April 1, 2021

Reader question from Michael Spangler about positioning

Fellow list member Michael Spangler wrote in to ask for feedback on his positioning statement (shared with permission):

Hi, Jonathan.

If you’re so inclined, here’s some fodder for your daily list:

Destroy this positioning statement.

“I help software companies reduce uncertainty in the marginal cost of features”

Have a good one!

— Michael

There are a few different kinds of positioning statement styles that I use with students.

What Michael has here is what I call an XY Positioning Statement. An XYPS takes the form:

I help X with Y.

...where X is a target market or ideal buyer, and Y is an expensive problem they’d like to solve (or a big opportunity they’d like to capture).

For a positioning statement to be effective, it needs to be laser focused and crystal clear. If either of those things are not true, it’s not going to supercharge your marketing efforts (which is the whole point of positioning).

Michael’s attempt is a good start, but I think it needs to be more focused and more clear to unlock the magic of good positioning.

Two things to think about:

  1. More FOCUSED - Choosing “software companies” as a target market is okay, but still too broad. Google, Riot Games, Panic, Remember The Milk, and thousands of other businesses are software companies. Could Michael help any/all of these companies? Maybe. But there’s no way they’re all ideal clients for him. Working with a Director of Product at a billion dollar software corporation is a completely different thing from working with the founder of a bootstrap SaaS startup.
  2. More CLEAR - I could be wrong but I don’t think Michael’s ideal buyer is lying awake at night thinking, “How am I going to reduce uncertainty in the marginal cost of features?!” I’d rephrase it the way the buyer would actually say it. (And if the buyer doesn’t think about this problem at all, pick a different one.)

Here are some XY Positioning examples to give you a feel for a useful level of clarity and focus:

Here’s the thing...

Positioning can be really hard to nail down, but it’s shocking what happens once you can perfectly articulate your ideal buyer’s biggest pain. Give it a shot.



P.S. Want more positioning examples? I included 20+ positioning statement reviews in my book Pigeonhole Yourself. BUY NOW »