Summary: Positioning is your brand’s DNA. It is private language that acts as a decision-making filter for your public communications. Given the fundamental importance of positioning, how do you go about creating an accurate and useful statement for your life science brand? This article will address the key attributes of such a statement and provide a template for creating your brand’s own positioning statement.
A positioning statement clearly defines your brand’s position – that is, the “space” in your audience’s consciousness that you want to establish as belonging solely to your brand. Positioning is about differentiating your brand from your competitors, so the language that describes your positioning is very important.
How do you write an effective, powerful positioning statement for your life sciences brand? Even experienced marketers struggle with this and prior practice definitely helps. Whether you have extensive practice or not, I’ll provide a template in this article that can serve as a starting point for your positioning statement.
Positioning statement template
There are many possible templates for positioning statements. The following is one that we have found very useful. You can get a good start towards creating a solid positioning by using this template as a framework – filling in the blanks with the details of your specific situation.You can get a good start towards creating a solid positioning by using this template as a framework.
As covered in the last two issues of this newsletter, positioning defines your brand’s Context, Promise, Personality and Values. The Brand Context consists of the target audience and the target market – the context in which the brand finds life. The Brand Promise is the unique benefits available from this brand, and the reasons to believe that the brand offers for this promise. In essence, the Brand Promise covers how customers will benefit from the choice of your brand, and why a customer should believe that these benefits would be available to them once they made this choice.
The template I’ll use in this paper will cover the Brand Context and the Brand Promise. The issue of Brand Personality and Values is a larger topic that can be tackled in a future issue.
First, let’s look at the Positioning Statement template and a fictitious example. Then we’ll examine each of the components in turn. Here is the Positioning Statement template:
For (target audience)
Brand X is the only (market context)
that (unique benefit delivered)
because (reasons to believe).
Here’s a specific example, based on a fictitious clinical trial staffing company that we’ll call MoniTrendz (and as they say during movie credits, any relationship to any actual company is purely coincidental). As you read this positioning statement, see if you can identify the exact aspects of MoniTrendz’ service that makes them unique.
For staffing decision-makers at drug development companies with a pipeline of multiple compounds ready for clinical trials in the next two years (the target audience),
MoniTrendz is the only clinical monitor staffing solution for phase I, II or III trials (the market context)
that provides clinical monitors with a guaranteed minimum of three years experience, combined with a program offering discounts for signing contracts for multiple compounds (the unique benefits delivered),
because Monitrendz has two decades of experience in business, and a roster of satisfied clients (the reasons to believe).Remember that this language is intended only for internal consumption.
You’ll note that this language is not graceful. Remember that this language is intended only for internal consumption; it will not be shared with external audiences, but will be used as a filter when making internal decisions about external marketing activities. Let’s examine the components of this positioning statement one at a time:
Target AudienceThe key here is to narrow your focus to the single most important audience.
The target audience is a clear, focused description of the core prospect. This describes the target companies, the roles/functions within those companies, and/or the people who fill those roles. Obviously, there are many audiences you ultimately need to reach. The key here is to narrow your focus to the single most important audience – greater specificity in this description will permit greater filtering of the larger universe of all prospects and support more focused communications and more effective outreach. Note that the MoniTrendz example filters the target audience from all drug development companies down to just those companies with a pipeline of multiple compounds ready for clinical trials in the next two years. Further, the specific roles within those companies are specified: those who have decision-making responsibility for clinical monitor staffing. This description of the desired audience will support a clear targeting effort; it creates a simple, powerful filter, clarifying exactly who to target with marketing communications.
Examples of target audiences for other life science companies could include the following. I have noted in parentheses some of the filtering language that you may wish to consider including in your positioning statement:
- Vice-presidents of research (filtered by title) at companies with annual revenues of $50-100 million (filtered by revenue size),
- Decision makers within start-up companies (filtered by stage of growth) responsible for choosing development partners supplying toxicology services (filtered by function),
- C-level employees with extensive scientific training (filtered by educational level) who are risk-averse (filtered by behavior patterns), etc.
Market ContextYou want the target audience to think of your company as the top provider.
