Here is a quick refresher on previous “Words that Work in
Tech PR” Topics:
This post discussed story frames and root metaphors, and the
importance of finding just the right words.
Discussed research tactics, and getting the information you
need to do a good job of finding the right words.
Discussed the importance of product categories, and how
these can affect and help shape your story.
Now in part 4, I will wrap up the first part of the series
with a discussion about product positioning.
Hopefully your employer or client has done the right
homework prior to launching a new product and service – and this is reflected
in product and pricing. Or perhaps you are relaunching or rebranding an
existing product, or launching the next major upgrade.
In any event, by the time PR is engaged and ready to go about putting the
right words behind the launch story, we are stuck with certain realities – the
realities of whatever market you are competing in, as outlined in Part 3, and
the realities of the product itself.
On the other hand people can draw different conclusions from
the same set of facts. Part of what we need to do as PR pros and marketing
strategists is to come up with the story that explains our approach to the
market – where and how we fit into the narrative of the space we play in: how
we will compete, how we are different than available alternatives, and where we
hope to go.
Before developing all the materials that will be needed, you
will need to distill the answers to these questions in a positioning statement.
This positioning statement will feed into development of the key
messages, and taken together these will shape your content development and
Volumes have been written about product positioning, and it
is well beyond the scope of this post to cover all the bases. What I want
to do here is touch upon some thoughts to consider. I recommend
additional reading at the end, for those who are interested in exploring the
Effective product positioning clearly and concisely states
the perch your product or service occupies within the market you are competing
in. That is easy enough to say, but much
harder to do well – i.e., in a way that is credible, easy to understand, and interesting.
Hopefully by now you are starting to appreciate the
importance of the upfront research. How can you even begin to assign a position
in a space if you don’t understand the existing dynamics – the competitive lay
of the land, the history, and what people think is the future direction?
So, in addition to exploring the category (again, Part 3),
you will need to build a story about your product that fits into the narrative
of the space. You will want to understand where
your space is on the adoption curve – is it emerging, or has it "crossed
the chasm" (in Geoffrey Moore’s parlance, from his classic of the same
name) to mainstream adoption?
If it is the former, be prepared to educate about the need
for the space and explain how your entry will lead to wider adoption of the
type of technology.
If it is the latter, you will no doubt have large and
entrenched competition and your positioning will thus need to explain why the
market needs a new answer in a maturing and mainstream market. If your
offering breathes new life into an established space, say so in your
There are many examples of technologies that seem
perpetually just around the corner, but have not crossed the chasm of
mainstream adoption (pattern recognition technologies like handwriting and
facial, for example). If the category is getting long in the tooth and has
still not broken through, you will need deal with the baggage and history of
unmet expectations and preempt skepticism by explaining how your product will
finally make a difference.
Are you playing in a space that has been hyped to death, and
is now entering the "Trough of Disillusionment" (see my last post and
description of the Gartner Hype Cycle)? Something Web 2.0-ish perhaps? Be
prepared for some apathy. You will need to deal with the burnout and
noise, and the perception that the space is a bit over ripe. Perhaps
there are ways of positioning your product that don’t lean so heavily on the
hyped-to-death terms. Every new offering does not have to be an [insert
legacy category of choice]-2.0 solution.
If you have a leadership position (I mean top two or three
market share leader, not "leader" in the hackneyed sense there are
only leaders and no followers) then messaging and positioning will generally be
conservative. They should tell the world
that you are a leader and why.
Are you a challenger in an established space? Think (and position) boldly: how will you
upset the existing apple cart?
I hope this gives you food for thought and connects the dots from my previous posts.
As promised, I am including suggestions for additional
Crossing the Chasm, Geoffrey Moore’s classic on technology adoption
Positioning, the Ries and Trout classic
Blue Ocean Strategy, seems to be the marketing strategy book du jour for tech marketers