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How to develop a retention building product positioning

April Dunford | Author of Obviously Awesome: How to nail product positioning so customers get it, buy it, love it

  • | Acquisition | Growth | Psychology | Retention | Sales
  • June 2019
  • EP15

It all starts with positioning

Aligning marketing & sales with your product is key to combatting churn

Today on the show we have April Dunford, a product positioning consultant and author of Obviously Awesome. April helps startups position their products so that their customers get it, buy it, and love it.

We chatted about the definition of positioning and what it is and isn’t.

We also discussed how positioning impacts customer churn and the common mistakes startups make when positioning their products.

April also shared the 3 styles of positioning your product in a market, how positioning feeds your messaging, and how you can tell when you have a positioning problem.

I really enjoyed this conversation and I hope you do too!

If you have any feedback I would love to hear from you.

Enjoy the episode!


Highlights

Time
A definition of positioning, what it is and what it’s not 00:03:00
The mistakes startup make when positioning their product 00:04:30
A process to develop your company’s positioning 00:06:30
When is it time to change your positioning? 00:10:00
How positioning needs to evolve as your market and demographic evolves 00:15:45
The 3 styles of positioning your company in a market 00:20:20
How positioning execution evolves as your brand grows 00:26:00
How positioning feeds your messaging 00:30:30
How to take your positioning and turn it into a sales story 00:32:00
How Slack nailed their positioning 00:35:00

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April Dunford

Author of Obviously Awesome: How to nail product positioning so customers get it, buy it, love it

About the podcast

My name is Andrew Michael and I started CHURN.FM, as I was tired of hearing stories about some magical silver bullet that solved churn for company X.

In the real world tackling churn and increasing retention is one of the hardest problems a subscription business faces.

In this podcast, you will hear from founders and subscription economy pros who are taking a systematic approach to increase retention and engagement within their organizations.

Transcription

Andrew Michael
Hey, April, welcome to the show.

April Dunford
It’s so great to be here. Thanks for having me.

Andrew Michael
It’s a pleasure. So obviously, I think as you know, I reached out to a friend Louie Grenier is a fellow podcaster. And he’s also everyone hates marketers, which by the way, because this thing is an excellent podcast, I highly recommend it’s no fluff actionable Marketing Podcast. But anyway, I reached out to him to ask for recommendations for this show. And his first response was speak to April, she is awesome. Like there was I definitely trusted with us to say and I’m really excited that you decided to join us today on the topic that we’ll be discussing because I think it’s one of those things that has a massive impact on churn. But I think it’s something that early stage startups really think to look at. So just for the listeners, well, to get a little bit of a background, April, I know that you run marketing or marketing activities for Jenna systems that was acquired by Siebel for over 1.7 billion in the early days, like helping growing their revenue from a million to 70. Plus, in nit months, you spent time at companies like Oracle, IBM, Hawaii, and being a founder-entrepreneur yourself. You’re also an author of obviously awesome, which is hard to nail product positioning. So customers get it, buy it and love it. And is the topic that I’d love to start discussing today with you. So product positioning, why do you think it’s critical? And what are some of the things you see that startups get wrong?

April Dunford
Yeah, so positioning is interesting. It’s it’s not a new concept. It’s an old concept. It was it’s been around since the late 70s. But it is really misunderstood in, in my opinion. So positioning, the way I define it is, positioning defines how your product is the best in the world at doing something that a defined set of customers cares a lot about. So it’s not the same as messaging. It’s not a tagline. It’s not branding. It’s not. Some people say, oh, positioning is just everything we do with marketing. It’s not it actually touches sales. Most of those things flow from positioning, but positioning, a good way to think about it is it’s if marketing and sales are the house positioning is the foundation upon which the house is built, I have to figure out why my product is different and better than other offerings on the market, I have to figure out what the value is that my product delivers. And importantly, I have to figure out what customers care the most about that value. Before I can do any of that stuff before I can do messaging before I can build campaigns before I can do anything, I have to have that stuff clear. Now the mistake that I see most companies make particularly startups is they don’t understand the concept of positioning. And as a result, they kind of fail to position their product deliberately. So what I mean by that is, you know, the founders get an idea in their head, and they say, Hey, we’re going to build this thing. And it’s like email, and we’re going to build better email. And then they get it out. And customers say, Oh, I like this stuff. I don’t like that stuff. They take things out, they put things in Meanwhile, the whole market itself is changing. So competitors are taking things in and out of their products to and you fast forward a couple of years. And maybe your email actually looks more like chat, or collaboration or something else. But the founders have always thought of it as email, the change happened gradually over a couple of years. So they’ve got this kind of default position in their mind. The poor customers are getting it and they’re like, what I don’t I don’t think that’s email at all. It’s super confusing. What the heck is this thing? And if it’s email, it’s crappy email, like, why does anybody want this thing? And so because of this, and so the big again, the big problem I see startups make is this sort of default positioning, instead of ever checking back in in the positioning and saying, is there a better context, we could wrap around this product that would make the unique differentiated value of it more obvious to the folks that we now know that we’re selling to like, could we contextualize the whole thing better than the way we’re doing it today?

