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Commentary & Analysis

Market Positioning: The Essential Ingredient

By Barbara Pellow January 18,

By WhatTheyThink Staff
Published: January 18, 2006

By Barbara Pellow January 18, 2006 -- Marketing is the process by which a product or service originates and is then priced, promoted, and distributed to consumers. After determining customer needs and desires, good marketers develop strategies that are designed to educate customers about the most important features of a product or service, persuade them to buy it, and then ensure that the purchaser becomes a lifelong customer. Good marketing encompasses every way you touch a prospect or customer. While it includes tools such as paid advertising, it also includes dozens of smaller variables--everything from how your receptionist answers the phone, to how an order is fulfilled, to the positive or negative buzz about your products and services. Marketing discovers what customers want and need as well as the price they are willing to pay. Marketing knows where to find the customers most likely to buy and builds the foundation for sales through multiple channels. In short, marketing creates the sales opportunity. Good marketing encompasses every way you touch a prospect or customer. As we discussed last week, there are four components to successful marketing and the development of sales opportunities. All four of these key components must be given careful consideration because each can affect whether you fail or succeed in your marketing efforts. Identification of the right target market Development and delivery of product and service offerings that meet customer needs The message: a clear articulation of the value proposition Effective selection of media to reach the target audience Print Service Providers: Building Solid Marketing Plans I recently interviewed three very different print service providers to get their perspectives on marketing and how they were utilizing effective strategies to expand their businesses. While their approaches are different and they are at different stages of implementation, their emphasis on all four basic components is consistent. Over the next few weeks, you will hear how Canfield & Tack, SCI (Strategic Content Imaging) and Harper House view marketing and are implementing strategies to differentiate their firms with clients and prospects. Canfield and Tack…It Starts with Market Positioning Canfield & Tack, a fast-growing commercial printer with a history that dates back to 1926, has seen its share of changes in the printing industry and has continuously evolved in response to those changes. Today, the company is taking its transformation to the next stage and is repositioning the company through effective marketing. A 100 percent employee-owned printer based in Rochester, N.Y., Canfield & Tack has moved quickly and aggressively to establish itself as a full-service provider, while holding true to its roots as a supplier of choice for clients who need the highest quality print production. When asked about its renewed emphasis on marketing, Ray Brown, Marketing Director, said, "We were selling high-end marketing support materials to marketing executives, and our senior management team came to the realization that we needed to use the same approach for our business." A well-crafted positioning statement defines your company's direction and the criteria that management will use to allocate scarce resources. Canfield and Tack is at the beginning of its new marketing journey. The company is working with a marketing consultant to develop an integrated marketing campaign that will be launched in the spring. The effort started with surveying customers. Brown said, "We wanted to understand the customer perception of Canfield & Tack. We thought they viewed us as a provider of the highest quality print, but not as a provider of digital print or fulfillment services. Sometimes the easiest way to understand how your customers feel is to ask them." Surveying customers and prospects can be a powerful tool to figure out what your target markets need and how you can market to them. According to Brown, "Once our survey activity was complete, the most essential element of the marketing initiative was the development of an internal positioning statement, based on what we learned from the survey. This statement is designed to guide us in identifying our target markets and will drive our future sales and marketing efforts." I have found very few printing companies that have a positioning statement. From a management perspective, positioning is the heartbeat of both an effective marketing and business plan. A well-crafted positioning statement defines your company's direction and the criteria that management will use to allocate scarce resources. It answers five essential questions: What type of customer you target What you do for the customer How you do it What is different about your business What unique benefit is derived from your product or service One of the most profound statements made on the subject of positioning comes from Louis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. When Alice asks the Cheshire Cat which path to take, he responds, "If you don't care where you're going, it doesn't make a difference which path you take." Without a firm positioning statement, a business or organization often acts like a multi-headed creature--speaking from many mouths, saying nothing and going nowhere. "If you don't care where you're going, it doesn't make a difference which path you take." --The Cheshire Cat Here is the internal positioning statement developed by Canfield & Tack: To companies with high-level marketing needs, Canfield & Tack provides superior printing and distribution services that enable clients to easily and cost effectively communicate with their customers. In analyzing this positioning statement, the target market that Canfield & Tack sees as most relevant, given its capabilities, is companies with "high level marketing" needs. The firm specifically wants to focus on companies that need a broad range of quality products and services. They are NOT going after the companies looking for simple printing at the lowest cost. There are specific vertical markets that meet this profile that Canfield & Tack felt were relevant, including regional financial institutions, health and medical firms and national retailers. Canfield & Tack assessed these markets based on the opportunity they offer for future growth as well as requirements for "high level" printing (traditional and digital), distribution and fulfillment. Given Canfield and Tack's market analysis and understanding of the market, the company is gearing product and service offerings to meet client needs. Sheetfed offset printing remains the core of its business; however, Canfield & Tack wants customers to know that the company has evolved and offers ancillary services including digital printing, web to print, direct marketing support, inventory management, fulfillment and distribution. According to Brown, "Canfield & Tack wants to position itself above the fray by continuing to invest in the right people to provide high levels of service and by continuing to invest in the right equipment to get it done efficiently. While we are in the midst of developing our marketing materials, our value proposition will center on the ease of doing business with us and our employees' passion for getting it right at all levels." Canfield & Tack's value proposition centers on making it easy to do business with them and their employees' passion for getting it right. It Starts With Employees The management team at Canfield & Tack realized that the most critical element for success in transitioning the company was the engagement of its employees. Brown said, "For us to be successful, we need to ensure that every employee is on the same page." Canfield & Tack brought its employees together to take them through the positioning statement and assure that everyone from the press operator to the sales person to the receptionist understood the direction the firm was taking. As a rule, companies commit fewer resources to employee communications than any other communications function. Leaders tend to take other audiences--the media, investors, government, customers, and consumers--more seriously than employees. This is a mistake. While companies must communicate effectively with these audiences, employees represent a company's single most important constituent group. Companies commit fewer resources to employee communications than any other communications function. This is a mistake. Canfield & Tack also realized that when the new marketing campaign was launched, it would be more than just "spreading a message." Ultimately, it is about influencing employees' actions. The organization wants employees to understand and support the strategy and contribute to the bottom line while embracing and reflecting the organization's values. In the shorter term, the company wants employees to embrace new initiatives (e.g., the identified target market, web to print, higher end customer focus, quality improvement, one company, ease of use, customer satisfaction) and put forth the extra effort required to meet customers' communications deadlines. The Next Steps Canfield & Tack has the first two essential marketing elements in place. It has identified key target markets and developed the product and service mix to meet those customer needs. It has also effectively articulated the market positioning. Brown's next step is to actively apply the company's new positioning statement to all communications (internal and external)--from marketing collateral to sales material, Web sites to press releases. 2006 is the 80th anniversary of Canfield & Tack and according to Brown, "Our marketing in 2006 will center around all the new services we have added in the past year to be easier to do business with and more efficient, while reinforcing the stability and history of the company." Given that path is clearly and concisely defined, I have confidence that Canfield & Tack is well on its way to successful promotional activities and media selection. Stay tuned, and as Canfield & Tack rolls out final marketing campaigns, On Demand Journal will share the results of the company's implementation.

 

 

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