How Startups Win Their Market With Positioning

You can’t get anywhere if you don’t know where you are

Joe Procopio

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Quick question: Can you state what your company does in a single sentence?

Most startups think about growth this way: They look at their product as point A and product-market fit as point B. But a lot of them skip the step that draws the line between those two points: positioning.

In its simplest form, positioning is an exercise to determine what, who, and where you are. It begins with that simple question: “What does your company do?” And it results in a path that gets you to product-market fit.

Here’s how to do that.

The evolution of product positioning

Positioning is traditionally thought of as a marketing concept, defining the space where the company’s brand fits into the universe of its market and its competitors.

But as product development slips out of marketing and evolves into its own science, positioning has evolved with it. We’re no longer pushing our product into an existing market so much as we are forging redefined markets around a new product category.

Thus, positioning is less about market competition and more about market definition.

From a growth perspective, positioning is about knowing what you are, what your value proposition is, and what segment of the market you’re carving out to attack.

Positioning seems like a vague and daunting exercise and maybe a futile one, but it’s really about understanding and communicating what’s right in front of you.

Start by defining what you’re not.

The first step to figuring out what you are is deciding, clearly, what you’re not. Assuming you didn’t start your company to be a smaller player in a world of companies competing for the same customer, this is the time to highlight your unique differences and competitive advantages, and use them to tell a different story than your competition is telling.

One of the startups I advise is a company transitioning from a traditional recruiting service provider to a product company. The founder had discovered that…

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Joe Procopio

I'm a multi-exit, multi-failure entrepreneur. NLG pioneer. Building TeachingStartup.com & GROWERS. Write at Inc.com and BuiltIn.com. More at joeprocopio.com