Andrew Michael
Yeah, I definitely see what you’re saying, as long as the founders have this vision in their mind of what the product is and what it’s going to be. And I think that’s what the market perceives it to be. And that’s what their targets and calling it. So So typically, like you mentioned, as well, definitely like that. positioning is the foundation and sales and marketing would sit on top of this. And that’s where it all sort of your tag lines and marketing campaigns and sales pitches would feed off of when we think about positioning now like, how would you go about advising a startup company wanting to get started positioning their product? Right, so what would be some of the first steps that you would want to look at?

April Dunford
Yeah, so there’s a handful of things. So the positioning itself is part of the reason why people don’t do it is because there isn’t really an accepted methodology for getting it done. And this vexed me for a long time as a vice president of marketing, who was doing a lot of repositioning of products. I’m like, what, we don’t have a process for this, like, How can that be? How can we have a thing that’s so fundamental, and yet, there’s no process. So the process I learned was something called a positioning statement, which is one of the stupidest business ideas I think I’ve ever come across. That positioning statement is really like this kind of Mad Libs exercise, like, you have this statement, and you fill in the blanks, and the things you’re filling in are like your market category, who your competitors are, what your differentiators are, what your value is. The problem is, is each of those things is actually really hard to figure out. And the positioning statement exercise doesn’t give you any hints how to you know how to put something in the blank. And so when I learned very quickly is that almost any product you give me, I could position it in multiple, multiple different market categories. So how do I pick the best one positioning statement doesn’t give me any clues how to do that. So in my own mind, the way you want to do positioning is the first step, if what we’re trying to do is get a differentiated value, you have to understand what you’re differentiating against. So meaning I have to understand that what my customers and not any customer, my best customers, my customers that love me, my customers don’t turn on me to my customers that recommend me. Who do they compare me to? And again, there’s lots of people get this wrong, or they’ll say, oh, we’re startup and our competitors and the list 900 little startups that nobody’s ever heard of. And they’re two guys in the valley. And they’ll say, well, we’re better than all those guys. Because we have way nicer UI or you know, we have these four little features. But then you go talk to their really, really good customers. And you say, hey, what would you use? If this thing didn’t exist? What would you do? And they’ll say things like, I just put an Excel spreadsheet, or I just hire an intern to do it. And so you might be differentiating against the wrong thing. So if I’m comparing myself to other startups, and I say who I’m super easy to use, but you’re not right, you’re not easier to use than an intern intern, super easy to use, like Joey, fill out the spreadsheet, tell me when you’re done. So the first thing you have to do is, understand who your best customers are, and then understand who your customers compare you to like, what is the actual competitive comparable? Once you have that, then you can say, Okay, if that’s the comparison, here are the features and capabilities that I have that the competitive comparable does not. And that’s usually a giant, long list of things. And then what you have to do is map those features to value so and that usually themes out into a couple of themes. and the value is the answer to like so what for a customer like so you have all these features, why does a customer care? What is the value that that delivers for your end buyer. And then once you have the value, then you can do this segmentation exercise where you say, Okay, this is the value, we deliver that special and unique. And there’s probably a large universe of people that kind of care about that, but only a smaller universe of people that really, really, we really care a lot. And the question you have to ask yourself is what are the characteristics of a customer that makes them really put a high price on that value. And those are your best fit customers. So and that’s how you do a segmentation. And then the last piece of this is this customer category thing, which is, if I’m trying to pick a market category that really works for my product. Another way of thinking of that is, it’s the best context, I can position my product in that makes my differentiated value absolutely obvious to my best fit customers. So you have to go through the process, and you have to go through it in the right order, which is you know, I described this in like 9000, gory details in the actual book. That’s what the book describes is that step by step process, starting with competitive comparables all the way down to market category. That’s, I think, how you should be doing it.

