March 13, 2023

“Why” is the Missing Piece for Effective Positioning

To understand a tech company’s positioning strategy, and (more importantly) how it executes on its strategy, scroll past its tagline and the top of its homepage. A company’s positioning is expressed primarily through the ways its buyer universe actually comes in contact with it. That includes the emails it sends, the LinkedIn and Twitter posts it creates, the paid ads it buys, the articles it publishes, and the webinars and presentations to which it invites likely prospects. These are the actual pathways by which a company’s positioning moves from strategy to execution.

The problem is, once you look at this level, too often you see the vision die. At the level of execution, companies become locked into the “What” and the “How”.

The “What” often takes the form of definitions and explanations of industry jargon, technologies, or concepts. Or it can be self-serving explanations of product features and capabilities.

The “How” is usually hands-on tactics for how to accomplish tasks, projects, and goals, including instructive tips on product usage.

In some ways, I think of the “What” as tied to Product Marketing, and the “How” as tied to Client Success.

Don’t get me wrong: The “What” and the “How” are useful for existing customers, or even prospective customers deep in the decision-making funnel. In other words, they are focused on Demand Capture, i.e. capturing demand that already exists.

But companies know that positioning strategy isn’t just about Product Marketing and Client Success. Somewhere along the way, companies’ grand visions for their positioning strategies are getting lost and confused. What’s missing in the all-important execution stage is the “Why”.

The “Why” needs to be focused not just on Demand Capture, but also on Demand Creation: convincing people who are not already on board to be interested. Successful “Why” is about tapping into prospects’ pain points, which might be existent, emerging, or even unavoidable in the future. Savvy companies can achieve this by documenting and describing current and upcoming industry changes; key trends in how people do business; and fundamental paradigm shifts in technology, regulation, and other matters.

The goal of “Why” is to guide a potential buyer to clear plans that build his or her confidence he or she can solve for these pain points. The key is to align those plans with what makes the product suite unique, such that the product is the only answer. But to attain the buyer’s trust required to execute the goal, the focus needs to be on the pain point and the plan, not the product itself.

Done properly, the “Why” does more than just inform; it changes perspectives, and leaves an everlasting impression.

As an experiment, I researched a wide range of CRM software companies, figuring it is a diverse, established, and somewhat crowded space that is likely to show a wide range of positioning strategies. But I was surprised to find that, once you look at positioning execution, these companies consistently forget or lose track of the “Why.” Instead, you encounter an endless litany of posts like “How to Write a Response-Worthy Follow-up Email” and “Top 10 Tactics for Lead Generation using Social Media”. I won’t pick on these companies by adding links. But I can assure you their positioning strategies aren’t to be known as the most tactical email and social post authors.

A key reason why companies get mired in the “What” and the “How” is because of a self-inflicted and mis-directed pressure to speed up content cadence. The problem is this: buyer touchpoints represent a vicious circle. The less visionary and strategic these touchpoints are, the more ephemeral they are, and thus the greater pressure companies feel to churn out more content, which leads to the inevitable decrease in quality.

But there is a better way: Companies can learn to continually tie everything back to the original vision behind their positioning strategy. They must remember the “Why” that drives Demand Creation, and make sure their original vision is tangible across all the touchpoints where they execute their positioning, and where potential buyers actually experience it. As I have consistently learned by watching marketing results, it’s the “Why” that sticks with people, changes minds, and drives action.

If your company might benefit from help defining your “Why”, and ensuring that your “Why” survives the difficult leap into positioning execution and Demand Creation, subscribe to my free newsletter here, or schedule a no-cost introductory 30 minute call with me here.