Tag Archives: positioning

Five Leadership Positioning Strategies: What Kind of “Leader” is Your Business?

30 Nov

Everyone wants to buy from a leader. You want to buy from companies that give you confidence that when you lay down your money, to know that you’re doing right by yourself, your family or your business.

So if everyone wants to buy from a leader, every business wants to be a leader. So what kind of leader is your company? What kind of leader should you be? The answer can go a long way toward focusing your public relations and marketing efforts in the right direction.

Consider these five leadership styles:

1. The Visionary Leader: The company that looks ahead. Keeps the customers at the state of the art, and guides them to the future. Visionary leaders think beyond their own product, shape industries, and tell us which way the world is headed.

2. The Market Leader: The one that dominates market share because they sell the most. They are the leader because they make good products, sell them well, and at some point “everyone else” buys their stuff, so it’s a safe choice. Not the flashiest or the coolest, but solid and reliable. Many Market Leaders  are content to continue as Market Leaders; others look to extend themselves into the role of visionary.

3. The Technology Leader: The geeks and the nerds.  The ones who get known for making the best products, with the most elegant feature sets or innovative designs. As leaders, the team’s experts explain technology and advocate for better solutions. They quickly integrate ‘what’s next’. They position their team as the smartest guys in the room who can solve their customers’ problems with their smart thinking.

4. The Best Practices Leader: These are the process experts. They know what’s going on in the customer’s world, and are always thinking about how to solve problems and make things better. They’re team has typically been there, done that, and can send you a whitepaper on how to implement best practices that enable customers to lower costs and improve speed and efficiency.  The Best Practices Leader wants to sell their solution, of course, but doesn’t mind sharing their broader knowledge of how to do things right.

5. The Customer Service Leader: These are the customer advocates. They are there for their customers. They differentiate on service – fast response, easy to reach, easy to do business. Go the extra mile to ensure customer satisfaction. It’s a positioning that works in industries where most products are largely the same – what the customer needs is to know that their vendor will take good care of them.

Every company uses different styles, often more than one at once.  Choosing a primary leadership positioning style focuses public relations and marketing strategy. The key is to choose a strategy that fits, that amplifies the existing products, brand, and company culture.

For further discussion:

• Agree or disagree with these leadership positioning types?

• What other categories would you add?

• What style does your company use?

• What well-known companies would you attach to each of these leadership positioning styles?

The Recession — Opportunity for Startups? Yes.

11 May

The Silicon Valley Insider published an article worth reading if you’re running a startup.  In a nutshell:  Recessions can be opportunities to position yourself for success, refocus the business, fix what’s wrong, and get yourself on the right track.  

And it’s true…to a point. Standing with another dad at my son’s baseball game, I heard a perfect rundown of how hard it is to keep a startup going these days — cash flow issues, missed payroll, missed opportunities and an unwillingness to adapt the sales strategy.  Success hinges on being clear eyed to the opportunities in front of you, ruthless in managing assets and resources, and willing to go all out after opportunities that are real. 

Focus and passion are key, but more critical is the willingness and ability to outwork the competition.  As the Insider notes, big competitors will probably advertise less — with less overt noise crowding the marketplace, tactics like influencer outreach and addressing potential customers and influencers via social media can be even more powerful.  It’s a lot of work, but you can open channels to the right people, spread your message, and make yourself more easily found by the people and communities you want to reach.

Not to minimize the challenges — you either have the money and the talent and the strategy and the time and the right answer — or you don’t.  But if your startup can invest today — dollars, time, talent or hustle — good things will happen.

Marketing in a Downturn: Invest in the Upswing

14 Oct

My son just finished ‘book the 13th’ of Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events. Figuring I’ll never have time to continue past the few chapters I’ve skimmed, I asked him how it ended … did our fair Baudelaire children get a “happily ever after” ending after all?

He wouldn’t tell me directly, but he did describe a Lemony Snicket-ish metaphor from the books. He said that the story is like peeling back the layers of an onion. The more you peel, the more you cry.

Which brings us to the financial crisis.

Maybe you’ve read about this, but it bears repeating…here’s how I understand what’s happening:

  • Mortgages are defaulting, causing anything mortgage backed to default as well.
  • Banks now doubt each others’ credit, and won’t lend to each other.
  • Banks, in turn, are less likely to lend to businesses – and when they do, it will be at a higher cost.
  • Many businesses will postpone or cancel technology upgrades, equipment purchases, and expansion, freeze hiring and salaries, and reduce headcount.
  • Consumers will face job loss and lower wages.

Business-to-business concerns will find their customers cutting back orders. Marketers of high value, complex purchases like technology will be faced with longer sales cycles.