Andrew Michael
Yeah, it’s interesting, because I think is all just even starting with competitive comparables, I think this is definitely I see this happen time. And again, I’ve made this mistake myself as well, in the previous startup, where you look at the competition, and you think that you’re competitive, comparable, in actual fact, you’re actually comparing, and you’re fighting against old habits or old ways and people have been doing and your production needs to try and be 10 expected in their current habits or the current place. Otherwise, you’re in the wrong place to begin.

April Dunford
Yeah, otherwise, you’re in the wrong place, right? Because they’re just fine with string and gum and manual processes. And so your thing has to be way better than that. Because that has all the advantage of what’s pretty easy. We’ve been doing this forever, it’s not hard and switching your thing actually is a pain requires so so tell me why it’s worth the effort to do that to use your thing?

Andrew Michael
Absolutely. So I mentioned like enemy obviously, I think having like a really solid positioning is one of those things that has the biggest impact on Turner’s one things people don’t actually realize is because a lot of times you have this misalignment in terms of what the promise fit is and what you’re promising your customers that your service will deliver and what it actually does into the day. When it comes to sort of working with the startups that you work with, like how often do you see that this misalignment happening? So you mentioned like people come and as founders have this vision to begin with, but then two years down the line, it’s totally different. Like, what is some of the things that you would walk through startup founders, when you get to that point, and you realize that Wait a second, like, your product has changed, the market is changed, it’s time to change your positioning.

April Dunford
Right. So some of the things you’ll see. You know, when the when the companies come to me, like, there’s, there’s a handful of things that I would call like symptoms of weak positioning. So so usually they come to me, what they think they got is a marketing problem or a sales problem. And they’ll say we have this thing. And when customers get it, they love it, and they use it, and they never leave us. But it takes an awful long time for them to figure out what it is and venting on the sales process. Sometimes they don’t figure it out until after they’ve actually bought, which is bad.

And then once they get it and they start making really good some point the light comes on. And they’re like, oh, you’re this and that’s either good news or bad news. either love it. And they’re like, Oh, great, it’s this fantastic. That’s just what I want. Or it’s Oh, crap, it’s this is not what I wanted at all. And so you’ll see that, you’ll see it impact your entire entire funnel all the way out through to turn. So if you’re telling me that your system is a CRM, and I’m going to expect it to do things like a CRM does, right, I’m going to expect that there’s table stakes functionality in there. That’s like a CRM. And if you don’t have that, you’re going to have to make that super apparent to me before I sign up. Because otherwise, you’ve set the expectation that it’s there, and then it’s not. So like, I worked with a company that described themselves as email, and really what their secret sauce was, was, was more file sharing. And so I would call that team collaboration, because file sharing is what I, you know, it’s what I one of the major things I by team collaboration for and their issue was they were positioning as email, which was okay, except nobody expects nobody buys email to solve a file sharing problem generally. The other thing was that they didn’t have calendar. So they’re telling people their email, and everyone’s like, great, I got they do email, but you can’t actually get rid of the old email because you there’s no calendar in this thing. So you can’t replace the email you’ve got. And, you know, if you ask me, what’s an email with a calendar, it’s kind of crappy email. So no wonder they would have turned their no one of the they would have disappointed customers is an expectation when you tell me it’s email, there’s some table stakes things that if it doesn’t do that, I’m going to expect that it does, I’m going to be super disappointed that it’s not there. So if the positioning is out of alignment, I’m think you’re going to get this mismatch between expectations and reality. And that gap is going to cause you pain, it’s it’s going to be churn is going to be people dropping out of your sales funnel midway through when they really want to actually figure it out. It means you’re going to have perfect customers coming in the very beginning of the funnel, and your sales and marketing team waste a lot of time and effort trying to close people that you know, that shouldn’t even be in your funnel in the first place.

Andrew Michael
Yeah, absolutely. And then as well, I think something that you said as well, it like just got me thinking a little bit is that different stages of the company. So you start out with the vision. In the beginning, you said it out, you start running your positioning, and you said working from there, two years later, different products, but two years later, you potentially after different markets as well. And I’m interested to hear your thoughts on how positioning needs to evolve as your markets and your demographic evolves with it. So if we think about like early adopters and going into sort of the early majority, or let them do it, like, do you see positioning, there’s something that’s constantly evolving, it needs to be adapting to the market? And so like, how do you go about making sure that you keeping up with this change?

