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You Never Have a Second Chance to Make a First Impression

One of the most profound statements made on the subject of positioning comes from Louis Carroll's, Alice In Wonderland. When Alice asks the Cheshire Cat which path to take, he responds, "If you don't care where you're going, it doesn't make a difference which path you take."

Your positioning statement is the foundation on which all communications activities are based upon. It is the most important marketing practice, and often the most overlooked. Without clearly defined messages and positioning, promotion efforts are fruitless.

From a management perspective, positioning is the cornerstone of an effective communications plan. A well-crafted positioning statement defines your company's direction. A positioning statement expresses how you wish to be perceived. It is the core message you want to deliver in every medium. The purpose of this is creating clarity, consistency, and continuity in the way your organization speaks to the market. This makes all forms of communications less complex and easier to manage.

Once established your company should actively apply its new positioning statement to all communications (internal and external) - from marketing collateral to sales material, Web sites to press releases. This means that if communications do not support the sought-after positioning or do not include, reflect, address or amplify the positioning statement and key messages, they are off strategy. This positioning process should be repeated as market conditions require, semi-annually is customary.

An effective positioning statement answers seven essential questions:
• who you are
• what business you're in
• for whom (what people do you serve)
• what's needed by the market you serve
• against whom do you compete
• what's different about your business
• what unique benefit is derived from your product or services

Think of positioning as the perception your target audience has of your product. You have total control over this element of your marketing efforts, and it is critical to how you develop the rest of your plan. Planning your service’s positioning must involve taking into consideration such issues as the competition and how their services and products are perceived, the needs and desires of your target audience, and the element of mystique or drama that your product or service naturally has about it.

In crowded markets, it is very important to position your company and products appropriately. Think about the 3000 messages your audience is bombarded with every day! In order to stand out, your product has to have a clear position in your audience's mind.

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