It’s difficult to find your place in a noisy world. This is even truer for small business, where competition abounds. As if crafting the perfect product or service wasn’t hard enough, you have to craft great messages as well. In other words, you have to find your market position.

Don’t let the complexity catch you off-guard, though. We’re here to help!

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What is a Market Position?

First things first, we need to talk about positioning, and what that term means in marketing. According to Wikipedia, a market position is “the place that a brand occupies in the minds of the customers and how it is distinguished from the products of the competitors.”

We spend a lot of time talking about product-market fit. The idea of product-market fit is that you need to create products (or services) that perfectly meet the needs of your target market.

Branding works the same way. Your brand needs to reinforce the idea that your product is a perfect match for your customer. By carefully crafting messages, you can enhance the customer experience, increase sales, and improve your return on marketing spending.

Why is Market Positioning Important?

Market positioning is important for a lot of the same reasons that product-market fit is important. For starters, carefully choosing a marketing position pushes you toward clearer communication. By thinking about what your brand means to your prospective customers, you are forced to craft great messages.

A few paragraphs ago, we describe product-market fit as what happens when you create products (or services) that perfectly meet the needs of your target market. Similarly, market positioning can help you find audience-message fit: crafting messages that perfectly fit your audience.

It gets better from here, too. The research you put into market positioning will help you create better products and services, too. The very act of learning how to describe your product to others can help you see weaknesses and strengths.

Lastly, market position is relative to your competition. That is, market positioning means finding a way to distinguish yourself from the competition. Finding out how to distinguish yourself from the competition means thoroughly researching them, which is a good idea in general.

Market Positioning & Your Target Market

If you speak to a room of ten people, everyone will hear the same speech, but each person will have their own understanding. Because of this, you need to be keenly aware of who your target market is when staking out your market position.

As we say in our recent post about the subject, a target market is a group of potential customers to whom you want to sell products or services. Target markets have specific qualities, such as age, location, or interests that set them apart from the general population. You want your message to speak them and their unique needs.

It’s also worth mentioning that while a company can serve a large target market, each individual product or service can appeal to different market segments. If this is the case, you may want to stake out a different marketing position for each market segment you serve. (Read up on market segmentation here.)

Market Positioning & Your Niche

We’ve talked about market niches before and why they’re important. The short version can be summed up as follows: “you’ve found your niche when you’re able to make very specific products for very specific people with a very specific message.”

Let’s break that down a bit. You have three parts:

  1. Products: very specific products
  2. Target market: very specific people
  3. Branding: very specific messages

When you combine 1 & 2, that’s product-market fit. Combine 2 & 3, and you have your market position. Put them all together, and you’ve found your niche!

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We know marketing can be confusing. Download our free marketing checklist for advice.

The 5 Common Market Position Strategies

With all of the above in mind, market positioning strategies tend to fall into a few broad categories. Marketing91 did a good job of listing them and they provide inspiration for our own take on the subject below.

In messy reality, bear in mind that you will probably use a mix of these when staking out your market position, though one strategy will likely be more prominent than others.

1. Consumer Benefits

One way that you can differentiate your product from others on the market is by emphasizing the benefits. If you sell cars, you could claim that your car is the “safest” or “the most fuel-efficient.”

2. Pricing

Another way you can differentiate your product from others is by setting the price much higher or much lower. That way you can either position yourself as “the low-cost option” or “the pinnacle of luxury.”

3. Use or Application

Pumpkin spice lattes could be made at any time of year, but they are typically consumer by Starbucks consumers in the autumn. This is part of what makes them special. In this sense, the product’s use is what truly sets it apart on the market.

4. Product or Process

Alternatively, you can also position a product by how it is used or who uses it. A good example straight from Marketing91 is the following: “Johnson and Johnson repositioned its shampoo from one used for babies to one used by people who wash their hair frequently and therefore need a mild shampoo.”

5. Product Class

Lastly, you can find your market position by classifying your product differently than others on the market. For example, some toothpastes are teeth-whitening. Others are breath-freshening. (You’ll notice that this is not dissimilar to differentiating by product benefits.)

