When two companies offer functionally identical products, what prompts customers to choose one over the other?
They might pick the brand that they perceive as most trustworthy, the one that offers a free trial and low price-point, or even the one that best matches their ethical values.
These differentiating factors are the result of brand positioning, a marketing concept that’s everywhere you look. From Coca-Cola to the latest SaaS brands, practically every company considers it a cornerstone of brand strategy.
Positioning offers an invaluable competitive edge. In crowded markets, where standing out is necessary to capture attention and make sales, every factor counts.
In this article, we’ll talk through brand positioning 101 before providing a simple process you can follow to generate a unique and compelling brand positioning strategy. We’ll also review and learn from a few examples of the best brand strategies in the SaaS space.
Brand positioning is the process of influencing how your target customers perceive you. You can use it to set your brand apart from competitors, without needing to innovate on a product level.
It involves adopting a set of traits, practices, and values to occupy a notable space in the market by appealing to a specific segment of customers.
It’s particularly important in highly competitive markets, like B2B SaaS, where a unique product is only a short-term moat. Competitors can copy new product features, but they can’t easily replicate a successful brand.
Brand positioning is generally considered a part of marketing strategy, but it has broader implications. How you position your brand affects all aspects of your operations—from the tone of website messaging to the level of customer service.
KPMG found that loyal customers are 86% more likely to recommend a brand to family or friends. They’re also 14 times more likely to buy from the brand again, according to Wharton School’s acclaimed book Marketing Metrics.
Customers require something distinct to be loyal to, like great customer service or strong ethical values. Without concrete qualities or values that distinguish you from competitors, there’s no compelling reason to choose your brand over an alternative.
A Facebook study into brand loyalty revealed the language customers use to describe brands they’re loyal to:
The majority of these descriptors refer to a brand’s position in the market. Companies embodying values like “innovative,” “unique,” “cool,” or “fun” do it through positioning.
Having loyal customers associate your brand with favorable qualities is key.
Other important positioning factors include presentation and authenticity:
There are three fundamental elements of the brand positioning process. Each one plays a part in ensuring you arrive at a unique and effective strategy.
Brand positioning maps, or perceptual maps, help you understand your market’s competitive landscape from a positioning perspective. They plot brands on two axes—each one representing a value important to the target audience.
“Quality” and “price” are the most common axis labels, but these can be replaced with other relevant values. You could map your competitors based on their “coolness” vs their “reliability,” or their “innovativeness” vs their “ease-of-use.”
Brand positioning maps provide a top-down view of where gaps in positioning coverage are.
By plotting competitors on maps with various axes, you can better understand how they’re positioned. In turn, you’re more likely to identify the most effective brand position for your company.
A brand positioning framework outlines the central factors in your brand positioning strategy for easy reference. These include:
A framework ensures consistency as you roll your strategy out across visual branding, messaging, and marketing. It’s a brand position “cheat sheet,” summarizing the most important considerations that went into the positioning process.
A brand positioning statement is a concise representation of your positioning strategy. It defines the unique position your brand occupies in the market, all within a sentence or two. It’s your brand’s position distilled into its purest form.
Consider Wistia’s brand positioning statement as an example:
This statement covers what Wistia does and why. More importantly, it connotes key emotional facets of their position, broadcasting values like openness, optimism, and helpfulness. You can see these values bleed out from their positioning statement into website messaging.
Brand positioning strategies can revolve around diverse qualities, but some angles appear more often than others. They include positioning based on:
A proactive approach to brand positioning helps you control the narrative around your brand and avoid the market deciding your positioning for you.
Follow these steps to build a successful B2B SaaS brand positioning strategy:
Determine your current brand position using market research methods like surveys or focus groups. You can use platforms like SurveyMonkey to find a relevant B2B audience and deploy custom question sets.
Prioritize gathering data about how the audience feels about your brand, with questions like “What emotion do you most associate with us?” or “How trustworthy do you think we are?” With the right data, you can evaluate how well your brand position serves your business objectives.
If your incumbent strategy is outdated, reflecting old market needs or poorly fitting your new objectives, move straight on to the next step. If your current positioning strategy aligns with your company mission and works in the market landscape, keep it.
Research the brand positioning strategies adopted by competitors in your market to understand what you’re up against. You can use the same methods as above to achieve this, surveying a relevant B2B audience to collect data about how your competitors are perceived.
Back up the data with manual research by looking for clues about competitor’s positioning strategies on their “about us” page, in their core product messaging, and by analyzing their pricing and customer service models. Your aim is to understand your competitors’ positioning strategy’s strengths and weaknesses.
After completing the research, try writing mock brand positioning statements for each competitor to distill what you’ve learned into an easy-to-understand summary.
Plot the competitors you analyzed on brand positioning maps as comprehensively as possible. Extend your analysis to several relevant competitors across a broad range of values.