April Dunford
Yeah, I think it’s really, it’s really important to be checking in on your positioning at regular intervals, because it naturally changes, it doesn’t always change is the thing, but sometimes it does, then you don’t know whether to change or not, unless you’re checking in. So I was on I was had a conversation with some folks a couple of weeks ago, we were talking about, they said so you know, you ever check back on a product that you positioned and see has it changed. And I said I do that all the time. And some of them have radically changed and some of them haven’t changed a bit. In fact, the first product I worked on strategy university, I worked on a product. And we reposition it from like a personal single user database, it was kind of competitive with Microsoft Access. And we ended up repositioning it as an embeddable SQL database for mobile devices. And that product exists today. Like there’s a long time ago to I’m old, so that product exists today. We got acquired, and then that company got acquired again, it exists today. It’s like a billion dollar business unit. And that positioning is not that much different. Like they’re talking a lot more about Internet of Things. But it’s still an embedded database for mobile devices hasn’t changed a bit, where I have worked on other ones where, you know, we did the positioning, we’re convinced it’s genius, it is genius. But four months later, well, we had one where we did this positioning, it was so good, we had a patent on a thing, it was totally defensible, our differentiated thing, you could copy it, we owned it, we came to market and everyone loved it. And literally, like six months later, this new competitor came into the market, they had 10 times the funding that we had. So you know, they had all kinds of money to burn. And they had a patent, it was not the same as ours, it was completely different, obviously. But the result of what they could do with that patented thing was exact same thing as ours, it’s just, you get the same result, doing it a totally different way. So six months I we had this genius positioning were great aces for six months. And then six months later, we’re like, whoops, we’re gonna have to actually reposition this thing. Because we can’t beat them. They’re bigger than us, they got more money than us. This CEO was this famous database guy like it was it was a disaster. And we had to kind of retrench and reposition. So over time, you have to expect that your product changes, the competitive landscape changes, even the attitude of your buyers change, you know, sometimes you’ll have things like the front economy changes, and that changes the way you know how much people will pay for things and how much emphasis they put on, you know, revenue versus cost cutting and things like this. So your buyers are changing, too. So I usually recommend that you have to kind of check in at least every six months and kind of take the pulse on it and see like, is this really still our big differentiator? Is this really still why we win at the Are we still bumping into the same competitors we’ve always bumped into? Or has that shifted? Is there something that’s changed about the way our buyers evaluate things? Or is it the same as it was before? And, and be prepared that, you know, it might shift and it might shift a lot and that’s okay, that’s normal. They You know, that’s okay. And normal, or it might not shift at all, you might have a thing that you know, like my first 125 years later, it’s still a database for mobile devices. And it’s doing okay, as far as I can tell, yeah, it’s sort of like, don’t be precious with your positioning is I’ll be willing to evolve and adapt.

Andrew Michael
I think as well, what you said is another thing is that like, with positioning, typically, like in the beginning, you think of it as awareness, like how you see your product, but really, that’s not what positioning is at all. It’s like how your customers see your product. And how when you goes about, like positioning and some of the things so we’ve talked to about, like making sure you know, your customer is like that initial market. But the value is, how do you go about then sort of figuring out how you position yourself in this specific vertical or what the specific value is, like, what is your process, they once you’ve identified like that corner of the market that you’re going after?

