Often the terms “positioning” and “messaging” are interchanged, but they are actually much different.
The easiest way to think about it is:
Positioning = An internal, differentiated statement about your product, meant to be the north star for all messaging.
Messaging = An external expression of copy relaying how your product is the best for your target audience, can be on a website, product sheet, anywhere.
The ultimate goal is to get to a messaging house, with the positioning statement as the roof, and the messaging statements below, like so:
The positioning of a product is the perception of the product, in a prospect or customer’s mind relative to the competition. A key piece of the positioning statement is what makes your company different, not just better. The important thing about a differentiator is it allows your prospect to understand what makes you unique, and think of you in that context.
A typical positioning statement looks like this :
For [Target Market] , the [Brand or product] is the [Point of Differentiation] among all [Frame of Reference/ category] because [Reason to Believe/ Proof point]
Example statement for a made up brand:
For road cyclists in Northern California, West coast cyclists offers the best service for all cycling retailers because of their roadside assistance and 1 hour call back guarantee.
Let’s break this down a little bit:
- Target market – This is your ideal customer. No, it’s not “everyone.” Be as specific as possible here! For B2B brands, are these small, med, or enterprise businesses? For B2C businesses – are your customers male or female? Where do they live? What is their behavior?
- Brand or product– this one is easy (I hope!) – it’s your brand or product
- Point of differentiation – this is what makes you different or unique. As discussed before, this is incredibly important in marketing to make you stand out above the rest and not be commoditized. See the tops on differentiating section for more details.
- Frame of reference – This is also known as the “category” that you’re in, for what a group of companies like yours will be called
- Reason to believe/ proof point – is there a compelling feature/ customer using your product/ datapoint that reaffirms your main differentiator? If not, ask yourself what you would need to get there, or if this is the right thing to really differentiate on
Going through an exercise to fill this in with members of your company can be really eyepopening. I recommend printing out the above, having people fill this in, and comparing what you find to help develop the statement. You might notice some major discrepancies that finalizing this will help resolve! Once you finalize your positioning, it’s off to develop the messaging.
Messaging refers to any copy that can be written about your product or company, that will appear externally. Often you’ll hear about messaging by target segment, as well as “top level messaging” that defines where your business as a whole. Messaging can appear on a number of different places, including:
- Your website
- Sales decks and pitch scripts
- Email campaigns
- Speeches/ speaking events
- Packaging/ labels
Really, messaging is the copy that appears anywhere you talk about your business. It’s great to employ a copywriter, or even use a company like UpWork, to change your positioning into a messaging reality.