📚🚀#TheGrowthBookClub — Obviously Awesome! By April Dunford (A Review)
Today’s #GROWTHsnack discusses the art of positioning and reviews April Dunford’s excellent book on the subject.
Author’s main takeaways:
“1. Any product can be positioned in multiple markets. Your product is not doomed to languish in a market where nobody understands how awesome it is.
2. Great positioning rarely comes by default. If you want to succeed, you have to determine the best way to position your product.
3. Understanding what your best customers see as true alternatives to your solution, will lead you to your differentiators.
4. Position yourself in a market that makes yourself obvious to the folks you want to sell to.
5. Use trends to make your product more interesting to customers right now. But be very cautious… it’s better to be successful and boring, rather than fashionable and bewildering”.
We usually do not get to choose the different crises imposed on us — and of course, they always take place during a pandemic, the busiest week at work, or while one of the kids has a cold. Yep. Fun.
A few months ago, I had to clean and reorganize my entire garage searching for what turned out to be an infested dog food bag (it’s not your fault Johnny 🐶). But, lemonade and all — it made me clean all the shelves and Marie-Kondo the heck out of my garage while listening to a great professional audiobook — twice :)
As different stakeholders in the GTM process, we test and experiment with different copy and positioning statements all the time. Since markets, competitors, business environments, and regulations keep evolving and shifting all the time (thank you again, 2020 — you’re the gift that keeps on giving🙏), revisiting or tweaking your positioning is required quite often.
April Dunford, the author of the book “Obv!ously Awesome”, talks about her frustration of not finding a proper positioning framework early on in her career. Something that has such an immense impact on a product’s success — felt very elusive, like black magic.
“For the first few years of my career, it felt like positioning products was akin to influencing fate. A hidden power appeared to control the destiny of those products — one part buyer impulses, one part market chaos, and one part dumb luck” — April Dunford
At first, she thought that there must be a framework for that, and it’s because she came from an engineering and not marketing background — that she is not familiar with it.
So she sought further relevant education, training, and certification — only to find out that no one really has anything to offer her on that subject. Utilizing decades of professional experience in leading and launching products in both startups and corporates — she decided to take her own stab at it.
At the end of her book, she states
“… you’ve read this book, which puts you way ahead of me in my mid-career when I was a marketing executive. You have a clear 10 step process for positioning any product, including 3 positioning styles you can use depending on your market.”
So what is April Dunford’s 10-step positioning framework?
1. Understand the customers who love your product. Talk to your happiest customers and understand why they are so satisfied. Find out what about your offering make them such a good fit.
2. Form a positioning team. Each team brings a unique point of view of how the customers perceive and experience the product. The goal is to develop a new positioning that the entire company understands and agrees with. The person responsible for the business of that particular product must be in the room and be seen as driving the positioning effort.
3. Align your positioning vocabulary and let go of your positioning baggage — Identify where your history appears in your current positioning. Is this the market you identified when you created the product? Do you still use the same terminology and promote the same features as you started?
4. List your true competitive alternatives. What would our best customers do if we didn’t exist? Focus on the best-fit customer list and what the majority of them really do.
5. Isolate your unique attributes and features. Ones that are based on objective facts.
6. Map the attributes to value themes. Capture the value that each of your unique attributes enables for customers. Take the most critical things that make you special and worth considering and bring the resulting unique value to the front and center.
7. Determine who cares a lot. Dunford explains what actionable segmentation is and how it impacts your sales efforts. She suggests focusing only on best-fit customers if that will allow you to hit your yearly goals. If not — you can always broaden it.
8. Find a market frame of reference that puts your product in the center and determine how to position in it. Only choose a market if it makes your strengths obvious.
9. Layer on a trend — but only if it makes sense.
10. Capture your positioning so it can be shared. I’m a fan of having a shorter, concise version of the positioning that can be captured on a single page and easily shared across the company.
3 positioning styles, for 3 market types:
- Head to Head: If you’re already a market leader. Prospects are comparing alternatives using a set of features where you come out on top.
- Big Fish, Small Pond: The goal of the Big Fish, Small Pond style of positioning is to carve off a piece of the market where the rules are a little bit different — just enough to give your product an edge over the category leader.
- Creating a new market category: You aren’t simply capturing demand that already exists; you have to spark some demand first.
Teams of all sizes can systematically follow this framework to optimize their positioning each time the need arises. It allows you to move on from intuition, guessing, trial, and error — to accurate research that can help you discover the best niche for you at any given time.
As always, if you are truly interested in practicing this framework - I highly recommend that you listen to or read the book when you have time. It provides very useful tips, step-by-step instructions, and real-life examples.
Until next time,