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Have you built a useful product that you can’t seem to sell? Your problem may be with your product positioning. 

Product positioning is “a form of marketing that presents the benefits of your product to a particular target audience. Through market research and focus groups, marketers can determine which audience to target based on favorable responses to the product” (source: Shopify)

In most cases, product positioning is the difference between startup life and startup death. Almost every major brand has a story behind their product positioning. In fact, many brands pivoted into the position they are in today. A famous example of product positioning is Coca-Cola. Over one-hundred years ago, Coke started as a medicinal elixir. It was later discovered that the syrup could be used for a flavorful carbonated beverage for all to enjoy. Coca-Cola pivoted from medicine for the sickly to a drink for the masses. 

Today, there are a variety of startups that create products that have inherent value but are not valuable to the audience they are targeting. For example, slack started as a video game platform, youtube began as a dating site, and Shopify started as a snowboarding equipment store. 

The major pivot in all of the examples above were not the products themselves, but the positioning of the products. A cold beverage may not be very appealing to someone in Alaska.  The same beverage would find great popularity amongst people within the Nevada deserts. 

There are various ways to mismarket. For the sake of this article, we will operate under the assumption that you have a good product poor positioning. With this being said, what can be done? Here are 3 steps you can take right now to fix a problem of poor positioning. 


1. Understand your product 

The first step to repositioning your product is making sure you fully understand it. Of course, you understand how it’s built and what it does, but do you understand each feature (even the unintentional ones). This could have been outlined in your MVP process, but if not that is acceptable as well. 

When building a product, every feature matters. Take a moment and write down every single feature that your product has, even the unintentional ones. Think of product positioning like a Rubix cube. Even the pros have to analyze it before solving it. What makes you think you don’t have to do the same? Understanding your product inside and out will enable you to match it to a hole in the current market. 


2. Do your Research (Not just Google)

After understanding your product, it is time to understand potential audiences. Aside from extensive online research, one of the things my business partner and I did was creating a survey to send out to our personal networks. We used the survey to test our assumptions about our target audience. The survey respondents revealed that while we were moving in the correct direction, we were putting emphasis on features that did not matter to our respondents. With this information, we pivoted and positioned our product in a more effective way. Do copious amounts of research on your topic. It is possible to outsource research as well, but if you want to have a true understanding of your audience, you should do a majority of it in house. 


3. Get Specific

I love wine. I know that I can go to a general store, like a supermarket, and get a quick bottle. However, I also know that if I want a real bottle of wine, I’ll have to go to a wine store. In a society full of supermarkets, you’ll want to be a wine store. Even broad stores like Amazon and Walmart started with a specific target audience. Understanding your product and doing your research should light a path to the best target audience for you. It may not resemble what you imagined but don’t be afraid to take a risk. In all, never quit on a good product, it has a home somewhere, you just need to find it. 


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