Obviously Awesome - Summary and review

Updated: April 7th, 2024
Published: January 12th, 2024


What is positioning?

Dunford defines positioning as “The act of defining how you are the best at something a defined market cares alot about”.

The 10-step positioning process

Here are the suggested 10 easy steps to finding positioning for your product or company by April Dunford. I will also exemplify using ‘the Swedish Tea bank of book summaries’ as a product that we will position throughout the article.

1: Understand the customers who love your product ❤️

Make a short list of customers that love your product ie. your “best” customers. Then use this list to find common denominators to understand what your product is. Best customers means they buy quick, do not love using your product, and recommend it to their friends.

A great question to start asking in the demo stage is also ‘why did you decide to take this meeting?‘. Start collecting as transparent feedback as possible, interview your customers, and look at data.

Don’t have any customers to interview yet? Well - start validating your idea and make those first deals happen.

I would suggest looking at The Mom Test for a great read on how to approach the idea validation stage for transparent feedback. Positioning is the luxury of having enough data to be able to niche down the scope. So if you don’t have that data yet in the form of best-fit customers - go out and get them.

Swedish Tea exampleThe hypothetical ICP (ideal customer profile) that seems to love the Swedish Tea book summary bank are busy entrepreneurs building a business, in need of consuming alot of relevant content on the side. Also, young adults looking to develop their reading and find great non-fiction books for their professional development.

2: Form a positioning team ✌️

Positioning should involve roles across the company - both marketing, sales, customer success (and management).

Usually marketing is the first function to start feeling the pain of too vague positioning, but should not alone own the positioning - it is too important to be isolated in a single silo.

The positioning team should represent the different functions of the company and should have common workshops to nail positioning together. Ideally, the agenda for these workshops could be walking through these 10 steps.

Swedish Tea exampleThe positioning team is quite small in my case, since Swedish Tea is a solo project which means I run marketing, content, development, and product. Therefore, quite a horizontal setup. But, I like to bring my girlfriend in to the process to get some perspectives as often as I can.

3: Align your positioning vocabulary and let go of your positioning baggage 🧳

It is important to approach the positioning question with a fresh and open mindset, without the product’s past in mind. This way you can be open for new positions of your offering that might be a better and more lucrative fit than your current one.

Remember - customers don’t know anything about the history of the product when first encountering it - they are free from baggage.

Swedish Tea exampleSwedish Tea is a relatively new venture, but I have had different previous angles. Initially it was only a blog and Youtube channels for devs. Therefore, I have had to rethink, look at new platforms, and be open-minded to new directions, when re-branding and working with positioning.

4: List your true competitive alternatives 🔍

Customers might not see competitors in the same way you do. The customer’s opinion is the only one that matters for positioning. Look at your features from a customer’s point of view.Understand how the customers categorize your solution by asking yourself - what might a customer replace you with? Even better - what would your best customer do if you were not around? Often times the answer is not a direct competitor - rather “hire an intern to do it” or “use pen and paper”.

Focus on your best customers and what they would identify as alternative solutions. Group the alternatives for an overview - usually you end up with 2-5 groups of alternatives.

Swedish Tea exampleThe primary alternative to consuming summaries on Swedish Tea is finding and reading the full books - which costs alot of money, but primarily takes a ton of time to get to the value. Other alternatives could be listening to audio books or podcasts, reading other book summary blogs, watching other video summaries, or looking at summaries in reviews on Goodreads/Amazon. The clusters I can see are: 1. Full books, 2. Other summaries, 3. Reviews on Goodreads/Amazon, 4. Other formats (such as audiobooks or podcasts).

5: Isolate your unique attributes or features 🛠️

A feature can be something your product or company has or does.

Typically in early-stage startups you would start with a top-down approach - where you find problems or see benefits, that you then try to map to solutions and eventually features.

However, in this positioning process - it is assumed you have some existing product or company that you want to brand or re-brand. Therefore, in this step - list out all the capabilities you have, that the alternatives do not.

Your opinion of your own strength without proof is irrelevant.

Swedish Tea exampleSome features of the Swedish Tea book summary bank could be ‘web based’, ‘dynamically scales for mobile devices’, ‘searchable library’, ‘reads under 60 seconds’, ‘video shorts and text summaries’, ‘downloadable PDF summaries’, ‘lots of summarized non-fiction titles’, ‘curated selection of content for entrepreneurs’, and ‘weekly email newsletter’.

6: Map the attributes or features to value “themes” 📍

Articulating value means putting benefits into the context of a goal the customer is trying to achieve.

Features enable benefits - the benefits can then be translated into value in unique terms and language of the customer.In your list - a handful of themes should be emerging. Sort them and cluster on what value they deliver to customers.

Try really clustering from the perspective of the customer and what points that would be related in their mind.