The market context is the target market segment in which the brand competes. You want the target audience to think of your company as the top provider of the product or service in this market segment. Again, specificity here will help when you later use this positioning statement as a filter for marketing choices. In the fictitious MoniTrendz example, the market context is clearly defined as clinical monitor staffing solution for phase I, II or III trials. This could be narrowed further by using additional constraints, such as geography (e.g., European), therapeutic areas (e.g., oncology and cardiology), or total size (e.g., trials with more than 50 P.I. sites).
Examples of market context for other life science companies could include:
- Contract manufacturing organization specializing in lyophilization (filtered by specialized services), or
- Manufacturer of high-volume diagnostic equipment (filtered by product) for core laboratories, or
- Sales consultants to pharmaceutical company sales organizations calling on clinicians (filtered by end consumer).
Unique BenefitsGetting this aspect of your brand’s positioning right is the most important factor in developing a successful statement.
The unique benefit delivered is one or more benefits that the brand can supply. There are obvious benefits to your business in offering your customers benefits that are available only from your organization (such differentiation allows you to charge a price premium while increasing customer loyalty, after all). So, getting this aspect of your brand’s positioning right is the most important factor in developing a successful statement. It is crucial that this benefit – or combination of benefits – be unique. In our experience, while it is easy to develop a list of benefits that a brand will supply, it can be very difficult to identify clearly which benefits are unique. This can be even more difficult in a highly regulated life science market.
Please note that these benefits and the following reasons to believe are not filters that narrow the target market. They are statements that reflect your unique offering. Examples of unique benefits for other life science companies could include:
- Proprietary software for tracking samples being shipped to clinical sites, or
- A guarantee related to cost, such as a low-price guarantee, or a money-back guarantee, or
- A promise related to delivery time.
Reasons to Believe
The reasons to believe are the compelling proofs that the brand can deliver the promised benefits. These proofs should be verifiable before purchase by a prospect; in other words, you shouldn’t have to already be a customer to verify the reasons to believe.
Examples of reasons to believe for other life science companies could include:
- Compliance with existing regulations (e.g., approved by the FDA or listed by UL)
- Third party endorsements
- Historical validation (15 years of experience)
- Claims of technical superiority (e.g., uses 25% less reagent).
Important points about your positioning statementWriting your brand’s positioning statement is not a trivial task.
The positioning statement template is simple – after all, it only contains 4 key aspects that must be customized to each brand’s positioning. But even with a simple template, writing your brand’s positioning statement is not a trivial task. Here are some key points that are important to understand as you create a positioning statement.
Your brand’s positioning statement is strategic in nature. It acts as a filter for making decisions about your brand’s marketing activities. When implemented correctly, the positioning statement can guide not only the choice of promotional messages, but affect many choices related to the other “P’s” of marketing, such as product mix (see the first issue of this newsletter).
Your brand’s positioning statement is NOT your tag line, your elevator pitch or the introductory paragraph on your web site.
Your brand’s positioning statement is private. You would no more share your positioning statement with your audience or your competitors than you would share the details of your business plan.
Because this is private language, do not worry about making it sound attractive to your target audience. Positioning statements can be long; by the time you include enough modifiers and qualifiers to target the statement precisely, it can be quite lengthy. Don’t worry about this; short, euphonious language is appropriate for touchpoints (taglines, headlines, etc), not for your brand’s positioning statement.
Besides being unique, your brand’s positioning statement should be clear, sustainable, relevant to the audience, defensible and authentic (true to your brand’s core character).
Uniqueness is CrucialThe most difficult part of developing your positioning is defining what makes your brand truly different.
The most difficult part of developing your positioning is defining what makes your brand truly different. Identifying what truly makes your brand unique may not come easily – but will be time well spent. As in most marketing activities, this is easier if you clearly understand your target audience, and their attitudes and behaviors related to purchasing.
The positioning statement must be unique. If not, either your brand is a commodity, or your positioning is not defined specifically enough. No other competitor should be able to write an identical positioning statement. Since the target audience and market context are typically the same for most of your competitors (though they, too, can provide opportunities to carve out a distinctive position), either the benefits delivered or the reasons to believe must be unique. Your positioning will be stronger if the benefits delivered are unique. Particularly in a regulated environment this is not always possible, so the uniqueness of your positioning statement could be derived from a combination of factors, such as addressing a particular market and a particular set of reasons to believe.
