What is Strategic Positioning in Digital Marketing?

 

Strategic positioning will be one of the crucial factors in your success as a digital marketer or online business. We’re going to start this guide by discussing the meaning of strategic positioning, before moving on to explaining some of the methods digital marketers can use to communicate a brand’s strategic position at various points throughout the customer’s journey.

What is strategic positioning?

Strategic positioning is an essential part of the planning that goes into digitally marketing a brand or product.
The process of plotting your strategic position starts with defining your brand’s value proposition – a customer-focused statement explaining why it exists:

As our CEO Daniel Rowles writes in his new book, Building Digital Culture, answering the following questions will help you to define this fundamental aspect of your strategic position:

  • What is it that your organisation stands for?
  • What is the core purpose of your organisation beyond your commercial objectives?
  • How does everything your organisation does provide value?

Distil the answers to these questions into one clear mission statement.

To decide upon your brand’s strategic position, you must now use insight-driven strategy to bridge the gap between the value proposition we have just discussed and what audiences want to engage with – the things that motivate them.

For instance, if your mission statement is “We deliver the most beautiful flowers in the land to people’s homes”, and your market research indicates that there exists a particular demand amongst your target audience for a service delivering flowers from independent florists, your strategic position might become, “Flowers from the UK’s best independent florists, delivered to your door.” This is an over-simplification, but it demonstrates the logic used in defining a strategic position:

Mission statement + Data-driven strategic insight = strategic position

We deliver flowers…” + demand for indie florist delivery = “We deliver flowers from indie florists

We sell designer shoes online” + data from Google AdWords Keyword Planner indicate especially high search traffic for Italian designer shoes = “We sell shoes from Italian designers online

We’re the UK’s most trusted sports news website” + our website stats show that our readers are mainly interested in our content on tennis = “We’re the UK’s most trusted tennis news website.

You may have noticed that our third example – the one about the sports news website – differs from the others, in that it describes the re-positioning of an extant brand. We’ve included this example to demonstrate that strategic positioning is an ongoing, iterative process.

Continuously updating a brand’s strategic involves the challenge of maintaining its core identity – but ultimately it is essential to any organisation’s longevity. Our best advice would be to focus mainly on the data-driven strategic insight side of the equation, and to make changes on the value proposition side only when the brand is faced with a commercial, political, cultural or technological step change.

How to use digital insights to enhance your strategic positioning

Whether you’re a blue chip or a start-up, if you’re online can easily gain access to potentially vast quantities of data that can reveal insights into your brand, its online activity and audience. You can view statistics on engagement with your social media profiles, in many cases using analytics interfaces built into the account itself. You can use Google Analytics to learn all about the people who are visiting your website, and how each page of your site stacks up according to a wide range of performance metrics. You can research trends external to your own site using search volume tools and web user surveys.

Make a list of everything you wish you could know to help you decide how to position your brand (e.g. Does your demographic prefer product type X or product type Y? Is public opinion warming or cooling towards product Z? Does your audience want your digital output served through media type A or media type B?)

We guarantee that in the vast majority of cases, wherever there is data that could be of use to you, there will be a way for you to find it. The digital world is your oyster, and there are no excuses for failing to base your strategic position on pertinent, data-driven insights. We recommend reviewing and adding to the insights you use on a regular basis, as this will help you to keep your strategic position aligned to your environment.

It’s also advisable to carry out random strategic positioning audits to check whether or not your digital communications live up to your strategic position. Remember the questions you answered to define your brand’s value proposition?

  • What is it that your organisation stands for?
  • What is the core purpose of your organisation beyond your commercial objectives?
  • How does everything your organisation does provide value?

List your answers to these questions, along with the key commercial objective you used to define your strategic position – effectively this will be a list of your strategic position factors.

Now, randomly select some examples of your B2C communications – this could include video content, a blog article, a Facebook status, anything you serve to your audience – and consider whether the message tallies with the factors on your list. If not, you may need to take positive action to encourage closer adherence to your strategic positioning.

What’s the use in having a strategic position?

If this all sounds a little involved to you, you’d be right – but stay with us. Having a strategic position is one of the strongest possible foundations you can put in place for your organisation’s success, both online and in general. Here are a few of the many reasons why:

  • Having a strategic position will help you to achieve consistency of brand activity and tone-of-voice. This encourages customers to trust and invest in the brand.
  • Your strategic position can help match your brand to a gap in the market.
  • Creates a sense of common purpose within the organisation.
  • Helps differentiate your brand from competitors.
  • Encourages customers to engage on a more personal level; gives the brand its personality.
  • Helps you to think critically about your brand strategy

How is strategic positioning used in digital marketing?

We’ve already discussed how digital insights gleaned from a brand’s digital activity can feed into your strategic positioning process – now let’s talk about how your strategic position can feed into the brand’s digital activity.

Many of the marketers reading this article will be familiar with the idea of customers progressing through a sales funnel. A popular model of this funnel involves the customer starting by browsing products/services with a vague notion that they will make a purchase. They then move on to an active interest phase, during which they purposefully pursue an ideal purchase. Then, when they have just about made their mind up (i.e. when they reach the checkout), they reach the point of purchase phase. Once the purchase is made the customer enters a new loyalty phase, which feeds back into a modified version of browsing – and, hopefully, the cycle repeats. Here’s a diagram to help you visualise this sales funnel:

At each stage in this process we can use various digital (or non-digital) communications to present different attributes of a brand’s strategic position, in each case highlighting facets which seem likely to appeal to the user according to their position in the sales funnel.

For example, if a user is in the browsing phase, you might serve them with content that highlights your range in a bite-size format. You could use data from their initial browsing session(s) (i.e. which product pages were viewed on their first visit to your site?) to identify appropriate product listicles to serve them with via retargeting. So if the user comes to your site and views a couple of golf equipment product pages, you can deliver them articles such as “Our 25 Best New Golf Clubs in 2017”. The user’s behaviour has implied their desire to browse golf products, so in this way you can directly facilitate their objective through targeted marketing. This is digital strategic positioning in action.

Next, the customer might reach the active interest phase. You can infer this from various behavioural triggers, including repeat views of certain product pages, long periods of time spent on your site, or more obviously, items added to cart. At this stage you might consider your brand to be ‘building its case’, in terms of convincing the customer to make a purchase. As such, your messaging should be aimed at reinforcing your brand position/message with greater detail. We led in with “Our 25 Best New Golf Clubs for 2017”, so now let’s capitalise on the customer’s interest by deepening the appeal – “Rory McIlroy explains why he chose our Callaway 16 Iron”, or something to that effect.

You can take various approaches to the final active step in the sales process – the point of purchase phase, when the customer is primed and ready to make the sale. We recommend the no-nonsense approach of simply reinforcing your brand’s strategic position with in-cart messaging. To complete our golf store analogy, you might simply use a trust badge stating “Voted Britain’s #1 Golf Retailer 2017”. Once the sale is complete, the loyalty phase begins – a tweaked browsing phase with bespoke messaging and tactics aimed at returning customers.

Which digital marketing channels are used to communicate strategic position?

A brand’s strategic position should colour communications across all digital channels, from B2B content marketing on a blog or YouTube channel to social or display network ad retargeting for Consumer Packaged Goods. A/B testing and data analysis should be as much as the organisation’s capacity will allow to determine which channels are used to target different types of customer in each phase of the sales funnel.

As digital becomes ever more prevalent in daily life and in the average customer journey, the expression of strategic position through digital marketing becomes all the more important to brand identity. A brand’s strategic positioning throughout the digital sales funnel will shape what the customer perceives that brand to be.

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