Swedish Tea exampleWe can now start grouping the features and attributes from step 5. For example the Swedish Tea site’s attributes like ‘web based’, ‘dynamically scales for mobile devices’, ‘searchable library’ could be grouped into a ‘1. content accessible from everywhere’ cluster. Whereas, ‘reads under 60 seconds’, and ‘video shorts and text summaries’ could be clustered into ‘2. efficent consumption of content’. Finally, ‘lots of summarized non-fiction titles’, ‘curated selection of content for entrepreneurs’ could be grouped into a ‘3. relevant and inspiring content’ cluster.

7: Determine who cares a lot about what you are doing 🧑👩‍💼

An actionable segmentation captures a list of a person’s or company’s characteristics that make them really care about what you offer. These characteristics should be easily identifiable.Examples of characteristics in B2B could be:

  1. how a business sell their product 🤑

  2. other tools they use 🛠️

  3. skills they have in-house 🧠

  4. roles or types of teams they have in place 👨‍💻

Once again - look at your best customers. Everything about doing business with them is different - they are ‘the customers who buy quickly, rarely ask for discounts and tell their friends about your offerings’.

Stay focused and narrow down as much as possible to still meet your overall sales objectives in short term. Broaden later.

There are two basic requirements for a segment to be worthy of your focus:

  1. SIZE - it needs to be big enough to meet the goals of your business. Bootstrapping a solo business you can happily target a local problem or segment. Founding a venture backed startup - you might have to aim for acquiring a market share in the 100s of millions, justifying a billion dollar valuation.

  2. UNMET NEEDS - it needs to have big enough, unresolved, pains that are experienced by enough actors in the segment

Swedish Tea exampleAt this stage of the Swedish Tea journey it is mostly still hypotheses. However, the size of market for reading and book summaries seem to be growing. There is alot of content out there, but also a ton of noise. From own experience, entrepreneurs in need of more efficiency to make better decisions, appears to be rather large market with unmet needs. Thus, providing curated short-format content for this ICP seems interesting enough to pursue. Also, there is no need for a million dollar market since this is a solo passion project, without any expectations on revenue from anyone.

8: Find a market frame of reference that highlights your strengths and determine how to position it 🖼️

In this step, you will pick a market frame of reference that makes your value obvious to your ideal customer.

There are a few different styles of positioning. The ideal one for you depends on what type of competitive landscape or business goals your business have.

Dunford brings up three main types of styles of positioning:

  1. Head-to-head: Positioning to win an existing market.

    • Aim: Become the leader in a market category that already exists in the customers’ minds

    • Goal: If there is established leader - beat them at their own game and convince the customers that you are the best solution

  2. Big fish, small pond: Positioning to win a subset of an existing market.

    • Aim: Dominate a piece of an existing market category.

    • Goal: Win in a well-defined segment of the market, where you can cater to unmet buyer requirements. Then take on the overall market leaders.

  3. Create a new game: Positioning to win a market you create.

    • Aim: Create new market category and dominate it.

    • Goal: 1. Prove to customers that a new market category needs to exist. 2. Define the parameters of that market in the minds of customers. 3. Position yourself as the leader in the market.

Swedish Tea exampleSwedish Tea will aim for the second style of positioning, where the subset of early-stage entreprenurs in need of great curated content is targeted. There are a ton of people out there in need of more efficent content consumption, but focusing on a nisched subset is key, since there are alot of alternatives for consuming content and learning.

9: Layer on a trend (if possible) 📈

Think about how to stack a trend on top of your positioning to help your customers understand why your offering is important to them right now.

This can help creating sense of urgency, but one should be careful to only use trends as long as they have a clear link to your product. Start by making the link between your product and the market obvious.

Swedish Tea exampleTrends like #booktok and reading are booming right now, so that will be leveraged in terms of growth ahead.

10: Make your positioning shareable 🔗

Share your positioning and make it known throughout your organization. You need to have complete internal buy-in from your company and employees for it to stick. Positioning will effect branding, marketing activities, product decisions, CX and sales - so make sure everyone is aware and on-board.

Swedish Tea exampleThe Swedish Tea team is today rather small and horizontally aligned, with me doing it solo. So, positioning is shared across the team. This article also serves as a documentation for myself to re-iterate through.

Now you and your product are positioned for success

You should now have you first iteration of your new positioning. Go out and try it, collect data, fine-tune, and dare to fail fast.

✍️ My top 3 quotes These are, in my opinion, the top quotes from the book Obviously Awesome.

Quote 1

You cannot be everything to everyone. If you decide to go north, you cannot go south at the same time.

Quote 2

Your target market is the customers who buy quickly, rarely ask for discounts and tell their friends about your offerings.

Quote 3

If we fail at positioning, we fail at marketing and sales. If we fail at marketing and sales, the entire business fails.