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Competitive positioning to set your brand apart

Distinguish your brand as the superior choice through competitive positioning. Explore our solutions that can help.

This strategy is all about determining factors that differentiate your company from your competitors with the overarching goal of increasing sales. Let’s take a closer look at what you can do to implement this strategy in your company.

What is market positioning?

Market positioning is the strategy used to influence consumer perception of your business. It uses promotion, price, place, product, and competition to define your brand image. In the words of Philip Kotler, known as Father of Modern Marketing, “Brand positioning is the act of designing the company's offering and image to occupy a distinctive place in the mind of the target market.” In other words, market positioning is the “one thing” your brand is known for by customers.

When you determine what it is that differentiates your business, you can write your unique value proposition (UVP) statement. This is not a tagline or slogan. It’s a statement that explains what makes you different, your value, and to whom you provide that value.

For example, the Nike UVP is focused on satisfying customers with a superior product made out of the best materials and most current technologies, which is also fashionable, worn by serious athletes and sports stars, and is accessible to anybody.

Sticking with the Nike example, its branding and message focus on empowering people. Part of their brand purpose states, “If you have a body, you are an athlete.” Their tagline, “Just Do It,” supports this statement. Their market positioning is that they are known as the expert athletic brand for inspiration and innovation.

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Advantages of strong positioning

It’s important to position your brand effectively because the competition is constantly growing. According to the US Census, over 400,000 business applications were submitted in January 2022. That’s just one month in one country! Add that to the number of existing businesses, and you’ll see why you need strong positioning.

Advantages of strong positioning include:

  • Competitive position in the market
  • Improved sales
  • Clearer target markets
  • Effective decision making
  • Connect to consumer needs

Elements of a positioning strategy

There are 4 main elements to consider when creating a positioning strategy.

The market 

A thorough understanding of the market is necessary to figure out where your company fits. Is the market large or small? How many competitors are there? Where are they in the product life cycle of their competing product? What are they known for?

Audience needs

Use market research and social media to find out what your target market is looking for from a company like yours. That information will prove useful in determining how your company can meet those needs better than your competitors. Frame your marketing and advertising through the lens of meeting those needs.

Company performance

Evaluate your company’s performance with a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats (SWOT) analysis. This will help you understand your company’s potential as well as areas for development. A SWOT analysis can be a very powerful tool for evaluating your business.

Value of your product/service

Use your price point and the benefits of your product or service to determine its value. Does your price point match the attributes of your offering? If so, you’re more likely to have a higher competitive market position than competitors who ask higher prices for less beneficial products. What is your UVP?

Competitive positioning

You’ve established your market position—you know how you want customers to perceive your brand. Now it’s time for some competitive positioning. This marketing strategy involves distinguishing your brand from the competition by looking at the value your brand offers, audience needs, and current trends. You want your business to stand out from the competition for what you can offer to the customer that they cannot.

Goal of competitive positioning

The goal of competitive positioning is to increase sales. This is accomplished by improving your brand’s value for customers. This is when your brand is identified or known for a certain characteristic or feature that differs from others.

Advantages of competitive positioning

Competitive positioning improves your brand’s probability of success by solidifying the idea that you deliver more value than your competitors. In fact, the more you can differentiate yourself from others, the better you can market yourself as a business that is a standout from the rest of the pack.  

As you develop your strategy for competitive positioning, you’ll find yourself with a clearer picture of your target market segment, an in-depth competitive frame of reference, and stronger brand identity. Positioning comes before branding because you need to know what you stand for and the value you offer to customers before you can create a logo, slogan, or color palette that represents your company.

What is a company’s competitive position?

Your competitive position is composed of four key elements:

  1. Differentiation from the competition
  2. Value proposition for customers
  3. Brand promise so customers know what to expect
  4. Singularity concept that lets customers know the one thing you have/do that is distinctive

SurveyMonkey has a competitive landscape analysis process that includes finding your top competitors, identifying their products or services, finding their strengths and weaknesses, examining the strategies they use to achieve their objectives, and the overall outlook for the market. The data that is collected from this process is invaluable to defining your competitive position.

Competitive analysis data can be used to determine your future direction, establish your unique value proposition, understand market perception, and create a competitive benchmark. 

How to create competitive value

There are three essential methods for delivering competitive value to your customers: operational excellence, product leadership, and customer intimacy. Each method is focused on a specific aspect of customer interest. They are designed to appeal to your audience and increase sales.

Operational excellence 

This method adds competitive value to your company by showing that you provide a high volume of quality products at a low cost. Efficient manufacturing is important to producing a lot of products that can be sold quickly. These products are usually necessary items that remain unchanged over time, like silverware or hairbrushes.

Product leadership

When you use product leadership to distinguish your company, you're marketing the uniqueness and quality of your products. This will solidify your company’s reputation as an expert and leader in its field as you look for ways to improve and add to your products. Often, tech companies vie for product leadership in their niches. 

Customer relationships 

Loyal customers will not only purchase your products, they’ll recommend them to friends, family, and social media connections. Marketing with customer relationships includes actively engaging customers on social and review platforms, listening to customer feedback and taking action based on it, and highlighting user-generated content in your content strategy.