April Dunford
Yeah, so in my mind, there’s, there’s kind of three styles of positioning, so in a market, so you can either position yourself in an existing market, or you can attempt to create a brand new market. And so those were, those are both very different. If you are positioning yourself in an existing market, you have two different ways you can do that. So you can either position directly head to head against the current leader in that existing market. And that’d be like saying, we’re getting into the CRM business, and we’re taking out Salesforce. So we’re going to do and and this is usually a bad idea, because you’re small and crappy and just got going. And Salesforce is very big and established, and they have a lot of things going for them. And so it’s going to be very hard to unseat them. If you say, No, we’re going to take those guys out. So instead, what you usually do, if the market is established, and the competitor is is very established that owns that market, than a better thing to do is to say, you know what, I’m going to look for a piece of the market that is underserved by the market leader, that I can serve better, and I’m just going to go win in that corner. And then once I’ve dominated my little niche or my corner of the market, then I’m going to start to push on the boundaries of that market until it’s bigger and bigger, and take on adjacent little corners of the market, until eventually I get big. And then I can take on, you know, Salesforce and the CRM market or whatever, once I’m big enough to do it, the only time where you might want to go into an existing market and take on the whole thing is if the market exists in the minds of the customers, but but there is no clear market leader today. So there are you know, some there are some emerging markets that look like that. So, you know, I would argue like the smart glasses market is a little bit like that right now, there are lots of players in that market. They’re all interesting in different ways. Lots of them are getting a little bit of traction here and there. But it’s kind of a toss up. Like if you were to say to me, who’s the leader in that market like me who dominates the smart glasses market? I don’t actually know. But when you say smart glasses, I kind of get what you mean, right? And so I so we have a company here in Canada called north, and they’ve done some smart glasses, tech, it’s really smart. And they are taking a run at being the leader in that thing. And it makes sense for them. They’re well funded. They’re smart guys. They’ve been doing this for a long time, and why not them. And so if there isn’t anybody else, so they can take a run at and not some submit sub segment it and say no, we’re going to be smart glasses for everybody for everything. Now, the third option is so you got take the leader head on, you got to take the leader, you dominate a niche. But then you got the third option, which is I’m going to create my thing is so special and weird and amazing and cool, that no existing market can contain it. And I’m going to create a whole new market. And this is it. This is the kind of strategy like Silicon Valley loves this one right now, I’ll tell you, everybody, everybody that I talked to is like, no, we’re we’re creating a new market. Sometimes I think companies say that, but they’re not actually doing that they’re there. They’re creating a concept within an existing market. But it’s actually not a new market. And but

sometimes you are creating a new market. And it’s a it’s a risky thing to do, it takes time, mainly because the reason the market doesn’t exist, is because people don’t even know they got a problem. Because if they knew they had a problem, there would be a category of existing solutions to solve that. So if they don’t know they have a market doesn’t exist, that means customers don’t know they have a problem, which means you’re going to have to spend a significant amount of time and effort waking people up to the fact that they got a problem, which is education, it takes time. And so what you need is money and patient investors. And so money and patient investors, you might actually survive through the period where you’re educating the market that this should exist. And then you have to position yourself as a leader in this new market that you just created, which the payoff for that is great. But there’s all sorts of pitfalls there too. Like you might spend a lot of time defining what that market is. Then at the last minute, a fast follower scoops in mind you and says, Yeah, we’re just like them, but better. And thanks for making that market for us. We’re now going to pop in when the markets ready and take it from you sort of MySpace versus Facebook kind of thing. So the creating a new market, again, it requires time, patient investors, big effort, and you’re in it for the long run. At most of the time, when a new market gets created. It’s created by a company that has gone through the process of dominating a niche, they’ve now gotten big. And they’re like, you know what, we’re going to extend the boundaries of the market, or we’re going to make up a new market, and we’re going to go get that. But they do it when they’re hundreds of millions of revenue, not you know, some money in the bank, six people in the CO working space. And they got lots of money to fund it.

Andrew Michael
That was actually going to be my next question. Along those lines a little bit as well. Is that do you see like the impact of brand? And how well you are known in the markets? Like how much brand recall yet? Like? Do you see that as an impact of like, what your positioning should be and how you go about thinking about your products at an early stage you unknown? You have some sort of expectations that you need to set with your positioning, when you start to build the brand and your household name like how do you when you’re thinking about positioning for those two different scenarios? Are there any sort of differences that you think about in writing, positioning and coming up with it?

April Dunford
You know, I think the positioning is the same. It’s it’s how you execute on the positioning that changes because the scale of your execution, execution has to be different. Like it like my focus is all been b2b. So if it’s b2c, I don’t know I don’t know anything about b2c. But for if you’re selling to businesses, at the beginning, you’re usually doing a very manually intensive sales process where your you’re just picking off account by account by account just to get some customers under your belt and going and then later when you have to scale that. Joe, at the beginning, the brand doesn’t matter that much. Because you’re doing the heavy lifting of sort of Boston into an account and forcing yourself in there and say, Hey, pay attention to me use your buy my stuff, it’s amazing. But later, when you’re trying to do that at scale, it’s way easier if everybody knows who you are. And occasionally they call you now and then or when your salesperson does call in, they’ve heard of you before, and so they’re not starting from scratch. And so brand matters more. Or at least brand awareness matters more.

Andrew Michael
Yeah.

