How to build a B2B tech/saas product market positioning
Product market positioning is a critical aspect of marketing strategy for new products, especially for B2B technology and software products. Given today's innovation speed and competitive landscape evolution, it is essential to position innovations effectively to highlight their value and key differences from competitors. By understanding the specific nuances of new product positioning for new B2B high-tech products, founders, CEOs, product management, marketers, and product marketing can accelerate product/market fit and new product revenue, maximizing their return on innovation.
What is product market positioning strategy?
Product market positioning refers to the strategic process of placing a product or service in the minds of consumers relative to its alternatives, which may or may not be competitive products. It involves identifying and highlighting your product's unique features, benefits, and value propositions and placing them in your target's minds in a way perceived as much-needed, credible, and differentiated.
How is it different from brand positioning strategy?
On one hand, brand positioning strategy helps established businesses with a mature product consider how to stand out, build defensible barriers, and win more deals.
On the other hand, product market positioning is about positioning for a new product or innovation. Although there are some similarities and most of these frameworks can be used for brand positioning, we will focus this article on positioning for new B2B tech/saas products and innovations. That's why we are coining the model Positioning-to-market™: to put together positioning and go-to-market strategy.
Importance of positioning in B2B technology and software
The main difference in B2B technology buying decisions versus other products (like consumer or cheap products) is that they are high-risk decisions: technologies change quickly, providers are created and die every day, products can require a steep learning curve, integration, and change management in the clients, putting the implementation projects at risk. A strong market position will help overcome objections related to risk.
Effective market positioning strategy requires market research, competitor analysis, and segmentation to identify target market segments, customer needs, and preferences. By understanding customer pain points and unique product features, businesses can position their innovations in a way that resonates with potential customers and effectively communicates value propositions.
A key component of new product positioning is developing a clear product positioning statement that reflects the product’s unique value proposition, target audience, and competitive advantage. This statement is a guiding principle for your product, marketing and sales teams, ensuring they align with the product positioning strategy.
What do all B2B technology category leaders have in common?
- All have a strong, differentiated positioning. The market knows, gets, understands, and is aligned on what they do, to whom, why, and when to call them.
- All understand that product positioning is a strategic CEO-led initiative for accelerating revenue and commanding a higher valuation.
- All recognize that breakaway differentiation requires a predictable shift in focus: from technology to product to market to company, always with a buyer-centric positioning strategy.
When is a positioning strategy most important?
- When a new product is developed, ready to launch
- When there is a lack of success in customer segment to date
- Erosion of market share
- Introducing an existing product into a new application or use case
- Introducing an existing product into a new geographic region
- The competitive environment has shifted:
- New competitors or loss of competitors
- Major change in competitor’s strategy
- Alternative solution gains a toehold in the market
- The market environment has changed
- New technology
- Economic forces
- Standards stabilizing
If any of those apply to your situation, it is time to prioritize resources to rethink your positioning strategy.
What are the indicators of a successful product positioning?
- Your company has a strong point of view that captures the market's attention. The market knows why to call you and when.
- Your market ecosystem knows and is aligned with your positioning (market alignment).
- Everyone is on the same page in your company (internal alignment).
- Sales engage at a decision-making level.
- Your solution commands a premium price. Sales don't complain mainly about pricing.
- There is buyer urgency: your solution is a “got-to-have” rather than a nice-to-have.
- Analysts and customers are adopting your language and publishing you.
Questions your positioning strategy must answer
- In which market/product category will you compete? Should you create a category or lead an existing one?
- Why should others (investors, employees, customers, partners, thought leaders...) believe in and commit to this business opportunity?
- Which market and customer segment to target? In which order? What problem or pain do you solve for them?
- How do you differentiate your product from competitors or status quo in a way that matters to the target segment?
- What evidence will you use to make the declared positioning strategy credible to the market?
Positioning-to-market™: building an effective positioning strategy for innovations
If you are familiar with our methods, the following process will resemble you to our 10-step go-to-market strategy framework. You're right. We are working on this new version to assemble a product positioning plan with a go-to-market strategy with a double goal: making the process more digestible and coining a new model to differentiate ourselves: Positioning-to-market™.
This article will focus on steps 1, 2, and 5, which are the most commonly related to positioning strategy.
1 - Designing your product market positioning strategy
Winning positioning strategies are built at the intersection of 3 elements:
- Relevancy: What is critically important to your target customers?
- Credibility: What are your strengths (we call them crown jewels) that can be used to make your positioning more credible?
- Differentiation: How are you different from similar products in your niche, main competitors, or status quo?