How to Find a Market Position

With all of the above in mind, we are now going to help you find your market position. You find it in much the same way that you find product-market fit – a lot of research and trial and error. Understand that it will take some time to find your market position, but it will be well worth it when you do!

1. Review your company’s strengths and weaknesses.

Finding a market position is all about coming up with attractive messages that you can send to potential customers. However, you also need to be very honest when you do so. Take a moment to think about what your company can and cannot do well.

2. Analyze your competition.

Market positioning, as we said earlier, is relative. The whole point is to set yourself apart from the competition. Take some time to really research your competition. Know their strengths and weaknesses. Look out for opportunities to exploit and threats to avoid.

3. Conduct marketing research.

Marketing research is really important to your business’s success. In fact, it’s a favorite subject of ours that we’ve written about many times:

Even if you don’t read any of those articles, the message is clear: you need to take the time to really learn about what your customers need and like. Don’t make assumptions without testing them! Ask a lot of questions.

4. Figure out what makes your products distinct from others.

This is where the market positioning strategies which mentioned in the previous section come in handy. Think about what makes your product different than others on the market. Does it offer unique benefits or uses? Is the price different? Is it in a category all of its own?

5. Determine which of your products’ qualities will attract customers.

After you figure out what distinguishes your product from others on the market, you need to think about what qualities will actively attract new customers to it. In other words, what’s the X factor?

Your customers are not making rational decisions to buy much of the time. They’re making emotional decisions. What makes them excited to buy your product?

6. Revisit your target market and niche.

Once you figure out what sets your product apart, it’s time to revisit your target market and your niche. Is your product really meeting your target market’s needs? Are your messages going to really resonate with your target market to the extent needed to carve out a niche?

If you can’t say “yes” to both those questions with a high degree of confidence, test out different marketing messages and see which ones people respond to!

Final Thoughts

Finding your market position is not easy. It’s a complex process that takes time. It’s well worth it, though. Knowing what makes your business special will help you gain and retain customers.

Consider your target market’s needs. Figure out how to meet their needs with great products or services. Then figure out how to communicate with them in a way that feels natural. Lastly, find a way to distinguish yourself from the competition.

It’s a lot of work, but you can do it and it will be worth it. If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments below. We always loving hearing from our readers 😀

First time marketing your small business?
We know marketing can be confusing. Download our free marketing checklist for advice.

36 Comments

Maria Teresa Fernandez Ferreira · May 18, 2020 at 10:26 am

It is true that it is very difficult to find a hole, but not impossible, taking into account all the details you can even take advantage of others that do not evolve and create your own space

    Brandon Rollins · May 18, 2020 at 11:21 am

    It definitely takes time to find the right position! I think that’s part of why having a clear market position is so powerful – it’s just really, really hard to do and therefore really hard for your competitors to replicate.

ilikan hepiyiler · May 18, 2020 at 10:40 am

Very broad, nice

rana durham · May 18, 2020 at 12:25 pm

thank you i am bookmarketing this

Anne Marie Carter · May 18, 2020 at 12:46 pm

Great advice on Marketing Position. A business needs to be specific to the area that it is located in. Needs and wants differ from the West Coast to the East.

    Ankit bisht · May 24, 2020 at 3:20 am

    It definitely takes time to find the right position, I think that’s part of why having a clear market position is so powerful.

monique s · May 18, 2020 at 1:20 pm

Defining and understanding how your product fits is important to message to your customers

André Mendes · May 18, 2020 at 4:11 pm

So much stuff to think about. My wife will love this, she is trying to reinvent herself again with this covid issue.

    Brandon Rollins · May 19, 2020 at 8:59 am

    It’s the perfect time to reinvent yourself! We’re all muddling through right now, and for as much utter chaos and pain as there is right now, there are also some pretty extraordinary opportunities, too. The eCommerce sector, if nothing else, looks bright.

jason jennings · May 18, 2020 at 4:21 pm

nice good read

Kakhaber Khmelidze · May 18, 2020 at 5:00 pm

Ex, first I need to start my own small business. Thanks for the info.

