How Marketing Plans Work


Think of positioning as the perception your target audience has of your product. You have total control over this element of your marketing efforts, and it is critical to how you develop the rest of your plan. Planning your product's positioning must involve taking into consideration such issues as the competition and how its products are perceived, the needs and desires of your target audience, and the element of mystique or drama that your product or service naturally has about it.

In crowded markets, it is very important to position your product appropriately. Think about the advertising messages your audience is bombarded with every day. In order to stand out, your product has to have a clear position in your audience's mind. But how do you come up with the positioning for your product?


First, you have to determine a broad positioning. This means determining if your product should fall into a niche, be a low-cost leader, or a product differentiator. These are each very different strategy highways, and will take you in different directions when fine-tuning your message. Think of the qualities of your product, its strengths and weaknesses, the opportunities you've uncovered, the pricing you've considered, and your target market to determine which broad position you will take.

Next, you will have to determine specific positioning. This could be based on a certain quality or benefit of your product, such as ease of use, durability, reliability, safety, convenience, etc. In some cases, you may even be able to position your product based on two qualities. For example, think of Volvo. Safety and durability are Volvo's primary and secondary positions.

Begin narrowing down your positioning by answering questions such as:

  1. What opinions does your audience already have, and how can you tie your product into them?
  2. What are your target audience's needs and desires?
  3. Is there a hole your product can fill by targeted positioning?
  4. Are there certain company attributes you can build on, such as experience, or being the first in the business?
  5. What are the greatest benefits of the product and how can you capitalize on them?
  6. Is there a specific use or application that your product fits particularly well?
  7. Is your target audience identified independently enough to create a position based on their uniqueness?
  8. Can you springboard a positioning idea from your competitor's positioning?
  9. Can you base the position on quality or pricing strategies?
  10. Can you position the product based on opportunities you've discovered in your research?

It may help to chart these issues out to compare and narrow your options for positioning. By doing this, you can also incorporate importance levels to some of the issues you bring up. For example, if you list the needs and desires of your target market, it might be helpful to rank those according to importance to your target audience. If you list the strengths and weaknesses of your product, it may also be helpful to put those in order from greatest to smallest.

Once you have determined your product's positioning, go through these questions to further refine it:

  • How can you simplify the message so it gets through? - Remember, more is often less.)
  • Does the name of your product fit with its positioning? - Your product's name is an important part of your positioning strategy. If it doesn't fit, you're going to have a much harder battle.
  • Is the position believable?
  • Is the position one that your target audience will care about and notice?
  • Is the position too broad or too narrow?
  • Is the position clear and understandable?

Your product's position, along with your pricing and distribution channels, will also determine its value position. The value position is basically the product's perceived ranking of either high-quality/high-cost, average-quality/average-cost, low-quality/low-cost, or even average-quality/low-cost or higher-quality/lower-cost. What you are trying to get across to your target audience is the value/cost relationship of your product as it relates to the user.

See our Positioning Worksheet and other marketing worksheets on the Marketing Tools page. Now, let's move into the four Ps we mentioned above.