The 7 Key Components You Need to Nail Your Positioning and Build a Powerful Value Proposition

You probably can’t go a single day without hearing someone at your company referencing your value prop. Or your CRO obsessing over company differentiators. Or your Board asking about positioning. 

We all know we need it. That elusive messaging about how your company is different, how your product stands out from the competition, and ultimately how you deliver value to your customers.

The thing is, it’s actually really hard to position your company properly. When you’ve built a product from scratch, it’s easy to get stuck in the weeds and talk about absolutely everything you do. When you deliver a ton of value, how do you decide what to focus on?

Not being able to position your company correctly in the market can cause some big problems:

  • Every employee describes your product differently
  • Your sales team doesn’t have a cornerstone message to consistently share with prospects
  • Customers get confused when you try to explain what your product does

But it doesn’t have to be this way. It doesn't HAVE to be an impossible task. 

The 7 Key Components You Need to Nail Your Positioning and Build a Powerful Value Proposition

The solution is a clear, compelling and repeatable brand story that resonates with your team and with your prospects. And you need to nail 3 things in your brand story:

  1. Positioning: Your positioning is the way you communicate about your product and company. It’s the story you’re crafting about who you work with, what your product does, and how you are perfectly positioned to solve your customers’ problems.
  2. Value Proposition: Your value proposition describes the unique value your customers will experience when they work with you. You know what your customers need in order to be successful -  your value prop should make it clear how your product will equip your customers to be successful.
  3. Differentiation: How do you stand out from the crowd? If you work in a saturated marketplace, chances are you’re eager to make sure your prospects know how your product or services differ from any other competitor.

By nailing your positioning and your value prop, you will develop a brand story that differentiates you from everyone else.  

Coming from a background in tech, we know that there is nothing worse than a powerful company getting stuck in the weeds with their brand messaging. If you don’t have the right positioning, you can’t find the right customers. Then your hard-won customers churn. And that’s lost revenue, on every front.

We’ve worked with hundreds of brands to create compelling brand stories to deploy marketing and retention strategies that help them stand out from the crowd.

And I’m here today to share the fool-proof formula we use every time. 

Now, here’s a pro tip - as you start to implement the tips throughout this guide, don’t worry about copywriting right away. Get the big ideas down, and then think about how to make it sound super sharp. We’ll include examples along the way, and you can see how we document the big ideas for each section of the value prop, and then wordsmith the brand messaging at the end.

Here are the 7 steps to building a brand story that positions your company, communicates your value proposition, and differentiates you from the competition:

Here is a as you get you started:

As you begin to implement the tips throughout this guide, don’t worry about copywriting right away. Get the big ideas down, and then think about how to make it sound super sharp. We’ll include examples along the way, and you can see how we document the big ideas for each section of the value prop, and then wordsmith the brand messaging at the end.

Here are the 7 steps to building a brand story that positions your company, communicates your value proposition, and differentiates you from the competition:

Step 1:
Define who you’re talking to.

Before you can correctly position your company, you need to clearly define who you’re talking to. You might have different market segments you sell to, perhaps you have different revenue streams… this means you probably need multiple brand stories to support the various ways you segment your audience. And that is GOOD. Start with your high-level brand story, which speaks to the widest swath of people, and from there, you’re able to build additional brand stories to speak to segmented audiences as needed. 

When you think about your company positioning, think of writing this as a story. And in every great story, there’s a hero. In your brand story - you are going to make your customer the hero. This is going to be a huge differentiator in your marketing. Most brands put themselves as the hero of the story. But your hero is going to be your customer. Make sure you know who you’re talking to, and the rest of your value prop will flow with ease.

Example: Head of People at medium to large (100+ employees) size B2B companies

Step 2:
What does your customer want from your brand?

Notice this section is not called, “what does your product do?” You need to position your product marketing with your customer at the center. Customers only seek out your product or service if they need something from your brand. This should go hand-in-hand with a clear description of what your product or service actually does. 

So many brands lead with a feature list. But no one is going to understand what those features are all about if you don’t just clearly name what you do. When you add extra noise into your brand story, your customers are going to have to work too hard to figure out what you do. No one wants to work hard to figure out what your company does. The best products don’t always win, but the companies who communicate the most clearly do. So be clear about what you offer first - and then hook people to keep learning more.  

So let’s start building your brand story by clearly naming exactly what your product delivers as it relates to something your customers want. 

Example: An integrated, all-in-one platform that provides a management framework and insights for leaders to develop and grow their employees. 

Step 3:
What is the core problem you solve for your customer?

