We get this wrong all the time. Businesses seek “brand awareness” in order to position their brand prominently in a given category. Unfortunately, while this is all fine and dandy in theory, it is inevitably followed by salespeople complaining about the marketing departments feeble attempt at positioning the qualities of their products and services relative to competitors.
Getting your image right sounds like the over-riding priority, but the issue for many businesses is having their brand considered by buyers at all..
In this blog, Hugh helps us think about positioning a little differently, and suggest two approaches and eight tactics we might want to consider.
We get this wrong all the time. Businesses really want to be and try to be positioned well. The sales people argue “Gee, we’re not positioned well enough” and “our brand recognition is not great in the right kind of areas”. Whilst all of that makes sense, this is an area where B2B marketing and B2C marketing are fundamentally different. It just doesn’t matter what they think about you if they’re not. So the most important thing is to make sure they are thinking about you at all. Now think about this: even a really well known brand may be known generally. But is it known in each of the categories that they wish to operate? More than often, not. So a well positioned brand is not positioned in all the categories they need to be positioned in. So, even a big company with a great brand has a positioning problem.
Brand and position are really different things. So, in B2B we need to take a very different approach to those of our consumer cousins and what I’m going to show you in this blog is how to position a business brand.

The first task for a business marketer is therefore to ensure that the brand is firmly positioned in each of the categories that they seem to occupy. This means that they buyers will always consider the brand amongst the others when making a purchase decision. Only when the brand is absolutely positioned, unambiguously in the category so the buyers always think about your brand before or at least at the same time as they think about others. Only when that has been achieved can we then think about conveying our point of difference and bringing our brand forward. For now we just need to get on the list.

There are two approaches I am going to show you today: one is where we’re positioning as an outcome in and of itself. The second is where we position as a consequence of trying to do something else. I’ll give you examples of both of those now. Remember that our buyers are being subjected to messaging from our competitors as well as from us. So, from us we need absolute consistency, clarity, frequency and credibility in everything that we do. We’re less likely in B2B to use tactics like advertising for that kind of effect. We’re more likely to use higher impact but probably narrower reach tactics like blogging, social media, search certainly, direct mail and direct email, white papers and speaking at seminars whether ours or somebody else’s. Some other tactics that might be used for some purpose other than positioning can still play a really important role in positioning the brand in a business market. They need to be carefully managed because of that. Things like proposals, letters, emails, faxes and sales conversations all have an effect on your positioning. These tactics should all be tailored so that they position your brand in each of the key categories that you want it to be positioned in. Because buyers believe if they hear from multiple sources ideally, you want them to hear this message from multiple different sources certainly multiple of yours. But if you can, multiple other third party sources as well.

The other approach we can take in B2B is to hijack tactics meant for another purpose and specifically tactics meant to trouble the buyers. For example, we might have built a whitepaper or a webinar or a screen flow it could be any number of different tactics we might use. Well, the purpose of that tactic is to try and get the buyer troubled about the problem that we can solve. But along the way to that tactic the invitation process which might be an email, might be a phone call, might be a direct mail piece, it might be perhaps even just another web page leading to this tactic. Whatever the invitation piece that invites the buyer to consume that tactic – whose intent is to trouble, then the invitation process can play a role in positioning. First prize is they go along and consume that troubling tactic. The second prize is that they say “I’m actually not troubled about that right now and I’m not even interested in consuming that troubling tactic, but I get that you seem to be really focused on solving that problem and if I ever have it I’d be sure to call you.” So we can certainly have tactics designed just to position but we can also have tactics designed for some greater purpose you might say, some purpose further down the buyer’s journey. But along the way we can position the brand using those tactics as well. Positioning is just the start of the journey, not the whole journey.

We need also to think about two quite distinct audiences. We’ve got strategic targets – those that we want to be positioned with whether or not they’ve begun their journey because we intend to target the companies that we have identified as a valid and attractive target for us. But also, behavioural targets – the second group seeking information and we like them not necessarily because they meet our notion of who we should be targeting, but because they’ve already begun their journey and started to show interest in that conversation and we have tactics for both of those audiences.

