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

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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.

Why defining the right persona is so important for your business success

Blog Branding Start-Up Tips

Who’s your ideal buyer persona? Now that’s a question marketers usually ask (and they should) at a kick off meeting with a new client.  So why is it so important for us marketing execs to understand the buyer persona and how do we break it down into pieces to really understand it?

Buyer personas are a major component of any effective inbound marketing strategy. Truth is, you have to know who you’re marketing and selling to before you can make a sale. Today’s customers only pay attention to marketing messages that are highly personalized, and highly relevant to their unique experiences and pain points – the things that tick them off and make their life hard, the things that eventually will move them to take action and contact you for a demo or a call.

So how do you go about defining your buyer persona? 

1. Research

Make sure you understand who it is you want to target, what’s their role, what geolocation, are they the end-user for the product you sell or only the decision maker?

2. Current clients

It’s always easy to start with what you know, by analyzing current clients.  Some of the questions you may be asking yourself are:

  • Who at their company contacted you first?
  • Were they the final decision maker?
  • What does their job look like?
  • Are they your company’s primary point of contact?
  • Do they manage people or processes?
  • Do they make most decisions alone or with a superior?

3. Your competition

Are your competitors seeing success in a certain segment you’d like to penetrate into? You can check out their website.  They’re probably developing specific content and sales offers that speak directly to the same market segment. You can learn a lot about those ideal buyer personas by looking at your competition.

4. Analytics

If you’ve done some marketing in the past (or current) take a peak and analyze your traffic.  Who’s visiting your website, where do they come from, what pages do they consume and what type of content was it.  Did they download any assets from the website? What type of content and messaging was used in those assets?  This will help you understand who’s consuming what you’re trying to sell.

So to reach a definition of who your buyer persona is, you need to define things like: buyer persona characteristics, buyer persona segmentation, how to use buyer personas, buyer persona research.  

Once you define your persona  you’ll be able to attract high-value visitors, leads, and customers to your business who you’ll be more likely to retain over time.

More specifically, having a deep understanding of your buyer persona is critical to driving the correct content creation, product development, sales enablement, and everything that relates to customer acquisition and retention.

After this research, I suggest you move onto what’s called buyer persona segmentation.  If your company serves different verticals/industries make sure you start segmenting by industry.  In B2C, segmentation is usually broken into gender, age, hobbies, whereas in B2B we look at parameters like; vertical type, job title/function, seniority, skills, geolocation, size of organization, and annual revenue (ARR).

Sometimes, especially in B2B, if you offer a variety of solutions, you may have to break it up by solution as well.  R&D job function may be the persona for one solution, whereas a Strategist may be for another!  Don’t be shy to sit and ask questions.

We’ve seen many times where the product user is not necessarily the decision-maker and vice versa.  When going about creating content and materials, you have to take this into account and create your materials with this distinction in mind.  Different materials and different messaging, different case studies that speak specifically to their motivations, pain points and business needs. To give you an example, In some organizations, the agent at a call center is the user of the product but the call center manager is the one who will recommend the CFO/CEO to buy your solution.  Hence, you have three (3) different users you need to impact with your marketing activities. 

Lastly, try and map it out in  a simple chart or document where it’s easy for you to visualize which persona is the right one for each vertical or solution.  Some people like to write it in the form of a paragraph, like writing a short story.  That way you wrote it and you understand it.

5. Roles & Goals

Another good way is by focusing on roles, goals, and challenges of the buyer persona you’re after.  This answers the question of how to use buyer personas?  By understanding the different roles and the goals to be achieved, you can now implement a plan and execute it properly.  

Once you know who your buyer personas are, and you’re familiar with their roles, goals, and challenges, you can develop marketing strategies tailored to just those people who you know are an excellent fit for your company. 

You can now use them in the following ways:

  • Familiarize your sales and marketing teams with each persona
  • Create ad campaigns that correspond to each persona
  • Develop content that speaks to the specific pain points of each persona
  • Monitor ongoing results and test your messaging.  See which ones “hit the spot,” and which ones failed; eliminate the ones that failed

To summarize and leave you with something to take away, I strongly suggest you take all the time you need to understand your personas and understand how to match the solution/s to each one.  If you get this right, the rest will fall into place.  if you get it wrong, you’re doomed to spend a lot of time and waste your budget.

Contact SAGE Marketing for professional advice on how to nail your personas right from the get-go. 

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