2 major value points that your company needs content for. Use a 2:1 ratio, so for every 2 stories that are related to X, you create another 1 that covers Y instead.
Using something like a spreadsheet or database to keep track of all your content by value, category, and type, is always a smart idea. You can even use tools like Google Analytics to see which posts do the best, and make a note of that in the records.
After all, there is no such thing as too much data. There is only misorganized, and misused, data.
There isn’t a surefire way to do this, of course. Every company has their own way of organizing their posting schedule, keeping tabs on what’s published, managing metrics, and such. The best thing you can do is start out with a very clearly defined list of which values you need to cover, in what ratio, and for who (audience). Then, establish some type of record keeping.
Some brands use their blog platform to keep tabs of posts, using relevant tags, and the platform’s numerical system to keep count of the posts. Although convenient, it doesn’t always provide the full-scope picture needed to manage everything, so it’s a bright idea to supplement that with even just a Google Doc list of all posts by date and category/value.
In fact, adding in context, such as target audiences for every post may sound tedious, but it ensures you have all the information you need right when you need it later. Over time, you’ll realize that certain values outperform others, and that you can either change up lesser performing values, or omit them altogether.
Once you have the system you want in place, you can adapt your content to match your target audience. We’re talking about your existing content―whatever you were posting prior to working on your strategic marketing messaging. Just because you redid things, it doesn’t mean all of that hard work has to go to waste.
Here are some tips that help edit pre-existing content:
Change the titles to directly hit PAIN points (tell people exactly what you’re posting about).
Look through outlines and tables of content, since they tell you which points won't align with your target audience. Use these as guide to omit entire sections, or otherwise rework them from a new angle. Update the outlines and tables of content as necessary as well, of course.
Focus on introductions and conclusions, since they tend to hyperfocus on the topic. These may need to be completely rewritten for every piece of existing content.
Don’t forget to change out any images for relevancy’s sake.
Pay close attention to examples and other illustrations, since they will likely clash with the newly defined target audience.
For things like videos, you might need to omit them altogether, and start over with new video content. If parts are salvageable, hire a video editor to shoot new content to add in place of whatever doesn’t work.
Ensure all links are relevant and on brand/topic for the audience.
Make sure all keywords used are relevant. Your SEO should see some major changes.
Don’t expect this process to happen overnight. Unless you’ve only been in business for a short span of time, odds are you have plenty of older content to sift through and rework. If possible, dedicate an entire team to the process. If not, sit down with a digital marketing consultant to see what the best course of action is. Sometimes, depending on what it is you have, and how far off base you were, it might just be smarter to start over.
If you’ve been using a chatbot, go ahead and freshen up the vocab and greeting. Add new answers that align with your new messaging.
Side note here: don’t expect everything to happen overnight. Changing out your messaging takes time and effort, and reaping the rewards of it in terms of conversion rates tends to take a minute to kick in. Hang in there and keep working on your digital marketing.
Strategic marketing positioning is a 12-part process that takes a lot of effort, time, and insight only obtained through extensive market and competitor research, prospect interviews, and careful marketing tool and strategy selection.
However, what normally takes weeks, if not months, to achieve is oftentimes regarded as one of the best business decisions ever made, mainly because it provides amazing value for any company.
It allows businesses to gain a better understanding of their market, competition, target audience, and position within the market space. From there, it’s easier to do what you need to do to get ahead, clearly designed road map and all.
Of course, if it all seems just a little too complex, or time consuming, which it certainly is, feel free to hire outside help, such as a digital marketing consultant. They’re knowledgeable and well-connected, which makes them game changers.
So, what aspect of your strategic marketing position do you think will be the most difficult, and why?
Let me know in the comments section below, I love hearing from you all!