Equally important is the 4th element, contextual information about your market or category, which highly influences positioning decisions.
The market and industry context
The first step is to execute market research and understand the type of innovation you're launching and its location in The Technology Adoption Lifecycle curve. This market maturity highly influences positioning and go-to-market strategy decisions about your product:
- If you are creating an innovation that requires behavioral change, workflow change, or a lot of learning, you're making a new discontinuous market in an early market. In this case, you can position your innovation as a horizontal technology that targets multiple use cases and industries to discover your early customers and find your most lucrative market.
- Suppose you're creating a new product gaining traction from mainstream customers. In that case, you want to score your opportunities and find a beachhead segment or niche (Ideal Customer Profile) in which you can deliver the highest value proposition. This phase if about focusing your positioning, and you must be particular with the block's relevancy, credibility, and differentiation.
During this market research phase, you want to understand how market trends may impact your innovation. Research the trends and revisit them when you're working on framing your product positioning. Market trends and insights are an excellent way to frame the problem you solve and start your pitch. They grab your audience's attention by starting with something insightful and counterintuitive or a trend everyone knows and is relevant to frame your product with your storytelling.
For example, if you are launching a software that helps your target audience to save money in 2022 or early 2023 in the USA, you could use the economic downturn as a starting point to frame your solution. Another way to start, is by sharing an insight or point of view that makes your target think.
This step also includes understanding current market perceptions, how people are categorizing (the mental box in your customer's minds, like "CRM" or "email marketing platform") products like yours, and terms that are driving confusion.
Strategizing relevancy: target customer research
The second element is understanding your target market and their motivations to buy profoundly. For each potential target audience, interview 12 to 15 people and create a customer scenario with the patterns that you find. This scenario worksheet should include:
You can also use tools like Wynter to research and get insights from your targets to complement your interviews.
We've created a visual example of a target scenario worksheet for the AI Meetings assistant tool fathom.video:
1. Define the high-level scenario and workflow of the end user and the problem you're analyzing:
2. Define what is broken for them. Their pains, their struggles, their frustrations, and the penalties of doing it this way:
3. Define how your innovation or product attempts to solve the issues:
If you do a great job in this step, the messaging step will be almost done.
Strategizing credibility: strengths
Your strengths will make your position more credible and potentially challenging to copy. Technology is easy to copy, but your knowledge, experience, insights, or customer base are almost impossible to replicate.
During this step, you must build a SWOT analysis and consider how your strengths and weaknesses can impact your positioning strategy.
You can think about strengths in different ways:
- If you're a mature company, you can use your track record, customer base, IPs, or expertise as a part of your positioning strategy for your new product. You already have company strengths.
- If you are a founder starting a new idea or innovation, you want to use your experience and knowledge as proof that product/innovation can make a change.
To go to market with a brand new innovation, it's okay if you can't prove strengths, as your early adopters don't care much about that. You can build your strengths as you gain more traction in the market.
Strategizing differentiation: competitor whitespaces
By now, you understand your target customer's scenario, market context, and strengths.
By performing competitive research, you'll find the whitespace you need to solve a different problem relevant to your audience, do it differently, or demonstrate better strengths than your competitors.
Your main competitor may or may not be an existing solution. It could be a current end-user behavior or status quo. If you're in an early market, your main competitor is probably the status quo. The less risky decision for prospective buyers is to remain the same, even if this sounds counterintuitive. Most people don't want to change or risk trying an emerging innovation that requires workflow change. That privilege is reserved for innovators and early adopters (16% of the population).
Narrowing down your position: segmentation scoring
Your product innovation and go-to-market resources are limited. If you spread them by targeting multiple audiences, you will run out of money or resources before you find a profitable market. Imagine building features for diverse end-users, multiple marketing assets, value propositions, distribution channels... that's not an optimized go-to-market strategy.
The sooner you find a niche you can win, the sooner you can communicate that win as a competitive strength to drive credibility and go after a new segment from a stronger market and financial position.
Suppose you're in an early market with a horizontal product or technology, exploring multiple potential target customers or segments. You can use this opportunity scoring template to find who can be the beachhead segment that will allow you to win and jump into adjacent segments by following the bowling pin strategy.
2.Communicating your intended product positioning: messaging
Once you have done all the strategizing work, it is time to put it in words and a document that you must use to share with your team to drive alignment and revisit as you learn from the market feedback loops. This template is a set of marketing messages you will use to communicate your positioning strategy internally and externally.
Here's when you'll build your set of market messages:
- Definition of your market category — The mental "box" people put you in
- Target market — Segment + use case/application + industry priorities - Whom do you sell to?
