How positioning and messaging build your go-to-market (GTM) strategy

In a crowded landscape, having a strong brand narrative and on-point messaging is crucial for success. But there are two elements that marketers often overlook: positioning and messaging. This article explores common issues and highlights the importance of these components in a successful go-to-market (GTM) strategy.
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If you say that your product increases conversions, saves time, or grows businesses, you just throw it among thousands of databases, CRMs, analytics tools, and email automation products.

Your prospects aren’t on a hunt for generic promises. They want to have a clear context of what market you serve, where you stand, and why it matters to them. If they don’t get quickly what your product does, they’ll box it somewhere, burying its key strengths and differentiators.

Times, when you had one or two competitors, are long gone. With the Martech landscape getting more crowded than ever, what matters is beyond your product.

Now, a strong brand narrative, good positioning, and on-point messaging are the components of your success.

But it’s hard to figure it out. Although positioning and messaging are part of your go-to-market (GTM) strategy, they’re still misunderstood, undervalued, or treated as a one-off project.

In this article, we’ll help you understand how those concepts contribute to a successful GTM strategy. But let’s start with issues that might hinder your positioning and messaging project in the past.

Positioning and messaging: were they on your backburner?

Why marketers don’t prioritize positioning and messaging on their project to-do list? Here are three common issues:

  • It’s hard to test positioning and messaging. Unlike paid campaigns or a blog post, you can’t attach numerical value to whether it works or not. If it’s hard to measure the outcomes of your positioning and the symptoms of bad messaging are hard to spot, then why bother? This is a dangerous trap that might be fueled by your cognitive bias as it’s hard to distance yourself from what you market.
  • It’s hard to justify the positioning project that also pivots messaging in front of the C-level that expects positive ROI from a project that can’t guarantee it fast. Under pressure, you may want to play it safe and invest time into projects that are supported by the CEO.
  • It’s hard to do positioning and messaging projects internally if you don’t have the know-how. If you don’t know where to start, how to do it, and how to tweak it with time (considering your company’s progress towards the vision), you will be less motivated to pursue this. Even if you hire an external consultant to do the job, you won’t be able to work with deliverables moving forward.

Your positioning and messaging project starts with a mindset change. As a marketer, you have to understand that these components aren’t nice to have in your company’s success, they’re key to resonating with your ICP and convincing them to choose you over competitors.

Before you start working on your positioning and messaging projects, advocate for them and educate your colleagues. Later, it will be a matter of testing your messaging with your ICP.

What’s the role of positioning and messaging in your go-to-market (GTM) strategy?

According to positioning expert April Dunford positioning is the context setting of what your product does. Good positioning makes it really obvious what the company does and what the value is for your ICPs.

Messaging, on the other hand, according to GTM Leader Maya Shah-Ceccotti, is the articulation of what you promise, how you deliver, and why it’s important for your ideal customer.

If positioning and messaging are rooted in GTM strategy, without nailing both, you’re doomed to fail in marketing and sales despite your timing or channels might be right.

A good example comes from April’s Dunford book.

If you want to market a cake, you already have a target market, price, competitive alternatives, and key product features. But if you happen to make a cake that’s rather small, you can realize that you made a muffin. And this changes your GTM strategy pillars as you’ll be marketing to different groups for different prices, and have different features and alternatives.

How to improve your positioning and messaging, including examples

How to improve positioning?

We believe that the best framework for positioning is the one that comes from April Dunford.

You shouldn’t follow this framework with just assumptions. Instead, prepare your qualitative research and list customers that are: power users, use key features extensively, and have higher than average CLTV.

Talk to them and ask:

  • If you didn’t exist, what would they do instead?
  • What happened in their professional life [struggle] that led them to look for a product like yours?
  • How they searched for a solution and how they’ve compared options?
  • What other solutions did they consider and why?
  • Why did they decide to go with your product?

Then, group those qualitative insights and connect them with your numerical data. See what stands out and decide what will be the thing you’re most famous for and for whom it should be relevant.

