April Dunford’s Positioning Framework/Canvas for Differentiation and Standing Out

Positioning influences how products/services are perceived and valued and how they perform in the marketplace. It’s a strategic exercise that goes beyond mere advertising slogans or branding aesthetics; it’s about carving a unique space in the minds of your target customers. A marketing star and speaker, April Dunford brings a fresh and accessible perspective with her positioning framework, a tool that is reshaping how businesses approach market differentiation.

Every market is crowded, and every niche seems saturated. April’s Positioning framework emerges as a polestar for businesses striving to stand out. It guides companies through the process of understanding their product’s unique value and articulating it in a way that strikes a chord with their target audience.

April Dunford’s Positioning Framework

How you position your product can be the difference between market success and obscurity. This framework is designed to help businesses navigate this critical aspect of marketing by focusing on five key components.

  1. Competitive Alternatives: The starting point is identifying what your customers would do if your product or service didn’t exist. This step goes beyond looking at direct competitors and encompasses any alternative solutions your customers might consider. Understanding this landscape helps clarify your product’s actual space in the market.
  2. Key Unique Attributes: Every product or service has unique features or aspects that differentiate it from the competition. Identifying these attributes is crucial. However, the emphasis here is on features genuinely unique to your offering – aspects that competitors cannot claim.
  3. Value (and Proof): The unique attributes must translate into real customer value. This involves understanding and articulating why these attributes matter to your target audience. It’s about connecting features to benefits in a way that resonates with the customer’s needs and desires.
  4. Target Market Segments: This step is about identifying which groups of customers are most likely to appreciate the unique value your product offers. It requires a deep understanding of customers and market dynamics.
  5. Market Category: This is about framing the context in which your product should be evaluated. It’s not just about what your product is but about setting customers’ expectations and shaping their perception of your product in relation to the market.

By methodically working through these components, businesses can develop a robust positioning strategy that highlights their strengths, targets the right audience, and clearly articulates the unique value they bring to the market.

This process is not just about internal reflection; it involves customer feedback, market research, and an ongoing commitment to understanding and adapting to market dynamics.

Applying the Positioning Framework

Implementing April Dunford’s Positioning framework is a strategic process that requires thoughtful analysis, customer insights, and an iterative approach. Here’s a step-by-step guide to applying this framework effectively in both SaaS and traditional business settings.

Step 1: Analyse Competitive Alternatives

  • Identify Alternatives: List all possible alternatives your customers might consider, including direct competitors and indirect solutions. For instance, a SaaS productivity tool competes with other software and traditional methods like manual tracking using pen and paper.
  • Understand the Choice: Dive into why customers might choose these alternatives. Conduct surveys, interviews, or market research to gather insights.

Step 2: Highlight Key Unique Attributes

  • List Distinctive Features: Enumerate the features or aspects of your product that are unique compared to the alternatives identified.
  • Validate Uniqueness: Ensure these attributes are truly unique by checking against competitors’ offerings and customer perceptions.

Step 3: Connect Attributes to Customer Value

  • Feature-to-Benefit Mapping: Transform each unique feature into a clear benefit for the customer. For example, a faster processing time in a SaaS tool translates to increased productivity for users.
  • Customer Validation: Test these benefits with actual or potential customers to see if they resonate and hold real value.

Step 4: Define Target Market Segments

  • Segmentation: Break down the market into distinct segments based on characteristics like industry, company size, or user behaviour.
  • Targeting: Select the segments where your unique value is most appreciated and needed. This might mean focusing on niche areas where you can dominate.

Step 5: Establish Market Category

  • Define Your Category: Decide how you want your product to be categorised. This could involve creating a new category or redefining an existing one.
  • Contextualise the Product: Position your product in a way that sets the right expectations. For a SaaS product, this might mean positioning it as an essential tool in a larger ecosystem.

Step 6: Iteration and Adaptation

  • Monitor and Adapt: Positioning is not a one-time task. Continuously gather feedback and monitor market trends to refine your positioning.
  • Experimentation: Don’t be afraid to experiment with different positioning strategies, especially in evolving markets like SaaS.

The key is to be customer-centric, data-informed, and flexible enough to adapt as the market evolves.

Adapting the Framework to Changing Market Conditions

The agility to adapt and evolve is crucial for sustained success. While robust, April Dunford’s Positioning framework must also be flexible with the changing market conditions.

Continuous Market Analysis

  • Stay Informed: Regularly monitor market trends, emerging technologies, and competitor moves. For SaaS businesses, this might involve tracking advancements in software technologies or shifts in customer usage patterns.
  • Feedback Loops: Establish channels to gather continuous feedback from customers. This can be through surveys, user forums, or direct customer interactions.

Revisiting the Framework Components

  • Re-evaluate Competitive Alternatives: As new competitors emerge or industry dynamics change, reassess who or what your alternatives are. For instance, a new technology might render previous alternatives obsolete.
  • Reassess Key Unique Attributes and Value: Periodically review what makes your offering unique and how it provides value. This might change as your product evolves or as customer preferences shift.
  • Refine Target Market Segments: Market segments can evolve. A once lucrative segment might become less so, or new segments might emerge as more attractive options.
  • Redefine Market Category: As the industry landscape changes, consider whether your product still fits in the same market category or needs to be repositioned within a different or new category.

Embracing Flexibility and Innovation

  • Be Ready to Pivot: Don’t hesitate to pivot your positioning if significant changes in the market demand it. This is particularly important for SaaS companies that often need to adapt quickly to technological changes.
  • Innovate in Response to Market Changes: Use insights from market analysis and customer feedback to drive innovation in your product or service offering.

Consistent Communication and Alignment

  • Internal Alignment: Ensure that your team understands any changes in positioning and is aligned in communicating it effectively.
  • Consistent Messaging: Update your marketing materials, website, and other customer-facing channels to reflect any changes in positioning.

This agility allows you to continue delivering value to your customers, maintain relevance, and seize new opportunities as they arise.

April Dunford’s Positioning framework is more than a marketing tool; it’s a strategic compass guiding businesses through market differentiation and customer perception.

You can buy April Dunford’s book Obviously Awesome here.

You can get her Positioning Canvas Workbook for free here.

I encourage you to reflect on these insights and consider how April’s Positioning framework can be tailored to your business’s unique challenges and opportunities. Positioning is not just a tactic; it’s a strategic foundation upon which lasting business success is built.

Photo by Rupert Britton on Unsplash