April Dunford
But if you’re trying to do something that requires, you know, really big scale and really big brand awareness, mainly it doesn’t impact the positioning that much, although obviously you’re trying to position for a really big market segment, because you’re trying to go after, like a really broad thing. But it’s more the execution of it. Right. It’s, it’s more, you know, it’s like buckshot versus sniper. You know, I’m not going to these finely tuned targets, I’m just going to try to, you know, spray the land with this thing and get as many as I can. In b2b. Part of the reason why I like b2b is how focused you can get on particular markets, and how focused you can be in your marketing and sales effort, and there’s very little waste in it. So you get, the more tightly you can define who it is I’m going after. And sometimes that’s just writing down a list of accounts and then doing account based marketing to get right into the accounts that you’re trying to reach. You can do this with very little waste, b2c, I don’t do b2c but you know, the impression I get a b2c is there’s a lot more sort of spray and pray. And I’m just trying to reach everybody and it’s a numbers game. And I’m going to convert X number of people that that feels very inefficient to me as a b2b market. And and I don’t understand I don’t understand how people survive. doing stuff like that, but apparently it works. Because, you know, there’s lots of b2c things that are successful. But that’s a that’s a piece of marketing that I understand that I try to stay away from.

Andrew Michael
Yeah, it’s definitely at least for me, I think b2b is the start. That’s the that most of the more interesting part of it is like a DocuSign can be a lot more predictable, a lot more focused.

April Dunford
Money, like we make money. Yeah.

Like, there’s all these b2c things that they survive on venture backing or or pixie dust or magic or something. They don’t actually make any money. You know, like, I always have these conversations with business, consumer companies come to me. And it’s kind of a joke, because I tell them, don’t talk to me, you don’t want to talk to me, because you’re going to pitch your b2c thing to me. And I’m going to pitch it back to you about how this would be a way better business to business business. And so you know, and it usually comes down to the math I’m doing in my head. Look, I could sell a million of these a buck. Yeah. Or I could sell one for a million dollars. And yeah, that’s gonna be a hard deal to close. Yeah, it might take me six or eight months to do it. But I only had to sell what these are saying, I gotta sell a million of these for a buck. Like my, you know, my brain starts sweating. I’m like, No, don’t make me do it. I don’t want to do that. Yeah.

Andrew Michael
So talking about selling as well then. And we said like positioning is the base when it comes to sales and marketing. When it comes to sort of marketing then itself and like messaging of the product, how closely Do you see positioning and messaging align? And then sort of hardest one feed the other?

April Dunford
Yeah, so the so the first thing, the first thing you do after positioning is usually messaging, like the messaging is often the embodiment or the first embodiment of your positioning. Yeah, so it but in order to do messaging, you got to have the positioning first, right, because I need to understand what my value proposition is, I need to understand my differentiators, I need to understand who I’m talking to, and I can’t write messaging, I don’t know who I’m talking to. So I need to understand that. And I need to understand my market category, because I need to understand what am i lighting and who I’m comparing myself to, and what the heck is this thing. So I kind of need to have the positioning done first. But the minute it’s done, there’s usually two things that you want to do immediately after, so the first is messaging. It well, then it’s not a one to both things have to happen. And they usually happen at the same time messaging is one. The second one I think you need that you need to nail down is what I would call a sales narrative. And in the positioning workshops that I do with companies will spend a day on the positioning stuff. And then we can’t do messaging as a team, because that’s super annoying, and awful. I wouldn’t recommend anybody do messaging as a group. But as a group, we can work through sales narrative. And so the sales narrative sort of goes like this. And again, this is b2b, to in b2b, I need to take the positioning and translate it into a sales story. So which is like, you know, if you don’t know too much about my stuff, this is how I would explain it to you. And in b2b sales narrative usually follows a common arc, it sort of starts with you talking about the problem, like, Hey, I’m going to put some boundaries around the problem, hey, customer, this is your problem, right? You have this problem? And the customer goes, Oh, yeah, I got that problem. And then you see when this is how you’re trying to solve it now, right? you’re hiring interns using some Excel, you’re, you know, staying up nights and weekends and manual processes, right? Because versus, oh, yeah, we’re doing that. And here’s why that sucks. And then you list all of the shortcomings of the current solution. And then you shift to a description of your point of view of the market, which is kind of like a description of the perfect world where you say, look, if we knew if we were to do this, again, from scratch, and we were to build the perfect solution in a perfect world, this is what the characteristics of that solution would be, we’d be able to do this without this, you know, we’d have this without the annoyance of this, you know, what you’re doing is defining Buying Criteria for your category. Yeah. And hopefully the customer goes, Yeah, I didn’t get anything fear that there was something that did all that stuff. You’re right, I buy that thing. And then you go, Whoa, whoa, have I got a thing for you. And then you switch into the actual sales part where you say, well, that’s we believe that. So that’s why we built this thing. And here’s what it is, here’s the value here the features that allow us to deliver that value. Here’s the proof that we can deliver that value. I handle some objections, then I asked for whatever I asked for next, either by my thing, or let’s do proof of concept, or let’s have another meeting, whatever it is, yeah. So those are the two things that come right after positioning, you need positioning, then you need to translate that into messaging, and you need to translate it into sales narrative. With those three pieces, you can now do anything. Now I can build a marketing plan. Now I can build sales collateral, now I can do the messaging for the homepage, and all my campaigns and everything else. But I kind of need those three things first. So positioning first two things out of that is messaging, and this and the sales narrative. Once I have those, I got everything I need to go build everything else.