- Main Problem Statement -- What is the primary pain or struggle you solve for your target audience?
- Top competitors — Competitive solutions [mature markets] or an established behavior [new markets]
- Value Proposition
- Complete Product Offering Messages — How do you do it?
- Adoption Objections handling messages.- The Brand Differentiation Wheel™.
- Differentiators [intangibles vs. tangibles] — Why buy you?
- Sense of buying urgency — Why buy from you NOW?
- Credibility statements — Why should I trust you? As soon as you can, include proof of benefits.
Creating a marketing positioning statement is crucial to drive alignment. A positioning statement defines the unique position of a product, communicates the value proposition clearly, and aligns with the company's marketing efforts. By developing a positioning statement that reflects the company's brand identity, target audience, competitive advantage, and unique value proposition, businesses can effectively guide their marketing strategy, product positioning, and sales process.
All this can be summarized in a product positioning statement template:
Testing your messages
We recommend you test your positioning messages, which will also provide feedback from your audience and maybe get your first customers. Here you have some ideas to test your messages:
- Create a website/landing page and test the messages and value proposition with Wynter.
- Create a sales pitch and share it live with players in your market ecosystem (see step 3).
- If you have a customer base, find who can be early adopters. If they might be interested, pitch them and see how they react.
The best way to test your positioning messages is, well, sell your product with them!
All this testing is a market feedback loop that comes after and just after you have performed the initial market and audience research steps.
Positioning statement examples
Convertkit's positioning statement:
Your messages must evolve
Your positioning messages to emphasize must evolve as your market matures. Positioning is not one point in time but a dynamic exercise because the types of buyers you'll find in a tech market make decisions based on different criteria.
And because we don't know the type of buyer that will be reading our website, we must provide all types of messages to position our product (and, at some point, brand positioning) as a highly differentiated, relevant, trusted, and low-risk solution.
Difference between copywriting, messaging, and positioning strategy
We continually face this question, so we've created this slide to help answer it:
3.Activating your positioning
You don't position your product; the market does it — influenced by the top 10% ecosystem of players.
Every market has a set of ecosystem or infrastructure players between your product/brand and your potential new customers. 10% of these ecosystem players influence the other 90%. Remember, a position is a mental space or perception not made with advertising. And these players are the ones influencing the creation of those mental positions, mainly through WOM. They must be part of your positioning marketing plan to create your desired market position.
The next pyramid represents a part of the market ecosystem in the Incident Management software space in the USA in 2023:
The best way to help the market position your product in a way that highlights your strengths and uniqueness is by leveraging your market ecosystem. Build relationships with the top 10% of players in the ecosystem, address their concerns about your product, and nurture them with custom marketing messages they can share with the rest of the market.
Understanding the market ecosystem forces and building relations with the top 10% of influencers is critical to increasing Word-of-mouth and building your market position. Building this WOM system reduces customer acquisition costs, positions your product in the market, builds credibility and brand awareness and optimizes market pull.
Once you have your draft of positioning strategy and messages ready, follow these steps to introduce your product and activate your position:
- Map your market infrastructure of players. Follow the pyramid and define the layers and individuals that compose your market infrastructure. Use Linked, Google and Sparktoro as your tools for this step.
- Research each player.
- Create an outreach and content strategy for each layer in the pyramid. Use this Miro board to facilitate a team working session.
- Assign and owner to develop a relationship.
- Ask for feedback from the players. Fix their concerns and get back with your fixes in terms of product and messaging.
- Keep the relationship warm. As you develop the relationship, you may want to co-author papers/posts, co-speak at events, go live with them, and contribute to industry reports...
The following image is an example of activating your product positioning. By securing a podcast interview hosted by a 3rd party thought leader in the market ecosystem of our client, the CEO was able to spread messages that echo their positioning strategy, gaining credibility because he did it with an objective, unbiased 3rd party player that has no intention to sell any solution.
Product positioning is crucial to the success of new B2B technology and software products. It helps differentiate your new product from the competition and communicate its uniqueness to your target audience. Take the time to evaluate positioning possibilities for your innovation, perform thorough market and audience research, identify whitespace, and develop a desired positioning strategy and activation plan to be seen as a credible, relevant, and differentiated provider by your target customers.
Email us to let us know what you think about the Positioning-to-market™ framework! Is it easier to follow than the 10-step go-to-market strategy? What do you like and what you don't?
Are you in the right track to product/market fit?
Innovation and go-to-market strategy online assessment
Assess 39 elements and 8 dimensions of your innovation + go-to-market strategy with our online assessment.
Know where to put more efforts to achieve product/market fit.