Once upon a time, there was a little island called Nowhere. On this island, there was just one of each kind of store. A grocery store, a car dealership, an insurance agency, a bank, and so on. It had been that way for 40 years. When visitors arrived, the first thing they noticed was the absence of advertising. No newspaper ads (No newspaper, actually), no store banners screaming “50% Off Sale!” No Grand Openings. No billboards. No radio or TV commercials. How weird.
Actually, it was quite natural, since none of these businesses had any competitors. If you wanted groceries, there was only one place to go. Same with all the other Nowhere businesses. So nobody needed to bother their heads with a thing called “positioning.” That is, explaining to customers and prospects what you offer that’s better than what your competitor offers. No competition, no advertising. Simple.
Everything was toodling along on in its friendly, non-competitive way on Nowhere, until one day, a second grocery store opened on the other side of the island. Steve, the manager of Grocery Store A, the original store, went into panic mode. The new store, Store B, was drawing away some of A’s customers with a newer look, bigger produce section, wider aisles and discounted prices. They’ve been posting handbills all over town inviting people to come in for a free hot dog and fries and a tour of the new store. How you gonna keep ‘em down in Store A, after they’ve seen Store B? Good question. The answer is positioning Store A as a better choice than Store B in the minds of customers.
Steve thinks of some meaningful benefits Store A offers versus Store B:
Think wonderful thoughts...
• We’ve been in business for 40 years, so we know what Nowhere residents want and need.
• We’re family-owned, whereas Store B is part of an impersonal international chain.
• We know you, your parents, and their parents by name.
• We’re not the cheapest, but we’re the best.
• Our store personnel are experienced. When you ask them a question about produce or meat, they know the answer.
• We’re closer to the main highway, so easier to get to.
• We support the Nowhere women’s softball team, AIDS walk, and various community service organizations.
• We offer bagging, carrying bags to your car, and drive-up service.
Whereas, Store B:
• Is staffed with young, inexperienced people.
• Has department managers who are from Somewhere island, where customers have very different tastes and lifestyles.
• Is a longer drive for most Nowhere residents.
• Offers cheaper prices because their stock is mostly off-brands from overseas.
• Is staffed with strangers who don’t know you.
• Is managed by a company executive from Belgium, who is unfamiliar with Nowhere’s environment.
• Carries items that Store A found Nowhere residents didn’t like.
• Has a long learning curve to know the community the way Store A does.
• Doesn’t sponsor community events.
• Keeps half the lights turned off to save on utilities, so you can’t see very well.
• Makes you bag your own groceries.
• Offers no carryout or drive-up conveniences.
Some positioning statements begin to emerge. Store A is “the one you know, and the one that knows you.” It’s the store where you find the things YOU want. A place that delivers exceptional expertise and service versus Store B.
Basically, “If you like a convenient store with an experienced staff that has known and taken care of you and your family for two generations, come to Store A. (As opposed to an impersonal, inconvenient new store with inexperienced help where you’re on your own, that is, Store B.)”
The positioning statement will have to be focused into a brief, memorable advertising tagline Store A can use in its advertising flyers (Steve realizes now he needs to start advertising to counter his competitor’s advertising, and probably to offer some discounted items and special events.).
Store B will probably position itself as the lower-cost alternative. Some people will always go for lower price. Nothing to be done about it. But many more people make purchases based on emotional connections or habit. That’s why “Tradition” is a big plus for many shoppers. And Store A has that going for it in spades.
So if any business has competitors — and outside of Nowhere, all businesses do — they must position themselves versus competition. And whether it’s in print, radio, TV, web messages, flyers or social media marketing, they must target and deliver their positioning messages to prospects and customers through some form of advertising.
So how do you begin to develop an effective positioning? By identifying your main competitor and making your strongest case for your business versus that competitor. Give it your best shot. With a strong strategy and focused messages targeted to the right audience, your communication campaign will, given enough time and an adequate media budget, yield positive business results for you.
Before you say it, I know, times are tough. Some businesses are laying off employees and putting off advertising and promotion. Buying “room in the box,” or space in the customer’s mind, is not cheap. But if you don’t do it, you leave a vacuum where your competitor can stake out territory. Then you’ll spend a lot more later trying to vacate the squatter from your former space.
Could you use help devising your most effective positioning, marketing strategy and creative strategy? Call me at 913-236-7595. Let me put my 20 years of ad agency experience to work for you. Together, we can position your business against your competition — to win.
‘Cause there’s no place like Nowhere.