Andrew Michael
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. And having those sort of three pillars in place. Like it definitely is pretty much the foundation of everything when it comes to marketing or sales. Yep. So I’m interested to hear your opinion, then, obviously, you’ve had loads of experience in the space, we work with so many different companies, like in your opinion today in a b2b company, and maybe specifically SAS acuity things really nailing the positioning. And while

April Dunford
Yeah, you know, it’s, it’s so it’s often hard. So I get asked this question a lot, like who’s got great positioning? Yeah, the funny thing is, is, if you are not the target buyer, for the product, you don’t always know because all you’re looking at is messaging and brand and whatever else and and if they were totally nailing it for a segment, and you’re not the segment, how the heck would you know, so I have favorites, but they’re generally ones that I’ve worked with. So I know all the guts of it. I know how I know what it was before. And I know how they got to where they are right now. Like there’s a client of mine. They’re called level jump. And I did some work with them. And I love their positioning right now, because it’s so clear, so beautiful. And it was hard to get there because they were in a really crowded space. So what these folks do is they do sales enablement, software, for growing sales teams. So you got new sales, people coming on board, you got new products are releasing all the time. And I have to get those sales people up to speed as fast as possible. And I need to get them trained and enabled so that they can get the quote of fast, they can ramp fast so that they’re making money so that you know, we recoup our investment in hiring them in the first place. And there are like, if you google sales enablement, like, there’s a horrible market, there’s all kinds of stuff in there. And there’s all sorts of sub segments within the segment. And it’s terrible. And so when I first talked to these guys, you know, they they map this thing out on a whiteboard for me, and it’s like, oh, it’s a nightmare. There’s like 20 companies in there. And they all call themselves sales enablement. You know, they all got to look the same, when in fact, they’re all super different. And like about level jumps positioning now is they basically have one really key differentiator and the key differentiator is they are the only sales enablement platform that hooks directly into your sales data. So you can measure if your enablement actually works. So their point of view on the market is this right, their point of view is, look, you’re not enabling your sales reps for fun, or for a checklist on you know, they did the course check your enablement, you want to reduce your ramp time you’re enabling because you want to reduce time to first deal time to make quota, all that stuff. They’re the only tool where you can definitively measure whether or not your enablement did that. So what I love about their positioning is it’s so clear now it’s basically like, Do you care about metrics? On your enablement stuff? If the answer is no, then you can buy one of the other 9 million things are in this space. There’s lots of them that are way, way cheaper. But if I pitch you and say, Look, don’t you actually want to measure this stuff? Like, don’t you want to know time to ramp down to whatever like it like, if you care about that, then we’re the only game in town. And so I love that positioning. Because it’s so clear, it’s clearly differentiated. And it’s it’s a message that resonates with very, very well with their target market, which are these fast growing, in a lot of cases, tech companies that are hiring a lot of sales people, but they’re very concerned about time to ramp and all these metrics that these guys can give them. So it resonates super well with their target market. They’re clearly differentiated in a market that’s mass. And so I love them as a positioning example, it’s just like, it’s super clear was it was hard to figure it out before and now it’s super easy. Super easy. I know exactly. Exactly who it’s for. I know exactly how you’re different. I exactly when you buy and when you wouldn’t. It’s just clean.

Andrew Michael
Yeah. Makes sense. I think I made it a little bit of a rookie mistake and asking you that question. Which companies? Do you like it? No, it’s

April Dunford
okay. Like I’ll do I’ll you know, I’ll just tell you my favorites.

Andrew Michael
I was gonna say, I should have framed it’s like, of the products that you use, which company has the best positioning?

