Positioning Strategy

In addition to focussing the sale of the TP and selecting an appropriate selling style, we need to develop an overall positioning strategy for our agency.   A positioning strategy means answering our prospect’s ultimate question  – “Why based on all of the competitive alternatives available to me, should I select your agency?” – in a way that no other agency could.

It is important to note that using a “features and benefits” approach to selling is never as effective as having an overall positioning strategy.  As long as other agencies use the same “features and benefits” approach to sell comparable products and services, we all end up sounding the same.  To the prospect, one agency is as good as another.

In developing an agency’s positioning strategy with a specific prospect  – and it will vary from prospect to prospect depending on the marketplace, the competition, and the prospect’s unique needs – we should ask ourselves four questions:

  1. Is it Unique? Is what we’ve described unique to our agency?  Have we said something that our competition cannot also say?  Have we identified a distinction that makes us truly stand out, that makes us unique in the mind of the prospect?
  1. Is it Meaningful? Is what we’ve described meaningful to the prospect?  Is our statement powerful and compelling enough to influence the prospect’s selection of an agency?  Does it speak to the prospect’s strongest motivation for changing agencies?
  1. Is it Coherent? Is the logic in our statement sound?  Is our statement consistent with and does it reinforce our overall message of competitive uniqueness?
  1. Is it Compelling? Does our statement effectively answer the ultimate sales question:  “Why based on all of the competitive alternatives available to them, would the prospect we’re targetting want to select us?”

There are at least six possible ways of positioning an agency’s uniqueness, all of which have strengths and weaknesses and may be more or less appropriate to an agency at different times and under different circumstances.

“Service” Positioning

This is positioning an agency as being  unique by virtue of offering significant

service features that no one else in its market offers.

For example, perhaps our agency is the first in our marketplace to offer online services for “surfers”.  Provided this unique service capability is meaningful enough to them, surfers would, based on all the alternatives available to them, choose our agency over others.  However, most “new” services are eventually duplicated by competitors – thereby deflating the competitive uniqueness of this positioning strategy.

“Service Support” Positioning

This is positioning an agency as being unique by virtue of its excellent training

progressive employee empowerment practises, and ISO or TQM status, etc.

For example, perhaps our agency wins a high profile award for service (eg. the Malcolm Baldridge Award in the U.S.) and is widely recognized as being on the leading edge of the quality/service movement.  If they are particularly impressed by service levels, a prospect might, based on all the competitive alternatives available to them, choose our agency over the others.  However, short of winning a high profile award or achieving some comparable renown, it is difficult for an agency to distinguish itself as uniquely service oriented.

“Agency Specialization” Positioning

This is positioning an agency as being unique by virtue of the well-defined niche

it services. For example, perhaps our agency specializes in travel to Eastern European, formerly Soviet-bloc, countries.  If the majority of their business or travel relates to this geographic region, a prospect might, based on all the alternatives available to them, choose our agency over others.  However, unless ours is a “boutique” agency, we would be hard pressed to secure a unique and compelling niche;  moreover, even were our agency to secure a unique niche, it would be at risk of losing it were another rival “boutique” agency to open in our market.

“Least Risk” Positioning

This is positioning an agency as being unique because it represents the

prospect’s “least risk” choice of vendor. For example, perhaps our agency suggests to a prospect that only our agency can assure that all their needs will be met without having to compromise on either value or service and does so in a way that implies “between the lines” that other agencies might have to compromise on one or the other.  If we are able to plant the “seeds of doubt” about other agencies in the prospect’s mind, they may well choose to do business with ours.  However, in the face of aggressive and sophisticated competition, this can be a difficult position to prove.

“Best Value” Positioning

This is positioning an agency as being unique because it offers the account its

“best value” overall. For example, perhaps our agency suggests to a prospect that its overall approach to service, cost-containment (or whatever else concerns them most) has more merit/benefit/value than that of other agencies.  If they believe they’ll get better value from doing so, the prospect might choose our agency over others.  However, once again, this is a difficult position to prove.

Note that the “least risk” and “best value” positions are similar;  however, one appeals to the account’s fear of the possible consequences of making a poor choice; the other appeals to the account’s desire to reap the benefits of everything the agency has to offer — particularly when price is an issue.  Both focus on the account’s need to “not make a mistake” in their selection.

“Business Partnership” Positioning

This is positioning an agency as being unique because it offers the prospect a

bartering type of arrangement not available elsewhere. For example, perhaps our agency is able to provide a stress-management consulting company with an opportunity to offer seminars  to another of the agency’s large, highly-stressed and frequently travelling accounts.  If the business opportunity is attractive enough and unavailable elsewhere, the company might choose our agency over others.  However, this is an unusual position and likely to only be available in the case of a few, if any, prospects.

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