How to Create KickButt Positioning Stories


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People often assume that there is some paint-by-numbers approach to creating the strategies, positioning and stories that are part and parcel of business success. They couldn’t be more wrong.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to strategy and positioning.

Strategic positioning is more art than science. Great positioning is as unique as every situation. And each and every business situation is a new canvas. You have to be flexible, nimble – and forget some process. Instead – great positioning comes from a focus on your audiences and how they benefit from your value.

Positioning is best thought of as a matrix of value elements surrounding your Company, Product and Market. These elements consist of a core positioning statement (your value) and evidence to support each of these statements. Once you define these elements and your Matrix, you can combine them in various ways to create a relevant story for any audience at any point in time.

The key to great stories is to be concise and consistent at the top level – even as you drill in to specific needs of each individual audience or customer.

I usually focus on 3-5 (maximum) compelling core positioning statements, and then support those statements with wide and varied evidence to meet diverse audience needs. The core statements serve to keep your story consistent, while the specific evidence lets you demonstrate your value in focused ways for each audience segment.

Once you develop the right matrix, you can weave a story that is compelling at every level – and support it with the right threads of evidence to make your point. Just be sure your evidence threads are primarily around customer stories and anecdotes – which, in my experience, are the best way to bring the stories to life.

How to Create Your Messaging Matrix

Weave the fabric of your story around three key story lines or layers of messages. All other story threads (e.g., evidence) must enhance these three fundamental positioning statements. What are the three areas of value?

Company Value: Including who are you today and how your customers perceive you, your core expertise and value (often skill-based versus driven by intellectual property), your successes with customers, your “legacy” that can be applied going forward. Make sure messaging in this area subtly addresses issues including negative customer perceptions, a fading image, and a changing focus into new markets where you may not be known.

Product Value: As you’re thinking through solution positioning, focus on the ‘So What?’ value your solutions bring to customers. Solution messaging should make a clean, concise statement of your solutions’ business value. Then prove that value with evidence, preferably in the form of customer stories. Solutions include products and services, as well as expertise.

Market Value: As part of positioning your company and its solutions, you also have to tell the story of the market. Be thoughtful as you build the case for why your company and its solution are needed, and the value they bring. Demonstrating an understanding of the current market, as well as a vision for the future is critical in positioning your company as an expert that customers can trust.

  • For each area, create a single strong statement of your leadership (OK, sometimes you can have two) -focused on your customers’ benefit – not your chest thumping self. This statement becomes your primary messaging for every engagement. That’s how you stay consistent.
  • Now – go collect every morsel of evidence you can to support those core positioning statements. Evidence comes in the form of customer stories, anecdotes, quotes, industry recognition – anything that others say about you. Remember – what you think or say does not matter!
  • From there, create a top-level story with the three messages – and then evidence that story with the anecdotes, numbers and facts you have (customer centric) that are most relevant, depending on the situation. for example – if you’re speaking with a business client in the automotive industry, use the evidence that is relevant to automotive issues. if you client is a manufacturer of soap – use evidence relevant to them. The same top line positioning statement applies across all of these clients – then the evidence brings it home for their specific needs.

As for creating the messaging itself – there are multiple ways to create a matrix. Sometimes I work top down, sometimes bottom up. The process isn’t the important part. What’s important is that the focus be customer-centric and compelling.

Most importantly – your messaging must answer the most important question to the customer, which is, “So What? What value will I derive from this claim you are making? What’s in it for me?”

How Do I get Started?

Regardless of whether you go top down, bottom up or horizontal – I have some simple rules I follow for creating a positioning and messaging matrix.

Be concise. For each of the three areas, develop ONE key message. Not five, not ten, not one per employee. ONE message. Make it simple, make it compelling, and make sure it reflects your customers’ perspectives and not your own chest thumping. Having multiple messages about your company, its markets, and its products only confuses your audience. Find one key statement in each area that you can support and stick to it.

Let your evidence speak for you. Support each of your core message statements with evidence. The more evidence the better. Customer-centric evidence is the primary approach, but you can also use evidence from other external sources, as long as they are credible. Quantitative evidence is always better than the soft and touchy-feely claims that tend to turn off your audience. As much as possible, let your customers speak for you with their evidence. Their voices are the most powerful of all. Forget making claims about yourself – where’s the credibility in that?

Tell a story: Messages in and of themselves are abstract statements. Unless they relate to a situation or frame of reference that is important to your audience, they won’t stick. So how do you get your messages to really hit home with your audience? Apply them. Tell stories that focus on customer/real-world situations that resonate with your listeners. Encapsulate your messages in stories that demonstrate your understanding of the customer’s experience – and bring them to life.

How do you find all this evidence to compel your buyers? Ask the most important marketing question of all….So What?

Learn more about how to create Power Positions that will accelerate your business success in these seven FREE videos – my gift to YOU!

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Rebel Brown
Rebel Brown consistently challenges the status quo to deliver optimum solutions and high velocity growth for her clients. She combines the strategic expertise and tactical savvy of a global Corporate Strategy, Launch and Turnaround Expert, along with the leadership and motivational skills needed to get the job done.


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