A slideshow by blue-chip venture capital firm Sequoia Capital is getting a lot of attention right now. Their advice tech startup executives: batten down the edges. Cut to the bone. Focus on revenue. Pay reps on their sales. Measure your marketing and only do what works.

During the tech bust starting in 2001, you saw a lot of this. From my standpoint, marketing and PR agency budgets were slashed or dropped altogether – even by large companies with stable revenue.

Decent advice. But as you do this, I’d like to suggest alternate point of view: Invest in the upswing.

What if, instead of across-the-board cuts, you took the downturn as an opportunity to reshape, refine and streamline your communications and marketing for the turnaround? There is no magic message or marketing trick to loosen corporate purse strings. Instead, position yourself to be the one they turn to when they’re ready. You could:

1) Revisit the message – Is the story you tell today getting you closer to the sale? Is it getting you there fast enough?

2) Reshape the strategy – Is your marketing built around what influences your prospects? Cut the marketing communications vehicles that are running fumes. Fix those that aren’t working like they should – is it time to incorporate social media into your website so your fans can share what you have to sell? Focus on reaching prospects where they are – through the web, via the media and in their communities both online and off.

3) Invest in relationships that matter – Every market is a community. Are you engaged? If you “go dark” in PR and marketing, will key consultants, editors, analysts, gurus reporters and influencers remember you when you return? Participate in communities, network with influencers, contribute to discussions through speeches, blogs and articles.

I’d like to start a conversation here if I can. I’m going to spend the next few weeks writing about marketing during the downturn – what’s going to work, what’s not going to work, what companies are doing well and not so well today. And I’d love to share your stories – post them here or email me at ken@kadetcommunications.com.

The Monday Morning Scream

7 Apr

There’s nothing that puts a knot in the stomach of a PR guy like waking up to the paper/newsletters/RSSfeeds/other assorted alerts to find that someone important has written a story about your competitor — or your client’s competitor.  Worse yet — your boss or client is the one to tell you about it. Call it the “Monday Morning Scream,” but it’s just as likely to happen on a Wednesday…or a Sunday.

Figuring out the how and why of media stories is a kind of parlor game for PR folks.  I played it a bit early on with the marketing VP at a client of my old agency. When we started, the client was a humble, privately held company in a software niche competing head-to-head with a hot publicly traded company with an expressive CEO, fresh off of a major acquisition that positioned it far beyond its original niche. 

Naturally, the hot, publicly traded company garnered more media. Not only did investor media follow its ups and downs, but sector analysts wrote about it, industry analysts considered it a bellweather and trade magazines considered them a “must call.” 

But, our client exclaimed, our product is better, our service is better and their clients keep dumping them and calling us! 

I would, of course, explain that there are inherent media relations advantages to being a public company, and that this company done a particularly good job of positioning itself as an example of some key IT trends long before we got there.  I’d also point out that the competitor was acutally making news — acquiring companies, integrating new services, giving keynote speeches — and that catching up takes time.  And, at times, I’d even point out that the competitor’s success belied claims that they had an inferior product — if it was inferior, it wasn’t enough so to make a difference to most customers. And over time, we were successful in improving their positioning, to a point. 

But, I would often come back to a couple issues that I think are important, each of which I’ll explore in future blog posts:

  1. As a PR professional, don’t let ego get in the way of the answer: What I’m saying here is that you can’t be defensive… it may well be that you should have been in that Monday Morning Scream story.  Admit it.  Figure out why.  Improve your story.  Then let it go.  Learn something. 
  2. Companies must be their own news media.  In the past, if you missed the big story in print, you’d have to stew and rage and move on.  Today, you don’t.  If you have a corporate blog, you can blog about that competitor’s story.  You can say why you should have been a part of it — why your product is better, how you address the issue from a different point of view.  You’ll come up in searches on their story, and steal a bit of their thunder.
  3. Hiring a PR firm isn’t an outsourcing strategy.  It’s easy to blame the agency for missed media opportunities — I’ve taken plenty of it and even deserved my fair share of blame at times.  But the companies that think that putting primary responsibilty for public relations onto an agency are rarely successful.  Communications must be a core competency and core consideration in every major organizational decision. PR agencies and consultants should add, advise, augment, stretch and challenge their clients, but not replace their participation in communications strategy and execution — from the CEO on down. 
  4. Positioning is the core of every communications challenge.  If you’re positioned right, you’ll be important to a core set of influencers — from your customers to bloggers and communities of interest to trade and local media.  You can work that and build from there. 
  5. Sometimes, something’s just not right.  One Friday, I met the client (and, frankly, the client came to me, too) to say that we needed rethink everything if we were going to get to where they wanted to be.  The next Monday, the client was acquired by that competitor. 

It’s Monday morning … you never know what’s going to happen.


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