The Positioning Stupid Corner.

Positioning remains a mysterious art in B2B marketing. Small companies too focused on product functionality. Large corporates too obsessed with jargon.

Neither help the customer nor improve brand awareness. In the middle? Well, positioning, somewhere between a rock and a hard place, there’s a small window of opportunity for businesses to articulate a clear message that has both value to the organisation and provides clarity to the customer.

We’re not looking for, ‘motivations to be aligned’. We’re not looking for, ‘fundamental deployment specificity’, or, ‘the consequential causality of a go-no-go’. Whatever those things mean in the corporate world of general wankery, that’s not what we’re looking for here.

To communicate a message effectively, and to have people remember it, your entire business positioning needs to change. Simplicity. Clarity. Focus. These are the messages that the customer wants to hear – whether you like it or not.

So where are you going to find the right business message, the right thought leadership positioning, the right ‘story’? You could do worse than asking your kids what they think your business does.

Ledgling No.1 (age 15) asked me recently, “What is it you do again Dad…?” I paused, formed my hands and fingers into my psychoanalytical church steeple and replied, “What do you think I do?”

“I dunno, something to do with marketing and brands or whatever?”

“That’s your best shot…?”

“Yep, that’s all I’ve got.”

“After almost 16 years on the planet, that’s it…? I’ve written books about B2B marketing you know. I am ‘The Author’. I’m a Legend for crissakes. Do you have any idea how self-important that makes me?”

“Eh, nope.”

At that moment, Ledgling No.2 (age 12) strolled into the room.

“I know what you do Dad.”

“Do you indeed? Right then, this should be good. Let’s hear it.”

“You help companies tell more interesting stories. Most companies say the same kind of stuff and it’s boring. You help them stand out – make them less ordinary.

I almost wept for joy. Ledgling No.2 had nailed the Birddog message in one. I took a moment to sniff, look up and do the rapid eye-blinking thing, and then a thought occurred to me.

“Hang on, you didn’t just read that off the website did you…?” I asked.

“No, you always say that when people ask what you do,”

I was just reaching out for a hug when she added, “before you bore them to death with all the stuff you actually do.”

Despite the impudence, the positioning had stuck. A simple story, easy to remember, interesting enough to develop into an extended conversation.

No.2 was immediately elevated to Favourite Child status and showered with fizzy drinks and sugar-derivative products. No.1 was made to stand in the stupid corner for the rest of the day. And well into the night.

Perception is reality. What you think you’re saying and what other people hear are often very different things. What you think people want to hear and what they actually want to hear are also very different. Whatever you want to say, and whatever you want people to hear, it needs repeating. Often.

So is the solution to construct labyrinthine layers of B2B marketing complexity and jargon accessible only to the very few? Probably not. And yet that’s what most businesses like to do.

Would it be more valuable and beneficial to the brand to shape people’s perceptions by making simple and engaging messages accessible to all? Almost certainly.

And how do you measure progress in brand marketing? What does B2B branding success look like? Well, you could ask an expert – I would be happy to shout at you repeatedly anytime. But you may prefer to start by asking your kids what your positioning message means. If they can’t tell you, go stand in the stupid corner. Again.


Scot McKee