In a moment or two I am going to invite you to take a look at how we do this in funnel plan – select the right tactics and build them into a flow. But before we do that I’m going to do two things. I’m going to share with you the conclusion, that is, how do we select the right positioning tactics? and I’m going to invite you to receive more blogs like this one. But let’s get to those tactics first.

We need to start by finding the right categories. Which categories do we actually want it to be positioned in? Then we need to think about the market within those categories. How mature is the market for product categories like that? Well, if the market is mature then you probably do want product categories but if the market is not mature then consider problem categories – groups of companies that might possibly have a solution to that problem. It’s quite a different approach. First we need to make sure that our strategy is rock-solid. There’s simply no point in executing the right tactics to the wrong audience. It sounds kind of obvious just don’t go down the positioning conversation until you’re really confident that you’ve got the strategy sorted and agreed. Now, having done that, we need to think about a couple of elements. Firstly, we’ve got the question of are we positioned or are we not? Now if we are positioned then we probably want to spend 80% of our energy conveying our point of difference. How are we different from others? But if you’re not yet positioned on that list then you need to take precisely the reverse approach. If you’re not yet on the list, looking too different from everybody who is on the list will actually take you off the list again. So, if you’re not yet positioned in the category then spend about 80% of your energy complying with expectations and about 20% of your energy being a little different. If you’re positioned then find a unique pace that you can own and spend about 80% of your energy making sure that you own that unique space within the category.

Now we’ve also got two audiences. We’ve got the strategic audience that we definitely wanted to go out to and we’ve got a behavioural audience. We didn’t know that they were a good prospect but because they’re behaving in the right way, suddenly they’ve become a really good prospect. For strategic targets make sure that every single touch point positions you unambiguously in the category and again thinking about their compliance or differentiation approach. Am I just trying to look like everybody on the list? Or Am I trying to be different (depending on whether you’re on the list or not yet)? That’s for your strategic targets.

Now for your behavioural targets again you didn’t necessarily identify them as a target but because they’re acting in the right way, they’re quite attractive to you. For those behavioural targets, think about where they are in their journey at the time that they start to reach out. Are they kind of at the top of the funnel where they’re looking for insights, inspiration, ideas and understanding? Then share top of funnel tactics like blogs, you can do seminars, you can search optimise your blog, you can socially share your blog topics, you can participate in social networks, you got to get involved in conversation on LinkedIn with people. They’re good top of funnel positioning tactics. If they’re already at the bottom of the funnel before they reach out and they’re saying “I just need a lawyer” for example, if you’re selling legal services then you want to make sure that the search terms that you use in that circumstance are going to be product-related. ‘Best Lawyer in Melbourne’ for example. So think really carefully. Where are they in their journey when they reach out?

So, when you build positioning tactics for your inbounds or behavioural targets, think about what’s going on for them. Are they thinking about the problem? Or are they thinking about the product? You need to match that with your search terms.

So here’s how we do that in funnel plan. Well clearly we talk about the tactics section of the funnel plan and so we’re going to take a look at the tactics that precede it. The Find New Names tactics and potentially the Interest Established tactics and the positioning ones sit in between those because we’re trying to get on the list of the buyers. Now, we’ve got both inbound – what I was referring to earlier as behavioural segments so the audience that’s shown interest they’re going to come inbound to us and we’ve got outbound tactics. So let’s add a business blog with a subscription option. We’ll search optimise that blog and probably promoted it on LinkedIn and we’ll speak at our own and some third party conferences. So let’s get those tactics in. Now for outbound and I’m going to mark these using the outbound tag, let’s make sure that our emails that go out to the blog and our direct mails telemarketing that invite people to the event all position us in the chosen category. We also need to work out which of those buyers are interested in having a conversation at all. How do we do that? I’ll show you on another day.

Well if you enjoyed this blog then likely you’ll enjoy others. Equally, if you have been enjoying this blog for a while but you have colleagues who haven’t then now might be a great time to share the love. There are a couple of options for you or for them: the twice-weekly blog and that’s got the freshest insights or funnel vision monthly which comes out once a month with a collection of our very best blogs. align.me/blog is the place to go for either of those. The third option is to go to the YouTube channel where you’ll get each of these videos once a week. But for now, may your funnel be full and always flowing.