This is part 1 of a 2-part series on brand positioning and messaging. In this first post, I’ll walk step by step through the process of developing your brand positioning. In the next post, I’ll then talk about using the positioning language to develop your brand messaging.
When I speak to audiences, I often discuss the six grand challenges of marketing to engineers. Challenge #2 is “Prove Your Expertise” – more specifically, our challenge as marketers and business leaders to distinctly position and message our company, products and services in a way that builds credibility trust, differentiates, and effectively resonates with our buyer personas. Going through the process of positioning and messaging can be a difficult and time-consuming challenge, and is therefore one that's often skipped. However, it's critical to an effective marketing program and successful business. It is for this reason that I continue to speak and write about it, in hopes I can demystify and simplify the process and inspire engineering business leaders to take the time to document this for their company.
Speaking to company leaders at the American Ceramics Society Leadership Summit
At NIWeek, held here in Austin, I spoke to an audience of business leaders from National Instruments and their Alliance Partners, about this specific challenge, and the process to overcome it. Adapted from this talk and based on my book, Smart Marketing for Engineers: An Inbound Marketing Guide to Reaching Technical Audiences, below are the 10 steps to develop your brand position.
Note: This process assumes your buyer personas are defined. If they are not, read this blog post or refer to Chapter 3 of my book for an in-depth explanation and several examples.
Steps 1 – 3: Define Your Mission, Vision and Core Values
It’s important to first document your company’s mission, vision and core values. These core elements serve as the foundation for your company's positioning statement. Below are brief definitions and examples to reference in writing yours.
Step 1. Mission: A brief written statement of the fundamental purpose of a company or organization that rarely changes through the decades.
Examples of Mission Statements:
- Nike: To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.
- Google: To organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.
- TREW: We create smart marketing to promote the innovations of our world’s technical leaders.
Step 2. Vision: Your long-term dream that states what your company wants to be, serves as a source of inspiration, and is sometimes time-based and updated every 10-15 years.
Examples of Vision Statements:
- Toyota: To sustain profitable growth by providing the best customer experience and dealer support.
- Google: To create the perfect search engine.
- BMW: To become the most successful premium manufacturer in the car industry.
Examples of Core Values:
- Rackspace: Fanatical support; Results first, substance over flash; Committed to greatness; Full disclosure and transparency; Passion for our work; Treat fellow Rackers like friends and family
- Southwest Airlines: Warrior spirit; Servant’s heart; Fun-luving attitude; Work safely; Wow our customers; Keep costs low
- TREW Marketing: Excellence, Strategic Thinking, Collaboration, Drive and Balance
The next 6 steps are to develop your positioning statement, which is a tool to create internal alignment. Often, teams skip this step and dive right into creating messaging statements and value propositions. Don’t be that team – take the time to document, debate and agree on your company or product position before you get to messaging.
Steps 4-5: Define “Who” and “Where”
The first two parts of your positioning statement are “Who” and “Where”. These two steps are very quick and easy if you already have your buyer personas defined.
Step 4. Who: Your potential customer’s job title, function, decision-making authority, etc.
Examples of “Who”:
- Directors/managers of R&D, technology, or products in Houston and Southeast Texas
- Engineers and program managers/directors
- Lab managers and their teams
- Technology leaders: engineering managers, VPs and CTOs
- Plant engineers, corporate engineering, & manufacturing operations
Examples of “Where”:
- Managing test and measurement in validation or production for government and private military and aerospace organizations
- In labs managing increasing amounts of data
- At manufacturing companies building new facilities that require batch process control systems
- In high-growth automotive-based organizations
- At Fortune 1000 companies in the chemical, pulp & paper and power industries
In the book, Smart Marketing for Engineers, the first chapter "Say No to Grow" focuses on brand positioning and messaging and includes examples from both product and services companies.
Steps 6-7: Define “Why” and “What”
The next two parts of your positioning statement are “Why” and “What”, which focus on your customer’s pain points or application challenges and what you offer to solve it.
Step 6. Why: Your customer’s technical challenges or pain points.
Examples of “Why”:
- Face product quality, production or cost issues and are seeking a new approach
- Coping with increasingly complex automation systems that must share and report plant-floor information to the enterprise
- Need a reliable test and measurement system from a proven supplier that can meet stringent time, cost and technical requirements
- Face increasingly complex electronic embedded systems and seek solutions that scale with more demanding industry standard
- Need faster test equipment that is smaller, more energy-efficient and lower in total cost
Examples of “What”:
- We create commercial-off-the-shelf products and customs solutions with military-ready, aerospace-quality, scalable specifications
- We provide large-scale plant-floor automation, industrial IT and smart manufacturing solutions that improve OEE, increase agility and reduce time-to-market
- We design and build new, custom test solutions and build high-volume automated test equipment to your exact specifications
- Our ESP product is a centralized data management platform for tracking samples, processing data, reporting, and managing workflows
Steps 8-9: Define “How” and “Unlike”
The last two parts of your positioning statement are “How” and “Unlike”, where you get into more detail about your unique approach or offerings and how they are superior to competitors or alternatives.
Step 8. How: The way you solve your customer’s problem, such as processes, tools, service, unique expertise, and best practices.
Examples of “How”:
- With a customer-first, consultative approach that includes a plan of action that leverages the talent and skill of 100+ industry professionals, from plant floor processes to enterprise systems
- We use proven electronic design practices, expert LabVIEW programming, tailored COTS hardware to help clients design and deliver new products to market
- Our expertise tackling the demanding precision of aerospace test carries through to our work in manufacturing applications, creating test equipment that is modular, high-performance, low-power and delivered quickly.
- We created an end-to-end software platform with streamlined workflow, the ability to comply with any standards, and strong data provenance.
Examples of “Unlike”:
- Offshore outsourcing where communication is difficult
- Integrators that lack experience solving industry challenges and meeting demands of government contractors and aerospace/defense applications
- Costly, brand-name business consultants who lack real-world experience with plant-floor automation systems and manufacturing business processes
- Incumbent suppliers that offer only COTS components and over-promise on products labeled “easy to use” or under-deliver with solutions that reach obsolescence quickly
With your core foundational pieces defined - mission, vision and core values, and the six elements of the positioning statement created, you are now ready for the final step in the positioning process: defining your tone, or company personality.
Step 10: Define Brand Tone
The last step in developing your brand position is to define your brand tone. Your tone captures the personality you want your company to have, and the language you want to use to relate to your customers. Do you want to be like IBM – professional, experienced and serious? Or more like Apple – simple, informal, and high quality. Once you establish your tone of voice, you need to stick with it. Be true to who you are in all you do – online, in your sales presentations, in your trade show booths.
Step 10. Brand tone: To develop your brand tone, here’s a few easy and fun questions to get lots of ideas on the table:
- If your company was a car, what manufacturer would it be? Why?
- What 2-3 brand name companies have a tone you want your company to emulate? Why?
- Make a list of all the words you could use to describe your company’s personality
- Considering the answers to the above questions – i.e., the car your company would be and the brands your company wants to emulate – review all the words captured in the above question, and select the 3-5 that best capture the brand tone your company wants to have.
Now you have the process for creating your brand position. This can be used for product positioning as well. In the next post, I'll explain how to leverage your brand positioning for key messaging that can be used in both marketing and sales.
If you think your team can benefit from outside help, fill out our Contact Us form to discuss our Brand Positioning and Messaging Service or learn more about 2-Day Onsite Brand Positioning and Messaging Workshop.