What is B2B brand positioning, and why does it matter?

Blog Branding

Brand positioning in tech marketing is no differentto any other kind of branding. It is the story about your company, product, or service, which sits firmly in people’s minds and is made up of many different elements. The way people perceive your brand directly impacts on your value. 

Contrary to popular belief, a ‘brand’ is not your logo or a clever tagline, it’s how you are wholly perceived by your audience. When it comes to building your B2B brand awareness, competitive positioning is the key to creating differentiation. Setting your product or service apart is a critical factor in the ‘seize or decease’ of a very competitive market. The main goal of an effective B2B positioning strategy is therefore to influence consumer perception by effectively communicating your brand’s advantage over the competition. 

In their classic book “Positioning: A Battle for Your Mind, Jack Trout and Al Ries stress the importance of reversing communication with your audience. Instead of communicating the advantages of yourproduct or service, effective B2B competitive positioning turns matters inside out and searches for the solution to the problem not inside the product, but inside your customer’s mind. “Positioning is not what you do to a product. Positioning is what you do to the mind of the prospect. That is, you position the product in the mind of the prospect.” (Ries & Trout, 2001)

Tech start-up branding and effective positioning are no different, you should always remember that your audience relates much better to solving their pain rather than obtaining a gain.

How do we know what already exists in people’s minds?

Each one of us holds in our mind countless products and services which we subconsciously organized into categories and associated brands. Good positioning is the ability to tap into the existing connections that already exist in your customer’s mind. 
Let’s demonstrate this with an example: think of everyday things we all use, like clothing, cars, and food. What comes to mind? most likely the big brands associated with each category. For example, when you think of chocolate you’ll probably think of Godiva, Lindt, or Hershey’s. If asked about cars, you’ll name Toyota, Mercedes, or Ford. 

Leading the category

But what If I asked you to name an electric car? Tesla will probably be the one to spring to mind, and I’ll bet you’ll also be thinking of its founder, Elon Musk. 
Back to positioning – Elon Musk is not Tesla’s founder, Martin Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning are. They founded Tesla motors long before Musk onboarded the company, yet most of us attribute the Tesla brand to him. This is just one example of great positioning! Tesla is now a household name. But if you try and think of another electric car brand, it may take you a while. Just as if I asked you to name the tallest mountain in the world. Most everyone knows it’s Mount Everest. But what about the second-tallest mountain in the world? Not many people would know.
You get my point. Nobody cares about the second. 

Another great example of owning a category is kleenex. “Pass me a Kleenex” simply means pass me a tissue but owns such a powerful position that its name is synonymous with a tissue, just like Band-Aid is with a plaster. When your product or your company’s name becomes a generic description of the product you sell, you have won the positioning game and locked down your spot in the mind of the consumer. That’s easy. 

But what if you are not the (lucky) first in the category? 

It simply means you must try harder.

Does that ring a bell? It probably does, since it’s one of the most iconic examples of a brilliant positioning strategy employed by Avis. Back in the early 60s, the leader and king of the rental car category were Hertz, who dominated the market unequivocally. Avis needed to come up with a positioning strategy that would take on the category leader. Rather than aiming for second place, they chose a different approach.

Their positioning was as simple as it was genius: “We are only in second place, and that’s why we try harder. When you’re not the biggest you have to.”  Avis’s positioning paid off, literally.

What is B2B brand positioning, and why does it matter?
So, when you think of your company or product, tap into what people have in mind, and find your unique value proposition to position yourself on the ladder. By ladder I mean look at the category you’re in and where you fit in. A ladder might be organized by price, velocity, or customer satisfaction. 

How do I use the ladders to effectively position my product or service?

You can invest all your time and money trying to climb to the top and dislodge an established brand, or you can implement creative branding and relate your brand to a leading company using the powerful tool of associative psychology. 
Another great example is the 1996 Daihatsu Hijet MPV Ad:

What is B2B brand positioning, and why does it matter?

To successfully position your product or service in the mind of the consumer, you need to find a specific position – a niche. A great example is the wildly successful ‘Dollar shave club’. Their name alone beautifully demonstrates their unique value proposition: cheap, affordable, and convenient. Up against the market leader Gillette, they positioned themselves as a cheeky alternative which is more relatable and appealing to the younger generation.  

How to create an effective B2B market positioning strategy?

1. Determine your company’s uniqueness by comparing it to competitors

2. Identify the current market position

3. Do a competitor positioning analysis

4. Develop your positioning strategy

The different types of Positioning Strategies: 

  • Product-centred:  Associating your product/ service with attributes of a certain beneficial value
  • Price-centred: Associating your product/ service with competitive pricing
  • Quality-centred: Associating your product/ service with high quality
  • Application-centred: Associating your product/ service with a specific use
  • The competition centred: Making consumers think that your product/ service is better than that of your competitors

Let’s have a look at the chocolate industry as an example: 

What is B2B brand positioning, and why does it matter?

Creating a perceptual map in market positioning

When looking to position your brand, a perceptual map should be created to show consumer perception of the different brands you’re up against. Outlining this map will allow you to position your competitors and find your unique value proposition in the market. You can find free templates for creating your perpetual positioning map
The great value of perceptual mapping is in the visual impact it provides. 
If you’ve ever come across Scot Brinker’s MarTech 5000, then you know the B2B SaaS market is exploding with solutions. That’s great news for consumers, but less so for sellers. 

What is B2B brand positioning, and why does it matter?

After positioning yourself and choosing your unique value proposition, you now have the complex mission of communicating with your target audience. 
Remember– a promise needs to be fulfilled, and your positioning will determine your brand’s entire look and feel from now on. Establishing your brand in the minds of your customers will take a long time and can only be done through consistent performance and communication. 


B2B brand positioning is undoubtedly one of the most important elements of creating your brand and an absolute must for launching a successful marketing strategy aimed at growing your business. Done and executed professionally, it has a long-lasting effect and easily outweighs any quick gain advertising campaigns.

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