How to define your B2B brand positioning statement

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

As you create your brand positioning statement, look for the ideal space to play and space your brand can win. 

The first step is always to find where to play, which matches up what your customers want with what your brand does best. Next, you layer in what your competition does best, to narrow the space where your brand can win. Your brand might be fast, but if your competitor is even faster, then you will lose out if you try to play in that space. 

Four elements make up a brand positioning statement, including who you serve, where you play, where will you win and why customers should believe you. These are the customer target, marketplace definition, the customer benefit, and support points. 

b2b brand positioning

Where you win

To find the competitive space in which your brand can win. Below, I introduce a Venn diagram of competitive situations that we will use throughout this article. You will see three circles. The first circle comprises everything your customer wants or needs. The second circle includes everything your brand does best, including customer benefits, product features, or proven claims. Finally, the third circle lists what your competitor does best.


 

Your brand’s winning zone (in green), is the space that matches up “What customers want” with “What your brand does best.” This space provides you a distinct positioning you can own and defend from attack. Your brand must be able to satisfy the customer needs better than any other competitor can.

Your brand will not survive by trying to compete in the losing zone (in red), which is the space that matches the customer needs with “What your competitor does best.” When you play in this space, your competitor will beat you every time.

 

As markets mature, competitors copy each other. It has become harder to be better with a definitive product win. Many brands have to play in the risky zone (in grey), which is the space where you and your competitor both meet the customer’s needs in a relative tie. 

There are four ways you can win the risky zone:

  • Dominate: Use your brand’s power in the market to squeeze out smaller, weaker brands.
  • Gain first-mover advantage: Be the first to capture that space to earn a reputation you can defend.
  • Innovate: Win with innovation and creativity to make your brand seem unique.
  • Captivate: Build a deeper emotional connection to make your brand seem different.

Sadly, I always have to mention the dumb zone (in blue) where two competitors “battle it out” in the space customers do not care. One competitor says, “We are faster,” and the other brand says, “We are just as fast.” No one bothered to ask the customer if they care about speed. Both brands are dumb.

Brand positioning statement elements

Four elements make up a brand positioning statement, including who you serve, where you play, where will you win and why customers should believe you. These are the customer target, marketplace definition, the customer benefit, and support points. 

  1. Who is your customer target? What slice of the marketplace is the most motivated by what your brand offers? Do not just think about who you want but rather who wants your brand.
  2. Where will you play? What is the competitive set that defines the space in the market where your brand competes? Positioning is always relative to the other companies your brand competes against.   
  3. Where will you win? What is the main customer benefit promise you will make to the customer target to make your brand stand out as interesting, simple, unique, motivating, and ownable? Do not talk about what you do (features); instead, talk about what the customer gets (functional benefits) and how the customer feels (emotional benefits).
  4. Why should they believe us? Understand what support points and features you need to back up your main promise. These support points should close any possible doubts, questions, or concerns the customer has after hearing your main promise.

Before you randomly write out a brand positioning statement based on your intuition, I will force you to think deeper to help focus your decisions on the best possible space for your brand to win and own.  

The customer benefits ladder

The customer benefits ladder helps turn your brand’s features into customer benefits. Stop talking about what your brand does and start talking about what your customer gets. The four steps to building a customer benefits ladder: 

Leverage all available research to define your ideal customer target profile with need states, customer insights, and the customer enemy.  

Brainstorm all possible brand features. Focus on those features you believe give your brand a competitive advantage.

Move up to the functional benefits by putting yourself in the shoes of the customer. For each feature on your list, ask, “So, what do I get from that?” Challenge yourself to come up with better benefits by asking the question until you move into a richer zone.

Then move up to the emotional benefits. Look at each functional benefit and in the voice of the customer you should ask, “So, how does that make me feel?” As you did in step 3, keep asking the question until you see a more in-depth emotional space you can win with and own.

