Part 3—Positioning Myths That Lead to Generic Messaging

So far we’ve looked at why trying to serve every possible customer type won’t automatically lead to increased market share, and why diversifying your target markets doesn’t actually limit risk.

Today, we’ll explore…

Myth 3: The Competitive Landscape Dictates the Rules of the Game

How many of your positioning and messaging decisions are being made based on what your competitors are doing, versus what your company can do better than anyone else?

Let me first clarify that I’m not advocating ignoring the competition. What I am saying is that it’s way too easy for marketers to allow competitors to dictate the rules of the game.

Do any of these situations feel familiar?

  • Competitor A comes out with a new feature, and suddenly we feel pressured to alter our own product roadmap.
  • Competitor B comes up with a series of clever social ads, and suddenly we feel pressured to kick off our own “clever social ad” campaign as well.
  • Competitor C expands their target audience to include Industry X or Demographic Y, and suddenly we feel pressured to win that expanded audience too.

A lot of this pressure comes from the assumption that our competitors’ actions are based on some critical insight or ingenious strategic vision. We analyze their new feature, ad, or target audience and think “what do they know that we don’t?”

But when the competition is dictating the rules of the game, we end up constantly abandoning our own positioning and messaging strategies in order to follow someone else’s. What we’re left with is messaging that’s just a slightly altered version of theirs, which more than likely was itself just a slightly altered version of some other competitor’s.

Competitors copying other competitors—creating copies of copies of copies.

We see evidence of this everywhere in the B2B world:

  • Similar SaaS products with nearly identical visual branding and core messaging.
  • Sell sheets crammed with a laundry list of every conceivable value prop and technical feature.
  • Company websites that focus more on “what makes us different” than on who the customer is, what their challenges are, and how the company will help them solve those challenges.

What if the rules of your game weren’t set by other companies that just happen to be going after similar customers? What if your rules were based on a deeper understanding of your company’s strengths and capabilities, and an even deeper understanding of your ideal customers—the ones who are the best fit for your company’s unique mix of strengths and solutions?

Again, this doesn’t mean that you should simply ignore the competition. Nokia pretty much dominated the mobile phone market until early 2011, dismissing Apple and the iPhone as having no real chance of making much of a dent.

Big mistake.

But that doesn’t mean Nokia should have simply let Apple dictate the rules of the game. The right solution wouldn’t have been to just mimic Apple by creating a “Nokia iPhone,” or updating their messaging to some variation of “think different.”

The solution would have been to look within. Nokia had unique strengths that Apple didn’t. So does your company. So do every single one of your competitors.

What if you focused your positioning and messaging on your unique strengths, and how they can help solve real challenges for specific types of customers in a way that no other company can?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s