How to create a competitive positioning strategy

Whether you’re starting a new company, launching a new product, expanding your business, or looking for a new competitive edge, it’s time to work on a competitive positioning strategy. Throughout the process, you’ll find that surveys are important tools to gain an in-depth understanding of your competitors. Let’s go through the necessary steps to get your strategy started. 

Of course, competitive positioning isn’t the only effective way to position your company. Brand positioning defines who your company is and why customers should buy from you through your brand positioning statement.

Profile your market

First, you’ll be looking at your market as a whole. How big is it? Who are your major competitors and how are they positioned? What stage of the life cycle is your market in—introductory, growth, maturity, or decline?

In this, and all sections, document your results, observations, and any data collected for easy reference and to revise as the market changes.

Segment the market

Conduct market research to identify your target market and find out what they want and need from a brand like yours. If you know their problems, your company can offer solutions—and gain a huge competitive advantage.

Divide your target market into segments that share similar problems and can use your product in comparable ways to solve them. This will help you personalize your marketing to each specific segment. 

Define how you deliver value

Will you deliver operational efficiency with the lowest price? Product leadership with the latest innovations? Or customer intimacy with the best solutions, interactions, and customer service? Decide what you can do the best job at delivering—that’s how you deliver value.

Study the competition

Understand your competitors by gathering information about them. A survey is the best tool for conducting a competitive analysis. As you analyze your competitors’ information, take note of those that can solve the problems presented by your customers—even if their solutions are different—because they are still in competition for the same customers.

Categorize the competition in terms of operational efficiency, product leadership, and customer intimacy and determine where you rank in each. Do your best to be impartial.

Stake a position

Once you’ve found gaps in what your competitors offer, decide if you can fill those gaps for the customers. These areas are major opportunities for you to fit into a niche. Now it’s time to decide how you will be positioning your company.

Decide what you want to be known for

What differentiates your business? If you haven’t already, it’s time to decide what the “one thing” is that you want your customers to identify you with. 

Tips for developing a competitive positioning strategy

  • Create a list of goals - Meet with your team, marketing, and management to set short and long-term goals for your competitive positioning.
  • Be an expert in your market - You’ve already done a great deal of market research, so use the data to gain a deeper understanding of your company and its target market. Be sure to track current trends and new offerings from the competition.
  • Analyze your competitors - Ongoing research into your competitors will keep you abreast of any new improvements or changes in their marketing strategies. Use the information to stay relevant and inform innovative marketing campaigns.
  • Understand your price vs. benefit - Do a cost-benefit analysis of your competitors’ products. If you find that they offer more value than your company, use the information to adjust products or prices to offer superior value. Find out if your customers are price-sensitive with SurveyMonkey Market Research Solutions and use the Van Westendorp Price Sensitivity Meter to help you determine your optimal price point.
  • Make a timeline - A timeline will assist you with meeting campaign and goal deadlines. The visual reference will keep you on track for company growth.
  • Find your niche - If you have a unique offering that appeals to a specific market segment, you can use that niche to inform your marketing. Market your company as the one who has exactly what those customers want—and that you are different and better than the competition.
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Examples of companies using competitive positioning

Let’s take a look at some familiar companies and how they are using competitive positioning.

Axe

Axe focused on a target audience of young men for its body sprays. Their advertising and marketing appealed to their target market’s desire to attract young women while acknowledging that it isn’t easy to do so. They positioned themselves as the brand that makes products that make users magnets for girls. The marketing strategy has been very successful, even as the company has expanded into hair and body care products.

Bonobos

Focusing on a specific niche—men who don’t like store-bought pants— Bonobos narrowed its focus from men’s apparel to just pants. They focused on making the perfect pair of pants and marketing to that niche. Now they have expanded into other categories of menswear, but they still focus on perfect-fitting pants.

Apple

Apple has consistently introduced innovation into the market. From its early Macintosh computers to iPods to MacBook Airs, Apple takes on the current tech market with its position of innovation.

Walmart

When we discussed price sensitivity, did Walmart come to mind? Their main competitive focus is on low prices and saving money. 

Let’s look at a few examples of how companies have used competitive positioning to go head-to-head.

Toyota vs. Tesla

Toyota’s Prius hybrid vehicles dominated the market for people who wanted an eco-friendly car. They were less concerned with how the car looked or performed—it was providing an affordable hybrid vehicle. 

Tesla broke into that same eco-conscious market with a luxury sport vehicle. They found their niche in the higher-end, luxury-seeking, eco-friendly customer.

Taco Bell vs. Chipotle

Taco Bell spent a long time in the #1 position for fast food Mexican restaurants. Their target market was customers looking for cheap, fast Tex-Mex meals.

Chipotle jumped in and, instead of competing on cost, they promoted the quality of their food. They appealed to customers who wanted fresh ingredients and a fun, urban environment in the restaurant.

Venmo vs. Cash App

This is a clear case of choosing your target segment wisely. Venmo is more social, with the ability to not only send cash but also leave a note—or some cute emojis—along with it. You even have a friend feed to tap into the social, personal feeling of the brand. 

On the other hand, Cash App is all business. No notes or over-sharing, just easy, efficient payment.

Set your brand apart with competitive positioning

Get your brand started on the right foot with competitive positioning. Begin to collect the data to inform your decisions with our Market Research Solutions and explore AI-powered marketing solutions with Momentive, the maker of SurveyMonkey.