A fast & simple product positioning exercise

Simplicity is the key to effective messaging. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to achieve.

Especially when your product has so many direct competitors breathing down your neck.

The natural impulse is to quickly talk about as many features as you can without taking a breath.


This makes it harder for people to understand your product’s overall value and uniqueness.

A great way to get back on track with your overall product message is to think about your positioning in super simple terms. Try this easy product positioning exercise.


What is positioning?

There are lots of technical definitions of positioning out there. I’m talking about a super simple version.

Quite simply, positioning is how people perceive your product. Great positioning helps people instantly “get it” by relating your product to something that’s already established in their brain.

For example, the very first automobiles were called “horseless carriages”, relating the innovation to something people understood. Introducing the first “car” would have taken a lot more explaining.

(This is also why creating your own new arena is tough. Because you’re always having to work with what’s already in your prospect’s mind. But that’s another blog post…)

Relying on common industry buzzwords won’t make things clearer either. Over-used words like “solution”, “intelligence” and “AI” often fall on deaf ears. Despite being plastered everywhere, these words have weak or esoteric meaning in people’s minds. (Heck, AI still makes me think of Spielberg first.)

Effective positioning will make your product’s value more instantly recognizable. And it’s way easier than you think.


Simplicity positioning: a quick ‘n’ dirty exercise

Here’s a fast way to take a different perspective on your product.

Imagine you’re at a family BBQ and your cousin Joan asks what your product does. Joan’s a smart 43-year-old English teacher. A self-professed Luddite, she waves off your technical explanation and asks for a simple analogy instead.

Challenge yourself to help Joan understand your product.

Brainstorm as many analogies and metaphors for your product as possible. Think about how your product fits into your customers’ lives — the outcomes, benefits and overarching value.

Here are examples to get your ideas flowin’:

  • Other types of tools (ie the Swiss Army Knife for customer care)
  • An unrelated product (ie like Waze for business intelligence)
  • What you’re against (ie anti-cable clutter for wireless mirroring)
  • Other brands (ie the Prius of meal planning)
  • A random metaphor (sherpas of email list growth)

Once you’re well and truly analogized out, grab someone from sales and ask them to play. Are there any analogies they commonly use with prospects? What’s worked before?

I’ve received some of the best answers from customers themselves. Their answers are completely free from bias, and therefore usually different from our own.

If you can survey some happy customers, you might get a truly illuminating answer.


Bringing your positioning to life

So your product is like a treasure map because it helps salespeople find the best leads. Now what?

Look for opportunities to reframe the way you talk about your product, based on your simple positioning.

That doesn’t mean using the exact words “treasure map” anywhere — but the concept could reshape your value proposition into something like “know where to find your next customer.”

The treasure map could help you re-prioritize benefits, set up your sales pitch, or help focus your product story.

It’s natural to overcomplicate things when you’re in the weeds of your product. Taking a moment to think about your product in the simplest of terms can be a real eye-opener. A breath of fresh air, even.

You never know where a simple analogy may take you.

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