In this Mucker Growth session, Rosabel Tao from Fire & Bridge delves into the critical field of startup positioning strategy and its crucial role in shaping enduring brands. Rosabel also discusses shares the power of storytelling in positioning, drawing on her experience with Spot Runner, a small startup that successfully challenged industry giants. Rosabel highlights how narrative magic propelled Spot Runner into the limelight, emphasizing the importance of a compelling story as a beacon for startups navigating the competitive landscape.
What is positioning?
The crux lies in understanding the fundamental essence: positioning is the bedrock of all communication endeavors. It's not merely a tagline or hyperbole; it's your distinct role and relevance within a specific domain, bridging the gap between business strategy and various operational facets. The precision and authenticity of your positioning define your startup's identity and resonance.
Often misconceived, positioning is not mere messaging; it's a strategic art. Think of it as the rational Spock side of your business brain, defining the concise, fact-based narrative, while branding embodies the emotive Captain Kirk side. Startups frequently rush into branding without honing their positioning, akin to adorning a crumbling house. Positioning necessitates focus and sacrifice, identifying your niche in the immediate future, and revealing only what strategically aligns with your goals.
Why is positioning important? Positioning is essential for team alignment, message amplification, friction prevention, and traction acceleration, addressing the common issue of diverse interpretations by fostering consistency and repetition in language and story across channels.
How do we develop positioning?
When it comes to strategic positioning, a methodology called the Five C's can guide startups in creating a distinct identity. This methodology was developed by Andy Cunningham, a well-known marketing expert, and has been tested over several decades.
The first C, Community, involves identifying the ideal customer and influencers who shape their decisions. Identifying the ideal target market and target audience who can impact a customer’s decision. Defining the customer precisely is crucial to focus on the right approach, rather than using a scattergun strategy.
To fully understand the market landscape, which includes the latest trends, evolving behaviors, and language changes, it's important to consider the context. Several key questions can help you make sense of this landscape:
What trends are currently shaping the industry?
How can your company influence the future of the industry?
Why is the current moment so important for your business?
What challenges need to be addressed immediately?
What are the most dominant trends among your customers?
Analyzing your competitors goes beyond just looking at their products. You also need to examine their public positioning and the values they communicate through their website and social media. This will help you understand their public persona and identify unique market gaps that your company can take advantage of.
To analyze the position of a property tech startup in the B2B landscape, a careful examination is required. By comparing the positions of competitors with their corresponding messages, value propositions, and key messages, a clear pattern emerges.
This method highlights recurring themes that can help to distinguish the startup strategically. Identifying the white space - areas where competitors' narratives falter, or unique angles are missed - offers a strategic advantage. This enables the startup to develop innovative and distinctive positioning strategies within the market.
Understanding a company's core identity is like deciphering its DNA, a unique blueprint that defines its true essence. Just like humans, companies exhibit distinct core DNAs that can be categorized into three archetypes:
Mechanics, driven by product excellence;
Mothers, emphasizing customer-centric relationships;
Missionaries, propelled by transformative visions.
These identities are not mutually exclusive, but they manifest dominantly, shaping a company’s character. Attempting to excel in all three is futile, as each DNA type excels in specific areas. For instance, mechanics focus on product innovation and market dominance, mothers prioritize customer relationships and segmentation, and missionaries disrupt industries with visionary concepts.
Companies must acknowledge their predominant DNA to align their actions, customer promises, and organizational culture cohesively. Though some firms blend traits, understanding the dominant DNA is critical. This insight informs strategic decisions, ensuring authenticity and coherence, and fostering trust among stakeholders, and customers alike.
Defining the category of a company is a crucial strategic endeavor that significantly impacts its market position. Categories serve as groupings that determine where companies belong, shaping perceptions and understanding of the market. There are three fundamental approaches to this: creating a new category, re-segmentation, and the existing category. Creating a new category can be challenging as it requires introducing something new and unfamiliar to consumers, challenging their existing mental frameworks. Re-segmentation involves reframing customer needs within an existing category, as exemplified by Airbnb, which offers a unique perspective on lodging. Existing categories involve refining performance within established sectors, striving for superiority while remaining within the familiar framework.
