The Power of Positioning

Pixels & Profits: Chapter 4

In the previous chapter, we delved into the concept of identifying your “true fans” and understanding their interests, needs, and behaviors. Now that we have a grasp of our ideal customer, it’s time to set ourselves apart from the crowd. It’s time to dive into the world of positioning, the linchpin of successful marketing strategy.

Winning the Battle of Perceptions

Firstly, while it isn’t required for you to understand what I’m about to discuss, do yourself a favor and pick up the classic, Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Al Ries and Jack Trout. There’s no better single title on the topic.

Along with Robert Cialdini’s Influence, Positioning should be required reading for every serious marketer.

While you’re at it, grab a copy of Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and RenĂ©e Mauborgne and, Purple Cow by one of my favorites, Seth Godin.

(By the way, if you’re unaware, we don’t do affiliate links here. We recommend only what we have found to be valuable.)

Those four books are some of the best business books ever written on positioning yourself within an increasingly crowded world.

This stuff will only become more important as AI enables even more entrepreneurs to flood the marketplace.

You won’t get a better education in the topic—not even in a university MBA program.

Still, you’re not here to get a reading list, so I’m going to give you the complete and condensed version of this incredibly important subject.

What is Positioning?

Put plainly, positioning is the “perception” that happens in the minds of your target audience.

The story they tell themselves.

It allows you to differentiate yourself, your product and/or service from that of your competitors.

Said another way, the essence of “positioning” is to render the competition irrelevant.

IR-REL-E-VANT.

Meaning, there’s no competition.

Let me give you an example of good positioning….

In 2019, I was looking to get a new camera.

I’ve enjoyed photography both personally, and professionally for decades, and I was looking for something very specific…

See, to most folks shopping for cameras, the Canons, Nikons, and Sonys of the world certainly seem to be the top dogs in the marketplace.

The truth is, even at the high-end for those brands, they are the mid-range of cameras.

But you would never know this, unless you were already a serious camera aficionado.

When photographers encounter the Leica brand, jaws routinely hit the floor.

Not only did the brand invent the very first 35mm camera in 1913, they still make the absolute best lenses in the world today.

Their top-tier products are still hand-built by artisans and craftsmen whose families have worked for Leica for generations.

And they play the game differently than everyone else.

Here’s a recent ad for their iconic camera, the M.

Did you catch that it only shoots in Black & White?

That’s right, a $10,000 digital camera (priced without a lens) that is literally incapable of shooting in color.

And they consistently sell out of them.

That’s positioning.

Leica lenses are the pinnacle of photographic tools.

The Rolls Royce. The Bentley.

If a photographer wants the highest-quality equipment on the planet, there’s nowhere else to look. This would be it.

It would be the only company in the world to consider. Everything else is irrelevant.

Handmade.

Limited production.

Unmatched quality.

Getting a camera and a lens from Leica can easily cost upwards of $20,000… and that’s for the standard, non-collector’s editions.

Folks, that’s almost TEN TIMES the price of any other normal camera kit on the market.

They have customers who pay even more than that for special editions and custom work.

Leica knows how to position to attract only the seriously committed photographers, and wealthy enthusiasts.

If you’re a photographer who’s really into cameras, you’ll be thinking about that video for weeks.

No way around it.

The takeaway here is that you should use positioning to:

  • Laser-focus on your ideal target audience.
  • Filter out who you DON’T want.
  • Differentiate yourself from everyone else.

In today’s me-too marketplace, positioning is how you win.

Leica, and every other company like it, have a crystal clear profile of their ideal customer.

And that customer profile is a big part of how savvy marketers consistently carve out a piece of the pie which they then own completely.

The Dangers of Bad Positioning

You already know the online marketplace is competitive. 

Your audience is relentlessly bombarded with marketing and advertising.

Differentiating yourself is critical.

To add more pressure, the barrier to entry for someone wanting to start an online business is really low, and only getting lower as AI tools become more prevalent.

Meaning, anyone in their bedroom with a junker laptop can “set up shop” online and become your competitor.

Why should customers choose you over your competitors?

In this next decade, competitiveness as you know it online, is going to get ratcheted up BIG TIME.

If you think it’s bad online now, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

It’s going to get so much worse.

That fact is WHY positioning is so important to learn.

I’ll give you another example…

Tablets.

In the beginning of the 2010s, Apple’s iPad maintained roughly 70-80% of the tablet market share.

Every other tablet manufacturer was left battling for Apple’s table scraps.

The leftovers.

Why?

Because they chose (foolishly) to compete head-to-head with the iPad.

So stupid.

It was never going to work.

Remember the Samsung Galaxy?

What about the BlackBerry PlayBook?

You might remember one, I doubt you remember both.

Not only were they outclassed by Apple, those two products inevitably became perfect examples of tragically bad positioning.

The problem is as simple as this: 

If someone was planning to spend $500-$600, why would they choose the 2nd or 3rd best?

Why would any customer in their right mind choose the Galaxy or PlayBook over the iPad?

They won’t.

They didn’t.

In 2022 BlackBerry exited the mobile device market completely, and permanently.

Utter defeat.

Amazon (who also entered the tablet market last) chose a different approach, and released the Amazon Fire.

… for $199

From day one they positioned themselves so that they never competed head-on with the iPad.

Genius move.

Amazon did something others could have, but didn’t.

In the military, the strategy is called asymmetric warfare. 

In marketing, it looks like this:

While everyone else focused on fighting a losing battle against Apple for the premium category, Amazon chose to compete asymmetrically, playing the game in a way that Apple wouldn’t bother with.

As a result, Amazon became the very reason we have a low-end tablet market today, and they’ve dominated that segment of the market the entire time.

The irony is, Amazon’s Fire runs on Android, which is the same operating system as just about every other non-Apple tablet uses. 

Meaning, it didn’t run better, or have any unique features.

Here’s what then-CEO Jeff Bezos said (in a message to customers) about Amazon’s approach:

There are two approaches to the tablet market, and both can work. Apple has chosen one (feature-rich, powerful, high-end hardware tightly integrated with a formidable content ecosystem) and Amazon the other: (spartan, feature-limited hardware tightly integrated with a formidable content ecosystem).

— Jeff Bezos

This article came out just one day after the launch of Amazon’s Fire tablet.

The very next day, BestBuy slashed the price of the BlackBerry PlayBook by $200.

But it was already too late.

Amazon had won before anyone else realized there was something to win.

That is how you want to play this game.

Crafting Your Positioning Strategy

Remember, positioning is what happens in the minds of your target audience.

Think on how you can differentiate yourself, your product or service, so that it stands out from all the others.

  • Who are you talking to?
  • What can you say?

If you’ve done your audience research, these answers will spring to mind quickly. If you haven’t, you’re only making your entrepreneurial life that much harder.

Once you know who you’re talking to and how you will position yourself, you’ll want to focus on keeping the community engaged…

Because attention is short.

In the next chapter, we’ll dive into the art of community engagement — a crucial step in maintaining your hard-earned positioning and keeping your audience’s attention. 

Remember, in today’s fast-paced world, attention is fleeting. So stick around, we have plenty more to learn.

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