Focus on your core audience, not every audience
The target audience must be narrowly focused. There is a tendency to define the audience too broadly. Your positioning should be targeted to only a small segment, but will be relevant to others outside that segment as well.
The positioning statement should be approached from the point of view of your target audience. It does not matter what you think or believe, as you are NOT (in most cases) a member of the audience; for positioning purposes it only matters what the audience thinks or believes.
Unique benefits are more compellingYour positioning should be targeted to only a small segment, but will be relevant to others.
Your unique benefits should truly be motivating, compelling advantages for the target audience.
Specific benefits are better than general benefits. They will also tend to be more unique.
Each benefit does not have to be matched up to a specific reason to believe. Taken together, the reasons to believe should be proof that the brand can deliver the unique benefits.
“Quality results” or “quality products” are not unique benefits. Most firms will claim that they provide quality products and services. If you feel tempted to include language about your quality in your positioning statement, ask yourself this question: Does your brand have any competitors that will not claim “quality” as a benefit? The typical answer is “No,” so the claim is not unique. The word ‘Quality’ has no place in positioning statements.
The rationale for trust
Your reasons to believe should create a clear link between your brand and the benefits delivered.Your brand’s positioning statement should be authentic.
Your brand’s positioning statement should be authentic and backed up by your brand’s behavior. In that sense, your positioning statement should reflect the truth. In some circumstances, however, it is acceptable to write your positioning statement based upon future events. For example, your brand may require technological tools to support delivery of your unique benefits. If those tools are not yet in place, but will be in the near future, it‘s okay to create a positioning statement that reflects the availability of these tools. Remember – even under the best of circumstances it takes time for your brand’s positioning to work its way into the audience’s consciousness – by which point the tools would be available.
Do not overreact to your competition
Note that the positioning statement template used here does not specifically reference the competition. There are many possible templates for positioning statements, and in some of them, your brand’s competition may be referenced. If you choose to use these alternate positioning statements, do not overreact to your competition by defining your brand only in terms of what the competition offers or does not offer.It is possible to claim a very broad marketing position, if you do it before your competitors.
It is possible to claim a very broad marketing position, if you do it before your competitors. Remember, the first to plant the flag can claim the mountain. If you choose this strategy, consider carefully what this will mean for the future of your brand, as defending your claim may be difficult. It is worth putting yourself in your competitors’ shoes to determine what their likely responses might be.
Common mistakes in writing a positioning statement
- making the language “audience-ready.”
- not defining the audience specifically enough.
- not identifying benefits that are unique.
- using reasons to believe that are too soft or are not verifiable before purchase.
Your brand’s positioning statement is a road map for marketing activities. It helps filter future actions, guiding your brand in making decisions about issues large and small. Using the template provided here, you should be able to make a good start on creating effective positioning. Clear positioning is absolutely essential if you want to create the proper image in your audiences’ mind. Your brand’s positioning should be relevant, unique, credible, clear and stable. If you don’t have a clear sense of your desired positioning, you can’t create effective marketing.
The Marketing of Science is published by Forma Life Science Marketing approximately ten times per year. To subscribe to this free publication, email us.
Forma Life Science Marketing is a leading marketing firm for life science, biotech and pharma companies. Forma distills and communicates complex messages into compelling communications for sophisticated audiences.
David Chapin has a Bachelor’s degree in Physics from Swarthmore College and a Master’s degree in Design from NC State University. He is the named inventor on more than forty patents in the US and abroad. His work has been recognized by AIGA, and featured in publications such as the Harvard Business Review, ID magazine, Print magazine, Design News magazine and Medical Marketing and Media. David has authored articles published by Life Science Leader, Impact magazines and MedAd News. He has taught at the Kenan-Flagler Business School at UNC-Chapel Hill and at the College of Design at NC State University.
© 2009 Forma Life Science Marketing, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted without obtaining written permission from Forma Life Science Marketing.