I've had the opportunity to interview April Dunford (veteran marketer, author, keynote speaker, and positioning expert.)
She told me a story from when she was a young product marketer a year or so out of college. A product her startup launched failed to gain the traction they expected, and she was tasked with calling all the customers to gauge how annoyed they would be about the product being discontinued.
She found that while 95% had never heard of the product, there was this 5% who were ecstatic about it. But, they weren't using it in the way it was intended.
I'm sure you can guess what happened next from the title – they repositioned the product for those who loved it most, and it was a major success (selling to Psybase and then SAP where it still lives on today, 20 years later).
Here are the unique learnings I got from April:
– Throw away the traditional product positioning statement (For X, is a Y, which provides Z value). It's unclear and the output is a weird, unsharable sentence.
– Find out why your best customers love what you do, and position your product in a way that isolates what they love most. In this story, they tried to sell a database that was an alternative to Excel but no one wanted that. What their customers loved was that it was packaged small enough to be able to use it on mobile devices. Repositioning: embeddable database for mobile devices.
– Find your competitive comparable. Don't make the mistake (as I did before) of thinking your competitor is another company who makes similar software. It might be, but it's likely that your real competitor is something more simple: the way your customer is solving the problem right now. If they are using an intern to do that annoying task, then you better be explaining why your product is better than chucking an intern at the problem.
– Finding your true competitive comparable means you can isolate your uniqueness. Your positioning can now include "Our customers value us because of X, Y, Z unique features that an intern does not have".