The goal of marketing is to find and build relationships with customers. The role of marketing is at the interface between customers and the business that needs customers to build financial value.
In most markets, competitors are trying to build relationships with the same customers. Therefore, when launching and positioning a product or service with the intent of targeting potential customers and converting them into loyal customers, marketers need to think not only of customers but also of the company, as well as existing and potential competitors.
Positioning: product-market-fit (but what is a market?)
One of the main roles of marketers is to position a product by finding a “match” between the market and the product / service they are selling.
Part of the problem marketers face in confirming product / market customization lies in the “market” concept: a market is not a tangible thing, but a social construct (you cannot see, feel, hear, or use a market touch). As a result, some marketers tend to focus on a product or service that they can see – and consider those products and services as “the market”.
Seen in this light, the market exists at a narrow category or industry level, which prompts leading marketers to immediately focus on a vague idea of a “target market” and then switch straight to personas, audience types, SIC codes, verticals, messaging. and stories – without ever thinking about what a market really is.
This approach can further lead to the well-known problem of marketing myopia. The classic example of this is the buggy whip industry and the way it went blind with the creation of the automobile.
Advantages vs. characteristics, attributes, properties (what does the market want?)
Once marketers narrow their focus to products and services, they focus on traits, attributes, and characteristics.
It is very natural to believe that customers buy products and think about their characteristics and properties. People think about such things. But is that really why they are buying something? As Theodore Levitt, the well-known management and marketing legend, said, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!”
In other words, people ultimately want the benefits of a product or service. And by “people” I am not only referring to individual consumers, but also to companies and areas of the company that also want advantages.
If you’re not sure if this is the case, take a look around the room you’re in now, find something you own and like, and ask yourself, “Why did I buy this? ” Sure, it could be a nice feature, but why did you want this feature? If you repeatedly ask yourself why? You will understand Theodore Levitt’s central message.
When marketers focus on traits, attributes, and traits, they are focusing their attention inward, on the company and its products, and away from customers. When they focus on benefits, they focus their attention outward – on what customers are really buying.
Indeed you can Think of a market as “a group of customers who want or need different types of benefits that they derive from products / services that offer those benefits.”
The Benefits of Focusing on Benefits (What’s In It For Marketing Professionals?)
There are other reasons to focus on the benefits:
- First of all, you’re obsessed with what customers really want. We all talk about being “customer-centric,” and that’s how you do it.
- Second, don’t add features that customers don’t want and don’t pay for.
- Finally, you avoid being blinded by competitors and substitute products.
Think of the taxi industry. Companies liked to focus on taxis, territories, and other traditional aspects of the industry. But then Uber and Lyft came along and they offered more benefits to customers. Uber and Lyft didn’t create any new perks … they just offered perks that people already wanted.
That doesn’t mean that features, attributes, and properties aren’t important. They are. It is these aspects of products that ultimately provide the benefits that customers want. However, marketers should focus on customer benefits first … and only later on the critical product aspects necessary to deliver those benefits.
Marketers are often asked to turn their attention to “vertical marketing,” certain sized businesses, or other easily identifiable characteristics. You can still turn your attention to these characteristics, but you think of them as “descriptors” of a segment – not the segment itself.
A unique and defensible position (where do you fit in the market?)
If you want to be in a unique and tenable position instead of starting with the company, its products, or an industry, start with the people who are thinking about buying your product. You live out there – on the “market”! More precisely, they are the market.
How do you ensure that you have a clear, unique and defensible position in the market? Contact us at MarketingProfs and we can help you.
Additional resources for product positioning and market adaptation
Positioning in Crowded Markets: How to Obviously Make Any Product Great
The key to successful positioning: ‘3Cs’ research
26 General Questions About Brand Positioning (And Building Your Brand Story)