May 28, 2014

Counter-Positioning to Win

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Written by: Ross Quintana
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Counter Positioning to win

Hello everyone,

When it comes to positioning, this is one of the most powerful concepts to good strategy. It reminds me of the the ancient karate master who stands there smoking his pipe while 3 young guys try and fight him and he defeats them with little to no effort. He is a master of positioning while the young guys are trying to use force to defeat him. Great positioning creates opportunity and eliminates competition. All Ries said, be first or create a new category in one of my favorite marketing books of all time titled, “Positioning“. When you break down what he was really saying is master your position.

Many businesses don’t even know their position in comparison to the market and or their competition. Business know thyself! If you don’t know where you are or your unique business proposition then you won’t have an identity for your business. Businesses focus on how to stay in front of their customers without first making sure they are positioned correctly. This is what all those useless mission statements should have done for businesses but they didn’t. Once you know who you are, and what you stand for, you need to know who your competitors are and how they are positioned in the market. From this point you can start to understand the market. The final piece is to know the customer and what they want, expect, and need. At this point you have a map of positions. You can then position yourself and brand yourself in a way that create maximum identity and advantages. One classic position is the counter-position.

Counter-positioning is taking the opposing position as the main market competitor. When I did real estate for 12 years, I started off fairly young. The average age of Realtors was about 50 yrs old. I was 28. I realized that this would work against me. High end clients would look at me and think, “I have kids older than you, I need to hire someone with more experience.” I used counter positioning to turn a weakness into an advantage. I would tell them before we got to that conversation that real estate sure is changing. Everything is going online and using new technology. I would tell them it was crazy to be in a class with people who had been doing real estate for 20 years and seeing how lost they were with the new systems. I was using counter-positioning, by offering the alternative to the competition and then framing it in a way that made it an advantage to be young and a disadvantage to be older.

I knew I couldn’t compete with 20 years of experience since I didn’t have it then. The fact is you don’t have to have the best product or service to be a major competitor. You have to position yourself to win. Don’t try and fight a battle you can’t win. Instead make people see the value of the alternative to your competitions strength. There is almost always a weakness. Samsung did this with Apple maybe by accident as they didn’t continue this line of thinking that got them on the map. Apple was about being different, but once everyone was buying them, Samsung exploited the fact that Apple was no longer different at all, but mainstream when they had the Galaxy S3 add where the young hipsters were in line for the new Apple phone only to say they were holding a place for their grandparents.

Here is 3 ways counter-positioning can help you win.

1 – There is less competition. By offering the alternative you will shrink the market of your competition which will let you be a major player faster. 7up did this by calling itself the un-cola. Instead of being one of many sodas or colas, they used counter-positioning to stand out.

2 – It exploits the weaknesses of the major players. By simply providing the counter-position as your selling point you raise awareness that there is something wrong with the status quo. Once people start re-thinking the value of the mainstream advantages you actually increase the market of your product or service and shrink the market of your competition.

3 – Your competition works for you. When you attach your business to be the alternative to a major player, you put yourself on the map by default. The major play has a solid portion of the market and to challenge them you will instantly make a name for yourself. You still have to deliver as Nissan tried to do this with Mercedes and failed because everyone already knew they were not in the same class. When you become the legitimate counter-position then you enter the conversation and any new business your competitor generates becomes potential new business for you as they decide which to choose.

Business is about creating an identity and brand and then positioning it in the market and the mind of the consumer. If you want help standing out or turning weaknesses into strengths contact us for some consulting or put us to work on your project or business. We can make it better. Contact us Today for a free 15 minute consultation.


About the Author

Ross Quintana
Founder of SocialMagnets, I am passionate about social media, influence, innovation, strategy, and marketing. I love to help people learn and understand the digital world. I stretch people's thinking and share my analysis of information, tools, and strategies in social media. Let's connect


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