To effectively categorize your company, five crucial questions must be addressed.
What is your company and what does it do? Achieving internal alignment on this fundamental question is pivotal.
How do you currently categorize yourselves, and how does the market perceive you? Assessing internal perspectives against external perceptions is essential.
Who constitutes your current peer group?
Who do you aspire to be associated with in the future? Defining desired peer associations guides strategic decisions.
What do you want your company to be known for?
These considerations are fundamental when deciding your company's category, ensuring a clear and cohesive market positioning strategy.
Case Study of MiiR
Crafting a compelling message architecture is crucial to effectively convey the essence of a company. It can be thought of as the source code underlying every communication, from sales and marketing to PR and HR. The message architecture lays the foundation of the company's story by encapsulating its core values and unique selling points.
Let's take a real-world example to illustrate how positioning manifests across various platforms. Consider MiiR, a drinkware company with a mission-driven approach. Positioned as a mechanic, they emphasize product-driven innovation and aim to create more beauty and generosity in the world. Their target market comprises urban sophisticates who appreciate craft and quality. To stand out, MiiR is categorized as a social enterprise, differentiating itself from mass-market competitors. Their value proposition revolves around design, performance, and sustainability, catering to both consumers and B2B clients. This positioning permeates their branding, as evident in their website, LinkedIn profile, product hang tags, and social media presence. By aligning its message architecture with its core identity, MiiR successfully conveys its unique story, ensuring consistency across diverse communication channels.
Constructing your own storytelling for your brand:
“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” — Simon Sinek
Origin stories, also known as creation stories, hold a significant influence, especially in the startup industry. These stories, tied to the company's fundamental mission and vision, are essential in attracting investors, gaining new customers, getting press attention, recruiting talent, and generating buzz.
Storytelling is ingrained in human history, transcending cultures and generations, and is fundamental to narrative comprehension. Our brains are programmed to process information through stories, making them an essential component of how we perceive the world. When presented within a captivating story, facts and features come alive, engaging more brain regions and enhancing memorability. This applies even in the B2B landscape, where emotional connections play a crucial role. Research sponsored by Google revealed that B2B brands create stronger emotional bonds than their B2C counterparts. Emotional connections help overcome inherent risks in the complex world of B2B transactions, driving purchase intent and pricing power.
Mastering the art of storytelling, as emphasized by experts such as screenwriter Robert McKee, empowers businesses to captivate audiences and leave a lasting impression, converting disinterest into thunderous applause. Mckee stipulates 6 elements of a good story, which were derived from Joseph Campbell's “Hero’s Journey:”
A situation in which life is relatively in balance
But then there’s an event, an “inciting incident” that throws life out of balance
The protagonist tries to restore balance but their subjective expectations crash into an uncooperative objective reality
Introduce the antagonists. Who or what is blocking your way? Describe the struggle to deal with these opposing forces, the cruel realities, difficult decisions they faced
The ultimate truth they discover
How you imagine the future
Crafting a compelling narrative is crucial for shaping how others perceive your brand, especially in a world where people naturally create stories in their minds. To captivate your audience, your tale must be both honest and engaging. It is essential to strike a balance between authenticity and allure.
One of the key strategies is to identify the core emotion that resonates with your target audience, be it fear, frustration, or joy. Delve into the struggles that mirror this emotion, creating a sense of tension and suspense that draws your audience in. Connecting with your audience on an emotional level fosters a desire for them to champion your success and actively engage with your journey. Finally, presenting your story in an easily accessible manner is paramount. By packaging your narrative in an attractive bow, making it readily available and effortless to share, you ensure that your audience remains engrossed, enhancing the impact of your brand story.
Thanks to Rosabel Tao for sharing this information.
To receive Mucker’s updates, you can sign up for our newsletter here.