This is the number 1 most important part of your positioning. Without naming the problem you solve for your customer, you can easily get slotted in the “nice to have” category. And I’m a firm believer that good marketing can make any product into a “must-have” when you clearly define the problem you’re solving. 

As you define the primary problem you solve for your customers, there are a few different aspects you need to consider.

The first is the external problem. This is the face value problem you solve for customers. 

Does your company provide a productivity app? You’re solving the problem of, “I have too many responsibilities to get through every day and can’t figure out how to prioritize.” 

Are you a recruiting agency? You’re probably solving the problem, “I don’t have enough internal bandwidth and resources to find stellar talent.” 

The next is the internal problem. This is how the external problem makes your customer feel. If a customer is struggling to prioritize their day, they’re probably feeling overwhelmed or inadequate. If your customer doesn’t have enough resources to recruit and hire talent fast enough, they’re probably feeling exhausted, stressed and under pressure. 

Here’s an insider tip for you: Most brands sell to people’s external problems. But people pay money to solve their internal problems. They plunk down their cash because they want to stop feeling a certain way. If you can help them stop feeling overwhelmed, stressed, frustrated or anxious… your sales process just became about 10 times easier. People seek solutions to solve their external problems- but people pay money to solve their internal problems. 

Finally, there’s another statement you should include in your brand story, and this is going to enable you to massively differentiate from your competition. It’s what we call the “philosophical statement.” 

You need to name how life should be for your customers. What do they deserve? What’s just plain wrong about the problems they’re facing? This is your chance to share why you got into this business, why you want to help these customers, and that you’re in their corner. 

External problem example: Without a shared internal management framework and core employee insights, you’re flying blind trying to lead your team. 

Internal problem example: Uncertain, insecure and frustrated

Philosophical problem example: Managing people shouldn't have to feel like an impossible task. We believe every manager can be a great manager with the right framework and tools in their hands.

Step 4:
Establish your product and company as the solution to those problems.

As we mentioned before, the hero of this story is your customer. However, in order to overcome their problems, they need help. And that’s where you step in. Think of yourself as the guide who is helping your customer (aka your hero) win the day. 

There are 2 essential components to establishing your company as the solution: empathy and authority. 

Empathy means you care about them and you know what they’re going through. 

Authority means you have the competence and experience to actually solve their problem.

Empathizing with your customers will be another huge differentiator in your marketing- most brands do not use empathy as a core element in their marketing. And this is a massive lost opportunity. We all want to know that others understand and acknowledge the challenges we face. By empathizing with your customers’ problems, you show them you clearly understand what they’re going through. 

But, you can’t just have empathy for your customers’ problem. You also have to establish your authority. You must clearly communicate that you’ve solved this problem before, are experts in this space,  and are well equipped to help them. This can be done in a bunch of ways:

  • Testimonials
  • Awards and recognition 
  • Customer logos or case studies

Most brands go very heavy on Authority, and leave out Empathy. But when that happens, you accidentally slip into the hero role. At the end of the day, customers will only care about your awards and statistics to the extent that it helps make you the best solution to their problem. Here’s the thing - Empathy is what makes your Authority palatable. When you connect with your customers, they are more open to trusting your company. 

Empathy statement: We know it’s hard to feel confident in managing people without a shared framework to guide your decisions. 

Authority: Customer logos, years in business, customer satisfaction stats

Step 5:
Clearly communicate the value you uniquely deliver to your customers (aka your Value Proposition)

Ok, now we’re cooking. This is where you get to talk about the real, differentiated value you deliver to your customers. You might be asking, why aren’t we leading with this? That’s because you have to set the scene for your customers to care about your company before you start talking all about the cool stuff you do. Without establishing the problem you’re solving, and that you’re the perfect solution to that problem, people aren’t going to be primed to hear you talk about your value prop. You’ve created the perfect entry point to now share how you are uniquely positioned to deliver exceptional value and solve their problems.

Now, this is not the place to include a long feature list. This is the place to share how you are uniquely positioned to help your customers win. What do your customers need to win? What value do you provide that helps them get there? How are you different from your competitors?

Chances are, you’ve got competitors that offer something pretty similar to what you do. This is the place to talk about how you do it differently. What are your company’s super powers? What can you deliver your customers that gives them the greatest chance of success?

Again - this is not about you. It’s about how you can help guide your customers to success. So put them at the center of your value prop, and you will build messaging that actually resonates with your audience.