Vadim Lingo · May 18, 2020 at 5:28 pm

the first cue to that is the word “small” – you already know what size of business you wanna run

    Brandon Rollins · May 19, 2020 at 9:00 am

    Yup, couldn’t agree more! The dynamics for finding a market position naturally change with bigger businesses. Small businesses have it relatively easy here.

Jennylyn Gross · May 18, 2020 at 8:53 pm

A lot of good advice to think about when starting a small business, thank you!

Javier Vallejo · May 19, 2020 at 5:58 am

Is it better to do the market research before setting up the business to find out if there is a gap in the niche? Or can the business be set up and then diversify or specialize depending on the market niche?

    Brandon Rollins · May 19, 2020 at 9:01 am

    Hi, Javier, that’s one of the classic questions of business! I say it’s better to do the research before starting the business. That way you get a lot closer to making the perfect product or service. However, you will inevitably find out that something you’ve tried is not quite right for the market, so you will want to tweak and pivot after you start too.

Lyndsey valentine · May 20, 2020 at 7:58 pm

Hmmm interesting my problem is I make a broad range of things for people of different ages things from bookmarks and notepad covers to jewellery so my target audience is broad and I’m home based aswell so I’ll try to fit this to my small buisness thanks for the information

    Brandon Rollins · May 21, 2020 at 10:03 am

    That definitely complicates finding a market position for your brand overall. Is there any specific unifying theme that ties all the items in your store together?

Senia Clark · May 21, 2020 at 9:41 am

Good point on the pricing angle. I know I see similar products with a wide range of pricing and I’ve wondered why people would buy the more expensive. Then i think about store brand vs name brand. I know people who will not buy anything but name brand even when told that the store brand is the exact same product just with different packaging.

    Brandon Rollins · May 21, 2020 at 10:09 am

    It took me forever to understand why people would buy the more expensive product. I come from a long line of people who save the condiment packets from fast-food restaurants. Some people just really, really love the feeling of getting the brand name product. They get genuine enjoyment out of it!

Colleen Gal · May 21, 2020 at 12:42 pm

Good thoughts on where to begin, marketing to right people is very important.

Linda A · May 22, 2020 at 10:10 am

it will be worth it.

Rashaverak42 · May 22, 2020 at 11:41 am

I’m having trouble with your fifth advice, can someone elaborate?

Faisal · May 24, 2020 at 1:47 pm

Funny enough, I’ve never consider this matter before opening a business before. But now I have the knowledge for free thanks to this amazing article!

neerav soni · May 26, 2020 at 6:42 am

Strategic marketing for small business is the best way ro go. Link with an atttibute to your business. Informative article

Lizzie Myers · May 26, 2020 at 1:46 pm

This was all so insightful! I’m considering marketing Disney-inspired products and it makes sense to locate myself near the parks to make shipping + convenience easier for my consumers.

Zaldy · May 27, 2020 at 1:58 pm

I like how this will help helpful you to level up in every industry…

Pat H · May 27, 2020 at 9:42 pm

Would love a fully threshed out post on competitor analysis.

Derek Eben · May 28, 2020 at 1:40 am

Guys, Can you guys figure something out to grow my instagram account?

    Brandon Rollins · May 29, 2020 at 8:35 am

    We may be able to! What kind of account are you running and what do you hope to accomplish with the account?

S Gopi · May 29, 2020 at 2:23 am

Seriously it was very informative and useful for me. Great site
But what if your niche audience is a few hundred miles away, do you advise to shift there and position there?

    Brandon Rollins · May 29, 2020 at 8:54 am

    If you run a brick-and-mortar business, I would try to find a different niche. But if your business is online, yes, change your branding and positioning to more closely represent the target audience!

Brandon Sparks · May 29, 2020 at 10:11 am

I really didn’t know some of this. This will help me more then you know. Thanks

L. Emmaline · May 29, 2020 at 10:28 am

Huh, I’ve never really thought about market position before. Thanks for something to put into consideration.

Kimberly Kerr · May 29, 2020 at 12:49 pm

Thanks for the tips, there’s some great information here.

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