April Dunford on positioning vs messaging (Lenny’s Podcast)

Created on

June 13 2022

Created by Medha Basu. This summary was largely done for my own note-taking, sharing it just in case it adds more value to other people. Any errors are mine :)



How do you know if positioning is a problem?

  • Weak positioning hurts across all stages of the sales pipeline so it’s hard to measure
  • Sales calls tell a lot - sometimes there’s confusion about what the company actually does, or why someone should pay for it
  • Lack of alignment across teams (majority of the time this is the problem). Positioning needs to be a group effort

What is positioning?

  • defines how your product is the best in the world at providing some value that a well defined set of companies care about. Includes:
    • What value can you deliver that no one else can → differentiated value
    • Who cares about that value

What does good positioning look like?

  • feels obvious, clear, simple
  • Changes over time (like messaging)
  • If I’m selling a deeply technical thing to deeply technical buyers, doesn’t matter what your grandmother thinks of it. What matters is whether your buyer gets it.
  • True test is whether a qualified prospect gets it

Positioning process

  • First step to do a positioning exercise is to figure out what you’re positioning against - what do I have to beat to get a deal?
    • Shouldn’t discount the status quo here - not just your competitors
  • Next - what makes you different? Capabilities of the product and company. Then translate that into value - why should the customer care about this capability? That generally translates into 3-4 value buckets or themes.
  • Not everyone cares equally about those values - so why are the characteristics of a company that make them care a lot about your differentiated value? That’s your definition of the best-fit customer.
  • Summary of this process: Competitive alternatives → differentiated capabilities → values → best-fit customers → market category (that makes the value super obvious to the customer)
  • Turn positioning into a sales narrative that clicks with the kind of customers we know we can sell to
  • Tell people why they should pick you - help them figure out how to justify the decision to pick you. Need to be able to articulate how you’re better.
  • “Better” has two pieces to it: what’s the value and who cares about that value? Because better means soemthing different for diff people. Why are we the best kind of solution for this particular kind of customer?

Messaging vs positioning

  • Positioning is a fundamental input to a messaging
  • I can’t write the messaging until i understand who’s the message for, what’s the value, against who.
  • Confusing between positioning and branding: if i was to work on branding, i can’t figure out what i want the brand to strand for unless i understand who’s my target buyer and what’s my differentiation from the alternatives.
  • Everything in marketing and sales flows from positioning
  • From example, the Segway was positioned as the “future of transport” - that was too broad, people were expecting flying cars. In the end, it was a failure.

How does April help companies

  • A lot of what April does it now is to help facilitate internal conversations.
  • takes between a couple of days to a week
  • In early days of product, useful to keep positioning loose and let the market pull you in a market you didn’t think you would go. Then look at the signals from customers and who loves it, and then can tighten it up.
  • Customers may all look very different, but need to find the pattern across them.

Segmentation vs personas

  • Segmentation is how you divide up the market - what is common among the companies that love us
  • in a B2B purchase process, typically have between 5 and 7 people making the decision.
    • Personas are about people - characteristics of a particular buyer. By far the most important persona is the ‘champion’ - the person who’s going to rally everyone to make a decision, including the boss (the person who writes the cheque).
  • Positioning needs to crush it with that champion - this is the one persona that really matters. Need to figure out how to arm that persona to sell that deal with everyone else.

April likes to use Twitter to clarify her thinking.