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Planning and Managing Strategic Positioning

Planning and Managing Strategic Positioning

By Tim Berry, Guest Blogger
Published: July 19, 2012


One of the most important benefits of good business planning is strategic positioning. Especially as technology advances and markets grow constantly more narrow and more defined, positioning is vital. You can use your business plan, with regular review and revisions, to keep steering towards the right positioning.

The change in segmentation and strategy is remarkable. Take television sports as an example. We started with sports programs on network television. Now we have several mainstream sports channels, and separate channels for pro football, college football, tennis, golf, basketball, baseball and who knows what else. Restaurants are another good example. Think of how finely restaurant categories divide: not just fast food, but several varieties of allegedly ethnic fast foods, organic, local and so on.

This offers the normal small business the benefits of strategically defining a position that ropes off a set of specific target market and business offerings to enhance the relationship between business and customer. The phrase “target marketing” has been around about forever, but now it really means something.

You can use this classic positioning statement as a starting point:

For [target market description] who [target market need] [how our business offering meets the need]. Unlike [key competition], it [most distinguishing feature].  

And here’s an example:

For local small business owners who know they could optimize their business with more social media but don’t have time to actually do it, our social media services get it done for them without taking their time and effort. Unlike most social media consulting, we don’t just advise; we roll up our sleeves and do the work.

And another example:

For busy people looking for quick meals who care about local economies and their personal health and nutrition, our fast foods are organic, local, and healthy. Unlike most fast foods offerings, we use fresh local ingredients, organic, grilled not fried, with a lot of vegetables and vegetarian options, and local free-range meats

Both of those examples are old-fashioned positioning statements that show how much strategy is inherent in positioning. In both cases, the definition of target market at the opening should help the business enormously as it develops marketing messages and marketing plans because it has a more clearly defined understanding of the people it’s trying to reach. And in both cases the business offering is defined strategically to match the needs of the target market.

Positioning like this is a good reminder of how strategy is as much a matter of what your business doesn’t do as what it does. Both of these example businesses should be able to focus better on their particular piece of the larger market pie.

As part of your business planning process, your positioning doesn’t have to take any particular form. In planning, like in most of business, form follows function; doing the actual format doesn’t matter. I don’t think of business planning as producing a single written document, but as a process of regular review and revision. Let the positioning statement be a slide, a paragraph, pictures, a presentation, or whatever … the key is that when you review your planning, every month, you take a few minutes to go over your positioning. First, you remind yourself of your strategy. Second, you take a few minutes to consider changes in the market, and changes in your assumptions, that might require changing that positioning.

Positioning reminds me of my favorite marketing quote, which is actually from Bill Cosby, who was talking about a lot more than marketing:

“I don’t know the secret to success, but I do know that the secret to failure is trying to please everybody.”

About the Author:

Tim Berry
Tim Berry

Guest Blogger

Founder and Chairman of Palo Alto Software and bplans.com, on twitter as Timberry, blogging at timberry.bplans.com. His collected posts are at blog.timberry.com. Stanford MBA. Married 46 years, father of 5. Author of business plan software Business Plan Pro and www.liveplan.com and books including his latest, 'Lean Business Planning,' 2015, Motivational Press. Contents of that book are available for web browsing free at leanplan.com .