April Dunford
Yeah, like, you know, there’s, there’s, you know, there’s maybe ones I could think of like, you know, I really like

the early days of slack, I it’s very different. Now, their positioning is very different now, because there’s so much more mainstream now. But at the beginning, they were they were really positioned differently than I like their, their late comer into this market. I mean, there was Yammer, there were there were all these things there was at Salesforce Chatter, like there were lots of team collaboration tools in the market before slack showed up. Yeah. But what I thought was really neat about their early positioning was, was really all it was it was a lot of it was around culture and speed and eliminating email. And I think that that message around, we want to get the team working better together, we need to do it really fast. And we need to do it like faster than email, and Don’t you wish I could just get rid of email and have this kind of real time thing going on with them. And so their early positioning I thought was really, really good. That was now they’re just you know, they’re like everything for everybody, because they’re the leader in the team collaboration space, so that their positioning has to change now. And they’re not getting rid of email. No one’s getting rid of email, we all know that it’s dream. So now they integrate with email and all this other stuff. They don’t bother say, but but the, you know, for a lot of dev teams, like they actually did kind of eliminate 90% of in company email between dev teams, but but now they’re way bigger than dev teams and way bigger than everything else. So they can’t say they’re eliminating email. And they can’t say they’re about culture, because for everybody now, but

Andrew Michael
yeah, but I think it goes back to how we started the conversation, as well as understand like, who the competition really is, right? So like, as you said, they did a great job. They’re really focusing and targeting like the real competition, which was email, which was

April Dunford
email, which nobody, like Yammer never came out and said, Hey, this is all about getting nice email in your inbox like that. I said that because he used it. Instead, it was all like, Oh, yeah, this fluffy stuff about collaborating better, whatever, whatever. And it was all a bit vague. But you come and you say, like, like emails, pain in the ass. Like, I really want to get rid of email, I got rid of half of it. I’m super happy. Now, of course, we know what we know. Now, what we know now is, it’s just it’s still painful. It’s just now I got a different pain over here in the slack room, just like this, oh, I got 19 slack channels that I’m that I’m way behind on or whatever. And it’s just as bad as email. But you know, but back then it was it was like, they were selling the dream. And the dream was, you’re going to fix my inbox problem. And I’m like, Oh, I want that. Yeah.

Andrew Michael
Absolutely. I think it’s all the same. What you’re saying it makes, it seems like the same problem exists now. But it’s just in a different medium, a different form. But people just really had that big issue with email itself. But it didn’t really matter at the time. But just like I said before, and

April Dunford
they did, they did it great thing, too, I thought and I don’t know whether it was deliberate. But the early traction for slack was little tech companies, when the majority of that like where it got traction was the development team. And like, there’s a bunch of people that I mean, there’s people that hate email, and then there’s people that detest email. And, and even if they sit right across from each other, don’t want to talk to anybody. And they would much sooner send you a message. And so here you have the perfect early adopters for this thing. And I never saw Yammer targeting development teams, I never saw any of those other team collaboration things. I never saw any of that they were targeting sales teams or deal teams on an account and things like that. Totally different use case. Whereas slack came out. And whether they did this deliberately or not, at the beginning, they were like, we’re not going to have an email anymore. And you still don’t have to talk to anybody keep the headphones on, keep staring at yourself. Green. Perfect is what every developer wants, this is what they want. I don’t have anybody interrupting me, and I gotta take my headphones on and get on my flow and whatever. I just want to have this thing going I have this thing be on another screen in the corner. And I can glance at it once in a while is perfect for dev teams. It’s just a completely different entry point into the organization. You know, and they and I think what they did was was hit on that really well. And now of course, now they’re in all organizations doing all kinds of teams, and all kinds of everything in the positioning has to change.

Andrew Michael
Yeah, and I think like this, I mean, they did so many things so well. And that’s why they’ve created one of the stickiest products in the world. Now at the moment. Is it still sticky Tuesday?

April Dunford
I loved it so much in the beginning, and now Oh, yeah.

Andrew Michael
Nailing the positioning and end up building one of the stickiest products in the world. Cool. April, it’s been a pleasure chatting to Tara really, really enjoyed this conversation then. Great. I loved it. And I definitely advise any of the listeners like to check out the book, obviously awesome game, like, how to nail product positioning. So your customers get it, buy it, love it like and if there’s one thing that’s going to help you with your churn is making sure that you’re aligning your positioning with what your product actually delivers and the value that it has. So thanks again, April and wish you a good rest of the week.

April Dunford
Okay, that’s great. Thanks so much for having me.