How to improve messaging?

Your messaging consists of layers:

  • Clarity → Does your prospect get it?
  • Relevance → Does it help them solve [issue]?
  • Value → Does it make the [issue] urgent?
  • Differentiation → Does it give them a reason to go with you instead of others?
  • Friction → Did you remove all possible objections, and address doubts and anxieties?

You can work on each layer separately by running your message testing. Check each component’s score and start optimizing it so it better resonates with ICP. After every iteration, check the volume of signups and/or requests for a demo along with lead quality.

See practical examples starting from the before-after messaging comparison.

Before/after — check how brands improved the clarity of their messaging

1. Loom

Loom from unclear statements (Show it, say it, send it) improved their message to: Loom on. Meetings off.

Instead of telling their website visitors Loom is an essential tool for hybrid workspace which sounds vague, they've focused on what type of meetings can be skipped thanks to their product. Also, they promise their users 29% fewer meetings which gives a clear value proposition.

2. Zuko

Their messaging went from unclear and wordy to compelling one. Before, their messaging was focused on what their product does and brought a very vague promise of “less marketing budget waste.”

Thanks to tweaks, their website visitors now know that they may get more form submissions. The image on the right better showcases how the software’s UI looks — plus one for clarity.

Examples of brand messaging that lead with a specific brand narrative

Check those three examples of companies with a very clear brand narrative.

1. Giant challenger

If you’re a smaller brand, you can take the position of a bigger brand challenger. Your positioning will be clear as you directly compete with a commonplace product.

A good example is Piwik PRO which challenges Google Analytics. Piwik PRO uses the rapid evolution of privacy laws as a competitive advantage and promises their customers data tracking (as usual) without sacrificing users’ privacy and data security.

2. Status-quo challenger

This type of narrative says “the old way of doing things is wrong. There’s a better way to do ___” A great example here is Gong — the Revenue Intelligence Platform.

They let companies capture and understand customer interactions based on data instead of opinions. From their homepage, you get a clear picture of what Gong (product) does, who it is for, how you can benefit and what’s the promised value.

3. On a mission to...

Companies that use a mission narrative want to change the world or specific environments to be better.

The story of Kona is about the sense of purpose — their mission is to make empathy (and being a good person) the default at work. They want to positively change the work environment. Also, they’re razor clear about what’s this (real-time analytics), who this is for (remote teams), and where to use it (Slack). The image on the left supports their message.

Now, off to examples of messaging that are less clear and compelling.

Examples of vague brand messaging

If you leave your prospects with a messaging that can mean a lot of things, you’ll never be able to convince them why they should choose you. This may increase your churn and negatively impact your bottom line.

1. Mindfuel

A visitor may guess what the company does and what it offers. A data venture as a concept sounds pretty mysterious. The company gives more context about what they do in the subheadline (data products) but there is no clear and compelling value proposition.

There is a visual of a lighthouse that fits into the narrative but doesn’t show how their framework and/or product works and looks.

2. BoardClic

BoardClic states that they’ll help you make smarter decisions which is a vague statement. It can mean a lot of things and it’s hard to identify who’s the target audience.

There is a more important message in the subheading saying that the tool helps in board and CEO evaluation. This is way more important than what’s in the main headline. Still, the whole message doesn’t say why ICP should choose them, what’s unique about this product, and what pain points it solves.

Positioning and messaging: start optimizing and tweaking it as your product evolves

Now you should understand that positioning and messaging builds your GTM strategy and why you should work on both to stay ahead in the game.

Remember to educate your colleagues and align every department in your company around current positioning and messaging. And try to analyze and polish it at least once per year and keep everyone updated.

If you keep up with good positioning and messaging you’ll get a competitive edge in the long run. Thanks to being focused on selling to those who understand why your product matters, you’ll be able to sell to more companies that fall into your ICP. Your economic impact will be reflected in lower churn, shorter sales cycles and steady, year-over-year growth.

Know exactly what your buyers want and improve your messaging

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