I was rereading a marketing classic, Positioning, by Al Ries and Jack Trout, and was impressed by how well their message still holds up (I guess that’s why it’s called a classic). It’s particularly relevant to those trying to practice thought leadership marketing.
Positioning is the process marketers use to try to create an image or identity in the minds of their target market for their product, brand, or organization [Wikipedia]. The subtitle of Positioning says it all — The battle for your mind: How to be seen and heard in the overcrowded marketplace. Here are some of the key points the authors make that are especially relevant to thought leadership marketers:
- “The essential ingredient in securing the leadership position is getting into the mind first.”
- “Positioning is an organized system for finding a window in the mind. It is based on the concept that communication can only take place at the right time and under the right circumstances.”
- “You look for the solution to your [marketing] problem not inside the product, not even inside your own mind. You look for the solution to your problem inside the prospect’s mind.”
- “So little of your message is going to get through anyway, you ignore the sending side and concentrate on the receiving end. You concentrate on the perceptions of the prospect. Not the reality of the product.”
- “How do you find an open position in the prospect’s mind?…. Look for the hole…. And then fill it.”
- “Prospects don’t buy, they choose…. The merit, or lack of merit, of your brand is not nearly as important as your position among the possible choices.”
How do you position your business? It’s not easy. The authors suggest that you begin by answering the following questions:
- “What position do you own in the mind of the prospect?” Are you already a thought leader? Do market research to really answer this question.
- “What position do you want to own?” It’s almost impossible to “own” a position that someone else already owns. But you don’t need to be “the” thought leader in the broadest sense. Pick a narrow aspect of your market to target for your thought leadership position.
- “Whom must you outgun?” Is there a thought leader in your market? Do you know who it is? Don’t try to compete head-on against a company that has a strong, established thought leadership position. Go around them.
- “Do you have enough money?” It takes money to build a share of mind, to establish a position. Even with today’s emphasis on “inexpensive” e-marketing, the effort and resources it takes to establish a thought leadership position can be significant. Plan for it.
- “Can you stick it out?” Establishing a thought leadership position takes time. Make sure you are willing to put in the consistent effort needed.
- “Do you match your position?” Are you willing to make thought leadership marketing part of your organizational culture so everyone is consistently on the same page? Ensure that your tactics support the positioning objective that you’ve set.