By Bill Jarrett – SCORE Mentor

Before you can develop a successful marketing plan, you must have a thorough knowledge of the marketplace.  It’s critical to profile your industry. Is it growing, maturing, or aging?  Each require different strategies and tactics.  You need to have a good knowledge of your competition.  In the marketing plan of the future more pages will be devoted to the competition.  The plan will dissect each participant in the marketplace.  It will develop a list of competitive weaknesses and strengths, as well as a plan of action to either exploit or defend against them.  Compare the strengths and weaknesses of your products or services.  Once you have gone through this exercise, you are in a better position to develop a marketing plan that will produce the results you are seeking.

POSITIONING is an organized system for finding a window in the mind.  The human mind is like a bank.  The mind has a position for each bit of information it has chosen to retain.  To cope with advertising complexity, people have learned to rank products or services in the mind.  Think of a ladder in the mind.  On each step is a brand name.  For a business to introduce a new product or service it must move up the ladder of products or service preferences in the customer’s mind.  The mind has no room for the new and different unless it is related to the old and familiar.

Let’s look at some examples of POSITIONING so you can see how the system could help you establish a new business or to grow an existing one.  The most classic one now is the Samsung Smart Phone ad.  Their advertising states THE NEXT BIG THING IS HERE.  If Apple is the best, they must be almost as good as Apple.  What do you remember about Motorola, Nokia, and Blackberry Smart Phones sales messages?

How many of you remember the famous car rental ad?  Avis stated we are #2.  WE TRY HARDER.  Next to Hertz Avis was #2.  How many of the other car rental ads do you remember?  Amazon ran a recent ad that showed a Kindle next to the Apple iPad.  They showed two or three frames of each and the last frame was Kindle at $299 and Apple iPad was $499.  WHICH ONE IS BEST FOR YOU?  You can position yourself away from your competitors.  Locally, Robberson Ford used to run an ad that listed all the services they offer to customers.  They ended the ad with a statement that said, “This is what sets us off from the other guys.”

Les Schwab is currently running a TV ad that lists all the services they offer their customers on one screen.  The next screen has the word COMPETITORS on it with a bold “?”.  So what does the competition offer?  Another famous positioning ad was when 7UP placed a picture of a bottle of seven-up between a bottle of Coke and Pepsi. The ad stated WE ARE THE UNCOLA.  Sales of 7UP increased 15% the next year.

Hopefully these examples will encourage you to explore Positioning as a tool for you.  A couple of books I recommend are POSITIONING - The Battle for Your Mind by Al Ries and Jack Trout, and Marketing Warfare by Al Ries and Jack Trout.