What The Heck Is Your Product Really?

What The Heck Is Your Product Really?

I was one of the judges in a pitch contest last week (thanks for having me Innovate Manitoba) and listening to the pitches it struck me how for most products, the answer to the question, “What are you?” could be answered in multiple different ways. It also struck me that how you answer that question changes a lot more than just your marketing – it changes your vision of what your company could become in the future. An Example: One Product, Two Frames Here’s an example. One of the companies pitching (I’ll leave their name out of it since I haven’t run this piece past them), has a gizmo that sits the on the dash of your car and lights up when you are approaching a speed trap, a red light camera or a reduced speed zone. The value proposition is “Save money on tickets”. What do they do? They help you get fewer tickets. Or put another way, they are in the ticket avoidance business. But it struck me that they could be in other businesses. Instead of being the thing that helps you save money on tickets for example, it could be the thing that helps you drive more safely. Instead of being in the ticket avoidance business, they could be in the driver safety business. Changing the Frame Changes the Future Is one way of thinking about it better than the other? Probably, but I have no clue which one – I have no background or experience in their business. (Aside – pitch contests drive me a bit batty for this reason. My opinion is likely wrong about...
If you think Positioning is a marketing exercise – you’re doing it wrong

If you think Positioning is a marketing exercise – you’re doing it wrong

Positioning a product today is radically different from what it was when the concept was first introduced. Anyone who has read Ries and Trout’s “Positioning – the Battle for Your Mind”, would be understandably left thinking that Positioning is an exercise completed by the marketing department (or marketing agencies) for the marketing department. The examples we have studied to learn positioning generally involve marketing teams coming up with creative ways to position products in advertising campaigns through the use of slogans or taglines or creative branding. Staking a claim to a market position, is merely a matter of telling the world about it (or so we have been taught). But things in the real world have dramatically changed. The first change is that Madison Avenue no longer controls the way customers perceive products. Buyers now have the means to research products themselves, and they do. Buyers are not only adept at ignoring (or simply blocking) most of the ads directed at them, they’re heavily skeptical of the few that do manage to break through. It may have once been possible to simply tell people what your product positioning was all about and have prospects believe you, that’s no longer the case. We’ve been lied to and we’re skeptical of what brands have to say about themselves. Advertising-saturated, noisy markets mean that positioning a product so that customers can understand it quickly is more important than ever. However, expressing that positioning to jaded, attention-deficient, skeptical markets is going to take more than just, well, more advertising. This is particularly true for new companies that don’t have the budget to even attempt to win...
Leaky Buckets, Death Stink and True Love

Leaky Buckets, Death Stink and True Love

The past 8 months has been a whirlwind of action for me. In October I acquired Sprintly – an agile project management tool for startups, along with the original founder, Joe Stump. It’s been an incredible experience so far and definitely the most fun project I have worked on in my career yet. As part of getting Sprintly re-started, I’ve been out doing some talks and podcasts about my experience in running the business so far and I thought I should share those here for folks that have been wondering what’s new. A few weeks back I gave a talk at TechTO called Leaky Buckets, Death Stink and True Love – it’s a quick talk on what I’ve been focused on in the early days of running Sprintly. TechTO is a really fun event and part of what makes it so interesting is that the speakers only get 5 minutes to present. I cannot do anything in 5 minutes. I went a weeny bit over (ok, ok it was 6:30 and I spoke as fast as a chipmunk) but it was a hoot.  Here’s the video. I also did an interview with the folks at Funnelcake where I talked a bit about Sprintly stuff, positioning and other startup marketing things. It was a fun discussion. You can check out the transcript of our discussion here and if you haven’t been reading their blog, it’s a great resource for marketers of all stripes – check it out here – April Dunford on Positioning.    ...

Marketing Strategy Hacks Presentation

I gave a talk at the Unbounce Conversion Road Trip this week. It was an awesome event with amazing speakers. I decided to go a bit deeper into my thinking around how you would test the underlying assumptions in your marketing strategy, in particular which buyers you are targeting and what market you are positioned in. There is a bunch of new content here that I’ll blog about in the future but in the meantime, here’s the deck. Marketing Strategy Hacks from April...
Startup Marketing in New Vs. Established Markets

Startup Marketing in New Vs. Established Markets

Established markets and new markets are not the same so the way that you market and sell to them is different. For startups, it’s really important to know the difference. For each type of market are using different marketing tactics, executed in different ways with different expected results. New versus Established Markets – The Problem Gap In an established market, there are prospects out there that understand that they have a problem that needs to be solved. There will also be prospects actively in the process of learning about, shopping for and purchasing solutions. In new markets, prospects are blissfully unaware that they even have a problem. They aren’t researching solutions or shopping for solutions to a problem that they don’t know they have. If we think about a typical buyer journey we can see that in new markets, the bulk of buyers are starting at a different starting point than the buyers in a more established markets.   Creating Demand VS. Capturing Demand So how are the marketing tactics different for these different markets? For new markets the first job of marketing is to educate your target segment that there is a problem to be solved in the first place. This is counterintuitive for many startup who would rather jump in and talk about why their solution is better than other solutions. Until prospects believe they have a problem to solve, efforts to market solutions will be really ineffective. Why should I care about your solution? I don’t even have that problem! When there is no demand for your solution, tactics that we typically use to capture existing demand are ineffective. People...
When Describing Your Startup as “Uber for X” is a Big Mistake

When Describing Your Startup as “Uber for X” is a Big Mistake

Describing what your startup does, particularly when that product is something the world has never seen before, is hard. One of the first steps in positioning an offering is to establish a frame of reference for prospects or investors. By describing your offering as being similar to something else, you can build on what prospects already know and use that to help them make the leap to understanding what you’ve got. The idea of a “High Concept Pitch” for startups has been around for a while. I fist saw this in a Venture Hacks post (from 2008) that outlined it as a way to “describe the company’s vision on the back of a business card”. Some examples given were: Friendster for Dogs (Dogster) Flickr for video (YouTube) The Firefox of media players (Songbird) While looking back at these specific example is entertaining (who would compare themselves to Friendster? Imagine YouTube positioning itself against Flickr? What does “the Firefox of” mean anyway?), this method for describing a startup continues to be super popular. A MarketWatch study recently analyzed AngelList profiles of startups and determined Airbnb, Uber and LinkedIn were the top 3 companies used to describe a new company.   As popular as this approach is, there are also some ways that this positioning could be not just ineffective, but downright harmful for your company. Here are some things to consider: Positioning for a VC pitch is not the same as positioning for a prospect Whether or not a pitch works depends a lot on the audience and what they are hoping to get out of it. The “Uber for X” pitch works best for a...
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