Written by: Jim Wrubel Published on: Mar 23, 2021 Last updated: Mar 23, 2021
Tools Used In This Recipe
As a founder you should absolutely focus on the unique parts of your idea or product. They are what will ultimately determine your success. But your potential customers need to understand how you fit in the context of product categories that they are familiar with. A brand positioning statement is a great tool to help you frame your product so that:
- You can effectively use Search Engine Optimization techniques to help potential customers find your product in web searches.
- Potential buyers can map your project to a budget they control.
- Potential investors can understand where you fit in a product landscape and what your unfair advantage is.
This article is a good place to get started with your brand positioning statement. It's focused on helping you build one of the key slides in your pitch deck. As the article shows, one of the best places to start is to describe your product as "X, for Y", where X is a product that the audience is likely to already know, and Y is the specific market you are targeting. This can be extremely helpful in a presentation or pitch where your time is limited, because invoking the product or company X immediately transfers the context from that company on to you, and you can spend your time focusing on how you are different.
This goes both ways! If the company you use in your positioning statement is viewed negatively by the audience, you risk those characteristics being transferred to your company too.
Visualizations can be a helpful way to show differentiation, and the article describes two of them: the quadrant (made famous by Gartner), and the feature chart. To build these out you'll need to understand your competitors. If you're not sure who they are or how to find them, this recipe can help.
To get started building a quadrant, Think of two key features that your potential customers are looking for (and that you believe you can excel at). Draw an XY graph and label each axis with one of the features. For the Y axis, the upward direction means "more of" and for the X axis it's the rightward direction. Now consider your competitors according to these axes. How do they rank? Place your company and your competitors on the quadrant according to your understanding of each company's rank on these features.
If your company isn't in the upper right, you should reconsider whether you've picked the right features and start over.
To help illustrate this concept, here's the competitor quadrant from AirBnB's first pitch deck.
In this type of comparison, you take a list of features that customers would consider important in a purchase decision and build a chart with your product and your competitors as rows or columns, and features as the other. You then mark which features each product satisfies.
Just like the quadrant visualization, positioning is important here. Your product should meet all the criteria and no other company should meet them all. If this isn't the case, pick different features.
Here's an example from the original pitch deck for Square:
Brand Positioning Statement
The brand positioning statement features in the book Crossing The Chasm. The book is full of useful information, but you don't need it for this exercise. Instead, review this blog post and use the template below to build your own brand positioning statement.
For (target customers) Who (have the following problem) Our product is a (describe the product or solution) That provides (cite the breakthrough capability) Unlike (the competition), Our product/solution (describe the key point of competitive differentiation and the benefit)
If you have built a competitor matrix already, generating this positioning statement should be easier since it builds on that process. You will likely refine your positioning statement as you continue along your journey as an entrepreneur, but you should keep your brand positioning statement memorized, and it's totally fine to use it as-is in a pitch deck. Many investors will recognize the format. Since this is just one (long) sentence, your brand positioning statement can also serve as your elevator pitch.
As you develop this positioning statement you may find that the complexity of the sentence it generates doesn't make it easy to communicate or leverage in other materials. As with most frameworks there are alternative implementations that might work better for you. This article offers a different process and template for developing a brand positioning statement. If you are struggling with building a positioning statement based on Crossing the Chasm, try this process instead.
Regardless of the process you follow, understand that product positioning is never 'done'. You should expect that your product position will evolve over time, so build in a process to review and update it periodically. This is a useful agenda item for an executive strategy session.
Using these techniques you should be able to effectively describe your product's competitive differentiation in the market. This can help you with your pricing as well as your overall marketing message.
As part of producing the Startup Recipes material we frequently think about it as a product with a market. So if it helps you with your own product positioning, here is the brand positioning statement for Startup Recipes:
For founders who have hundreds of items on their to-do list, Startup Recipes is a set of easy-to-follow guides to check off those items that every startup needs to have with the best balance of high quality and low cost. Many startup advisors will tell you what you need to do to be successful. Startup Recipes is the only resource that tells you how.