The Supermarket Aisle
If you were creating a new product to sell at a supermarket, you have several (literal) positioning considerations.
One: the supermarket wants to place your product on an aisle. You can't invent a new aisle exclusively for your idea.
Two: your product may be suited to several aisles. For example, a cereal bar could sit with baked goods, it could sit with cereals, or it could sit with health foods. That said, although your product could sit within multiple aisles, the supermarket will only place it on one.
Three: larger aisles are divided into subsections. If your product belongs on a large aisle, the supermarket needs to understand which subsection it belongs to.
Four: the supermarket doesn't want to figure out which aisle or subsection you belong to. Your product won't get placed if it's not immediately obvious where you belong.
Five: if you've nailed the points above, the supermarket needs to consider your point of difference from the other products on the aisle. Your product won't get placed if there's no clear and differentiated benefit.
You're not selling to a supermarket
But, the principles apply.
If prospects are confused about what you do, it's always down to some combination of the following:
- You think your product doesn't sit within an existing aisle, so you're trying to create a new one.
- You're scared of closing off opportunities, so you don't pick an aisle hoping the aisle picks you.
- You're trying to get your product onto multiple aisles, and in doing so, it's not clear where you belong.
- You picked an aisle, but it's too big. Your product is getting lost. You need to choose a subsection of that aisle.
- You picked an aisle, maybe a subsection too, but you didn't create a point of difference within that aisle, so there's no obvious reason to select your product over others in the same location.
Positioning is about picking an existing aisle, packaging your product so that it's clear to the buyer which aisle you belong in, and then communicating the one thing that makes you different from all other products in that aisle.