How to position your product so it stands out.

Whether launching a new product or refreshing an existing product's marketing strategy, it's essential to start with a clear direction.

We all remember those guess-test-revise math problems from elementary school, and without clear direction, that's exactly what you’re applying to your product’s (or even your organization’s marketing strategy). Even if you want to run a pilot program or run an A/B test, making decisions without appropriate research, discovery, and strategy means you'll burn time and budget as you figure out what works and what doesn't — the hard way.

Plus, in a crowded and complex consumer market, the more guessing you do, the more likely you'll lose your market share to a competitor. We recommend marketers — especially those working in the B2B space — start with a product compass. This is a tool we use for B2B, B2C and healthcare marketing to create clarity, organization, and most importantly, direction — it gives what you’re marketing the best chance for success.

What is a Product Compass and How Does it Create Clarity for B2B Marketers?

B2B marketers often face several unique challenges:

  • The end-user and the decision maker are often separate people.
  • Sales and marketing teams aren’t often aligned on customer needs and pain points.
  • The rapidly changing industry has caused unexpected market shifts — affecting budgets and buying power.

While your marketing team can’t change those external factors, you *can* work within these parameters more effectively.

A product compass is a strategic framework that creates alignment, consistency, and a clear direction for your product launch. It does this by identifying your distinct, ownable place in the market, and using that information to create the most relevant and salient campaigns.

A product compass, like a brand compass, is essentially one source of truth that your whole organization can refer to but focused on a product instead of the overarching brand. This creates important consistency for your internal teams. It also creates clarity around positioning that benefits both the marketing and sales teams as they nurture customers through the sales pipeline.

How to Map Out Your B2B Product Campaign with a Product Compass.

The product compass is similar to one of the deliverables of the Discover and Define processes we use for branding. However, it focuses specifically on individual products or broader product categories to ensure competitive positioning in the marketplace.

Our collaborative process includes thorough discovery, competitive review, and a full-funnel strategy session. The outcomes are four main pillars that align your team and create a clear route for your product to succeed in the market:

  1. Customer Personas
  2. Benefit Ladder
  3. Competitive Positioning
  4. Strategic Messaging

These four elements are vital to give your new product or category the competitive edge you need in the marketplace. Let’s take a deeper dive into each pillar and examine how they contribute to your business goals.

1. Develop customer personas

We apply input from initial discovery sessions and research to map out key customers and decision makers. As is the case with most B2B personas — the decision maker and the end user are likely different. Your product may be for a lab tech, a physician, or even an IT administrator. But it's likely that a different department is in charge of budgets and acquisitions. This means your persona development has to encompass both the user and the decision maker’s pain points and desires.

Through these personas, the product compass connects these decision makers and end-users, and identifies their specific motivations, needs, and wants. All of this information narrows down your target audience, so future marketing activities can cut through to the right audience.

2. Create a benefit ladder

All too often, teams get bogged down in specific product features — and it shows in sub-standard marketing campaigns filled with jargon. To combat this, a benefit ladder creates consistency and focuses your team's efforts by translating features into benefits that resonate with the consumer.

Called a "ladder" because each step builds on the prior, this exercise first identifies the main features of your product. Next, you’ll list the functional benefits or how the features help the user. The emotional and self-expressive benefits — how these features impact a user's mindset and how they view their role — make up the top half. Eventually you end up with something like this:


When applied to your product, it lays the foundation for the positioning and messaging that directly correlate to your audience's pain points.

For example, a lab technician uses a product that has a finite battery life. This causes the minor pain of having to change batteries. But research reveals that it also causes anxiety in the user because the battery display doesn't give an adequate warning when the battery is low. This means the device may stop working when it's in use, which is stressful for both the user and the patient.

A new product that has significantly longer battery life, plus an easy-to-interpret battery life indicator solves both problems: the minor annoyance of frequently changing batteries, and the confidence that the device will work every time you need it to.

In terms of ascending your benefit ladder, it would look like this:

  • Key Feature: Longer lasting battery and clearer indicator
  • Functional Benefit: Mitigated risk of the battery dying while in use
  • Emotional Benefit: Less stress while operating the product for the lab tech and patient
  • Self-Expressive Benefit: “I am able to perform my job confidently without having to worry if my equipment will function properly”

Once you have mapped out how your new product creates or adds value for your persona, you need to strategically position it within your market. That begins by understanding what other products are out there.

3. Identify competitive positioning

Using insights from both the persona development and benefit ladder exercises, start to develop your competitive positioning to get at the heart of your product.

Competitive positioning is a highly collaborative process. The goal is to uncover key differentiators and what makes your product truly meaningful to consumers. Going back to our example in the last step, longer battery life is not a differentiator for a medical device. Every comparable product on the market can probably make a similar claim. It’s how you position that feature and connect it to your user’s experience that sets your product apart.

Your messaging shouldn’t focus on the battery, but rather the ease of use and lower risk of operating your product. That way, you’re laddering up to the emotional benefits of confidence as well as the self-expressive benefit of feeling unstoppable. These are the factors that set your product apart and form the basis of your competitive positioning.

4. Draft your strategic messaging

You’ve identified your personas, emotional and self-expressive benefits, and differentiators. Now you can compile all of this into your strategic messaging. This is your product's mission statement, used to focus on the key points your team needs to know. Use it internally to create cohesion between your marketing and sales teams, and provide a clear direction for any marketing and sales activities. Everyone should be aligned on what they’re saying about your product to create one clear and consistent message to your personas.

This messaging will inform every aspect of your campaigns. For instance, copywriters will translate it into consumer-facing promotional copy. The creative team will know where to focus their design assets and videos. Your digital team can launch ad campaigns targeting the right keywords and audience. All these different audience-facing channels will still have the consistency and clarity of the same strategic messaging, thanks to the work from the product compass.

Product Compasses Help Your Team — And Your Business Goals.

A product compass is more than an exercise for differentiators and positioning. It's a valuable resource that creates more efficiency for your internal teams. The clarity around messaging, key points, and benefits makes it easier for your teams to work together. They will all have clear, actionable information that's easy to apply to their roles and responsibilities.

Instead of guessing, testing, and revising your strategy on each and every whim, you can focus on the aspects of your products that will boost sales. Of course, your product compass isn’t (and shouldn’t be) set in stone. But rather than guessing at what needs to be fixed, you have a framework and clear variables to change if you need to reevaluate an aspect of your campaign.

If you’re looking for support to identify your new product’s positioning and to align your teams around key messaging, get in touch with us to so we can learn how Core can support your business objectives.

Use this helpful guide to build your own benefit ladder.

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