“Price” vs “quality” is a good place to start, but consider other axes that also make sense in your market. The objective is to establish a view of the competitive landscape from perspectives that matter to customers.
Use the maps to identify positioning gaps in the market. Utilize your knowledge of customer needs and preferences by searching for openings that have promising value combinations.
Think about how to target exploitable market gaps. Using a brand positioning framework as a template, answer the following questions:
A positioning framework will give you a better understanding of how your brand is currently perceived and how you want it to be perceived.
At this point, it should be clear what your new positioning strategy is going to look like. Writing a brand positioning statement helps you consolidate your understanding. Condense your ideas into a single summarizing statement. Aim to be as concise as possible. This statement will be the go-to source of truth for anyone looking to understand what your brand is about.
If you’re struggling to sum everything up in a single statement, use the following template to guide you. Just fill in the gaps:
[Your brand’s name] is a [product category name] that provides [benefits or values that set your brand apart] for [target market] who [customer needs].
Practice by using this template to analyze other brands’ positioning strategies. Using Mailchimp as an example, the result might look like this:
Mailchimp is an email marketing automation platform that provides proven email revenue growth opportunities for digital SMEs who want to optimize their email performance.
Although positioning statements generated through a template can be dry, they’re great for inspiration. Iterate on the result, making tweaks until you’re satisfied.
Brand positioning should be represented throughout operations, in processes, product features, messaging, marketing, CSR strategy, and more.
Approach this step systematically. Consider every facet of your operation individually. Think critically about whether each is compliant with your position. If your new positioning strategy revolves around a customer-first attitude, community engagement, and resource-sharing, you might investigate whether:
Wherever you find discord between your chosen position and established processes, determine how to align them. Your objective is to reach 100% cohesion between the idea of your brand and how it operates in reality.
The final step in the process is to test how well your new strategy performs with your audience, seeking insights about different facets of your brand.
Panel-based B2B message testing can provide valuable feedback on how your messaging makes your ideal user feel. Preference testing can make clear whether your new visual identity better matches your brand position than your old look. Focus groups can unearth niche thoughts and criticisms.
Whichever approach you take to testing, make sure participants are a good match for your ideal customer profile (ICP). Once you’ve got feedback, work on refining your brand positioning strategy. Embrace the process of testing, tweaking, and testing again. This will help you tune your strategy’s implementation until it’s a perfect match for your customers’ preferences.
To help you understand the power of an effective brand positioning strategy, we’ve collected some of the best B2B SaaS examples.
Hive competes in the crowded project management SaaS sector. They stand out with a positioning strategy revolving around their product being “shaped by users.”
Reinforced by strong homepage messaging, this positioning strategy empowers users, making them feel valued and influential. It also instills them with confidence in the product. If it’s shaped by people from the world’s “fastest moving teams,” it must be good.
ConvertKit’s positioning strategy addresses “creators” of all kinds. Their target market ranges from authors to podcasters.
This positioning bleeds into their product functionality, with some features tailored for creators. However, it’s their messaging that really makes an impact by speaking directly to distinct customers in their audience.
Their homepage heading cycles through specific use cases for the product and positions ConvertKit as the tool to market albums, books, podcasts, fashion collections, and more.
Amplitude’s positioning strategy is simple but effective. They aim to occupy the category-leader spot in the minds of their audience.
They do this by plainly broadcasting their dominance in the sector. The homepage heading, “Amplitude is #1 in Analytics” is almost a micro brand positioning statement. They show a brand positioning map that places them in pole position amongst competitors. Their many awards are on full show for users to see. It’s a confident approach that pays off.
GDPR legislation was a hot topic in 2018. At the time, Convert adopted a temporary brand position that prioritized reassuring their customers of compliance. Although not a permanent strategy, it’s a great example of the fluidity of positioning.
Messaging highlights include “the most privacy oriented A/B testing software” and “committed to helping our customers.” In a time of industry anxiety, Convert made the most of the situation with simple product features communicated in the right way. This strategy resulted in a surge in business, demonstrating the effects of good positioning.
You can see strong brand positioning wherever you look, but it’s especially prevalent in B2B SaaS. There are over 17,000 SaaS companies in the US alone, meaning market participants have to set themselves apart. It’s also because of the scale and nature of demand in the sector.
SaaS markets are made up of diverse customers. You can roughly categorize these customers based on what most influences their buying decision. Some will choose to buy from a company that matches their corporate values. Others will opt for the company that most directly addresses the problems they’re facing.
Brand positioning is how you exert control over the way your customers see you. This impacts whether those customers choose you over competitors, directly influencing your revenue. If you’re looking for new ways to win market share in your sector, consider reviewing your brand positioning strategy. There’s a competitive advantage waiting on the other side of the process.