Functional benefits

To help brand leaders, I have taken nine functional need state zones and expanded the list to over 50 potential functional benefits your brand can build around. As you look through the list, gravitate to the functional benefits you think will fit the needs of your customers and where your brand can do it better than competitors. Start with the words on the cheat sheet below, then layer in your creative language based on specific category words or specific customer words and phrases they use.

Emotional benefits

Below you will find a list of 40 potential emotional benefits. From my experience, marketers are better at finding the ideal rational benefits compared with how they work at finding the ideal emotional benefits for their brands. As a brand, you want to own one emotional space in the customer’s heart as much as you own a rational space in the customer’s mind. When I push brand managers to get emotional, they struggle and opt for what they view as obvious emotions, even if they do not fit with their brand. I swear every brand manager thinks their brand should be the trusted, reliable, and likable. Use our cheat sheet to dig deeper on emotions. 

I have used Hotspex research methodology to create an emotional cheat sheet with eight emotional customer benefits zones, which include optimism, freedom, get noticed, feel satisfied, comfort, fit with company, stay in control, and curious for knowledge. Use the words within each zone to provide added context. 

Build around benefit clusters

Start by looking at the two cheat sheets and narrow down to potential clusters of the functional and emotional benefits. Match what customers want and what your brand does best. I recommend that you take three of the zones from each of the two cheat sheets, and then add 2-3 support words per zone to create a cluster.

For each cluster, use the words to inspire a brainstorm of specific benefit statements that fit your brand, using the specific brand, customer or category words. For Gray’s Lighting, a fictional stage lighting brand that provides such a high quality lighting that it brings out every detail on the face of actors. Concerning functional benefits, I have chosen to build around functional clusters, such as works better for you, sensory appeal, and experiences, and the emotional clusters, such as optimism, feeling free, and getting noticed. Once I made those choices, I began brainstorming 10-15 key benefit phrases that start with “I get…” for the functional benefits and “I feel” for the emotional benefits.  

How to write the final brand positioning statement

Taking all the homework, here are some thoughts on bringing the brand positioning statement together: 

  1. Who is your customer target? Keep your target definition focused. Bring the target to life with need states, customer insights, and a customer enemy. You can have groups of customers, or specific customers.   
  2. Where will you play? Define the space you play in, measuring it against those brands you compete with. 
  3. Where will you win? Narrow your benefit down to one thing. Never try to stand for too many things at once—whether too many functional benefits or too many emotional benefits. You cannot be all things to all people. Make sure you talk benefits, not features. The ideal space must be unique and motivating to the customers while being ownable for your brand. 
  4. Why should they believe us? The role of support points is to resolve any potential doubts the customers might have when they see your main benefit. Ensure these support points are not just random claims or features that you want to jam into your brand message. They should support and fit with the main benefit.

The final brand positioning statement for Gray’s Lighting

The brand positioning statement works with Technology brands

This type of thinking can be found in my B2B Brands book

Learn to think, define, plan, execute and analyze

  • You will find strategic thinking models and examples for each of the four strategic thinking methods, looking at core strength, competitive, consumer, and situational strategies. 
  • To define the brand, I will provide a tool for writing a brand positioning statement as well as a customer profile and a customer benefits ladder. I have created lists of potential functional and emotional benefits to kickstart your thinking on brand positioning. We explore the step-by-step process to come up with your brand idea and bring it all together with a tool for writing the ideal brand concept. 
  • For brand plans, I provide formats for a long-range brand strategy roadmap and the annual brand plan with definitions for each planning element. From there, I show how to build a brand execution plan that includes the creative brief, innovation process, and sales plan. I provide tools for how to create a brand calendar, and specific project plans. 
  • To grow your brand, I show how to make smart decisions on marketing execution around marketing communications and media choices. 
  • When it comes time for the analytics, I provide all the analytical tools you need to write a deep-dive business review, looking at the marketplace, consumer, channels, competitors and the brand. Write everything so that it is easy to follow and implement for your brand.

You will learn everything you need to know so you can run your B2B brand. My brand promise is to help make you smarter so you can realize your full potential.

You can find B2B Brands on Amazon, Apple books or Rakuten/Kobo books

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