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Obviously Awesome: Positioning for Growth in Noisy Markets

Presented by: April Dunford, CEO, Ambient Strategy 

Vicious competition, saturated media, overwhelmed customers - have you ever felt that breaking through to your customers is almost impossible? In this talk, you will learn how to use market context to make the value of your offerings obvious for your target customers. I will teach you a simple positioning methodology that will make your products stand out and shine and show you examples of how companies like yours have transformed a slow-growing product into a high-growth winner by through strategic repositioning.

Session Notes

April Dunford’s comedic approach to positioning made the topic feel and sound very doable. Her acerbic yet approachable humor and laid-back attitude helped to relax the audience of marketers and ease them into a topic many felt confused about (until they saw this presentation). Through references to cat videos, random products on Amazon, and more cat videos, she held the crowd's attention and brought the concept of positioning down to earth.

The Foundation

  • Positioning is one of the most powerful and important concepts and tools we have at our fingertips as marketers
  • What positioning is not is a tagline, POV, vision, branding, messaging, marketing
  • The positioning has to happen first, before all that
  • Positioning defines how our product is the best in the world at providing something that a well-defined set of customers cares a lot about 

What is this? Why should I care?

  • Positioning is like context setting for products (references dog muzzle and how she thought it was a shoe).
  • A shift in context can completely change how a product is perceived. 
  • Customers use what they know, to make sense of what they don’t 


  • Market categories help customers focus and help narrow choices in a crowded market 
  • They help set off a powerful set of assumptions 
  • CRM example: ho’s the competition? Who do you sell to? What’s your price? Is it cheaper than Salesforce? They’re the leader in that market. If you do a good job of picking a market category, and the assumptions it triggers are true, you have saved your marketing and sales team tonnes of effort 
  • If you get all the wrong assumptions, you need to go back to the positioning 

Accepting weak positioning has consequences. Poo mixed with your genius work turns into a more sparkly poo.

So, how do we do positioning? 

The traditional positioning statement you learn in school:

  • For (target market), (our offering) is a (market category) which provides (benefit) unlike (competitor) 
  • This exercise is too rigid and can be harmful
  • It tricks you into thinking there’s only one way to fill in the blanks and the best way is the first thing that pops into your head 

The components to positioning: 

  • Competitive alternatives 
    • NOT who are your competitors, but if you didn’t exist, what would customers use?
  • Market categories
    • Where in the market does your business rest? 
  • Unique attributes
    • What features/capabilities do you have that alternatives do not? 
  • Customer segments
    • Who do my best customers to sell to?
  • Value
    • What value do the attributes enable for customers?
  • BUT: All of these things are dependent on one another - you wouldn’t know your value unless you knew your product’s unique features, and you won’t know those without knowing your competitive alternatives...

Now you can turn this into “customer-centric positioning.” Just add:

  • Customers who care
  • And content that makes the value obvious to your target segments 

Enterprise CRM example:  

  • A marketer had two differentiators but didn’t understand how differences could equal value
  • Her approach wasn’t generating interest
  • She realized later that banks really liked their unique product attributes
  • The company became Enterprise CRM for investment bankers 

Trends vs. Categories

  • We often confuse trends and categories 
  • The Pantone color of the year is a trend 
  • A trend (AI, Blockchain etc.) is something you can apply to your brand to make it look cool
  • Your market category (CRM, security, network, database etc.) is the things you buy, and you can layer on the trend—that’s just a component. 
  • When you can make them work together, or even when you can’t, your brand will still be understandable

Why is this important now?

  • Buyers don’t want to be left behind
  • Between trends, your solution, and the market context/category, your work should be right in the middle 

Key Takeaways

  • How to position
  • Think and position deliberately
  • Follow a process
  • Layer on a trend—but carefully