Example: 

We know you need the right tools, resources and management framework to thrive in your role as a leader. Here’s what you get when you work with us:

  • An easy-to-use app that can be leveraged by managers across your entire organization
  • A shared management framework to ensure consistency across your management and people development functions
  • Actionable insights powered by AI to ensure your managers are equipped with transparent and accessible information to fuel data-driven decision making
  • Ongoing support to ensure all your managers have access to coaching, guidance and best practices as your company grows
Step 6:
Paint the picture of what life looks like if your customers don’t do business with you

When you tell your brand story, you must include some stakes in the story. What happens if your customers don’t do business with you? Now, we do not want to become fearmongers. But (and here’s an existential statement for you): how can you effectively deliver value without the absence of that value being negative?

There is an easy way to incorporate this into your positioning. Create a list of all the negative impacts on your customers if they don’t work with you. If their problem goes unsolved, will life remain the same? Or get worse? What challenges will they continue to experience if they don’t solve this problem?

By selecting one or two negative stakes, you’ll be able to help people avoid failure. Create a bullet list, and these will be items you can plug and play in your marketing as needed

Example: 

  • Good employees leaving the organization
  • Wasting time and valuable energy solving management problems that could have been avoided
  • Lack of a shared, cohesive management framework leaves a lot of gaps for inconsistency across the company 
Step 7:
Tell your customers about the success they can expect by working with you

Now you get to end the story by highlighting the success your customers will achieve by working with you. What do they have to look forward to? What will life look like with their problem solved? What benefits are you delivering to your customers? 

Don’t assume customers know what success looks like. You have to tell them. You’ve led them through a story of the value your product can deliver, and make sure you end that story by showing them the success they have to look forward to. 

Examples: 

  • Unlocking the potential of managers to drive employee success and performance
  • Employees performing better, enjoying their work more
  • Employees thriving in their work
Takeaways: 

Now that you have all the essential components of your brand story, you have everything you need to position your company and differentiate from the competition. You can pull from each of these 7 buckets every time you create brand messaging. And if you are talking about something that’s not in one of these buckets, your customers will probably tune you out. 

As a bonus, I’m going to show you how to weave all 7 components of your brand story together. This is what I call the “Brand Story Mad Libs.” This isn’t a perfectly copy-written, ready to use piece of messaging. You’ll have to massage a few of the sections to get it to fit all together. But it will show you how to incorporate all 7 components into a clear, cohesive narrative that can be repurposed into your website copy, sales collateral, pitch decks, and any other piece of marketing content. You won’t always need to use all 7 components in every piece of messaging you create- but you’re now equipped with the core ideas that can drive your marketing, and ensure you’re positioning your brand as the solution to your customers’ problems. 

Mad Libs Formula:

At [Company Name], we know you want to be [Identity Transformation]. In order to do that, you need [Character Want]. 

The problem is, [EXTERNAL PROBLEM], which makes you feel [INTERNAL PROBLEM]. 

We believe [PHILOSOPHICAL PROBLEM]. We understand [EMPATHY], which is why [AUTHORITY]. 

Here’s how we do it:

  1.  
  2.  
  3.  

So, [direct CTA] today. And in the meantime, download our [TRANSITIONAL CTA]

So you can stop [FAILURE], and instead [SUCCESS].

Mad Libs Example:

At [Company Name], we know you need a scalable way to deploy a management framework and track key employee data to build consistency across your team. 

The problem is, without an integrated platform to guide your management practices and deliver key employee insights, you’re flying blind trying to lead your team, which can lead to a lot of uncertainty

Managing people shouldn’t have to feel like an impossible task. We believe every manager can be a great manager with the right framework and tools in hand

We know it’s hard to feel confident in managing people without a consistent, shared framework to guide your decisions, which is why we’ve worked with thousands of business leaders to help increase employee retention and satisfaction by X. 

You need the right tools, resources and management framework to thrive in your role as a leader. Here’s what you get when you work with us:

  • An easy-to-use app delivering management best practices and key employee insights that can be leveraged by managers across your entire organization
  • A shared management framework to ensure consistency across your management and people development functions
  • Actionable insights powered by AI to ensure your managers are equipped with transparent and accessible information to fuel data-driven decision making
  • Ongoing support to ensure all your managers have access to coaching, guidance and best practices as your company grows

So, schedule a demo today, and learn more about how you can stop the chaos of managing blind, and instead unlock the potential of managers to drive employee success and performance.

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And there you have it! Your new to communicate your value prop, and differentiate you from the competition.
About Annie And Kristin of Decoded Strategies
Decoded Strategies

A Fresh Perspective

Brands with incredible products get beat by the competition every day. Confusing messaging will cost you on every critical front of your business. Decoded Strategies delivers messing strategy & marketing services to communicate about your business in the way your audience actually wants to hear it.