Positioning map: what it is and how to create it in 3 steps

The positioning map is a two-dimensional graphical representation of marketing positioning, also called a perception map; it shows the position of a company, a brand, or an individual product or product line in its market segment.

Philip Kotler, one of the world’s leading experts in management, has defined brand positioning as “an act of designing a company’s offer and image to occupy a distinct place in the mind of its target market”.

In today’s globalized and competitive marketplace, every company needs to understand how it positions itself against competitors at various stages of its product or service life cycle. All the more so if its business is online, where competition is ever greater as the barrier of distance between suppliers and consumers is removed.

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In this article, we will explore the details of why the location map is important, and how and when to create it.

What is the positioning map

The positioning map is a tool to identify the position of a business and its products in the market, according to criteria or characteristics that are decisive for the customer experience.

There are 3 types of positioning:

  1. Perceptual positioning: based on consumer perceptions considering the attributes they perceive for each product in the market.
  2. Preference positioning: based on consumer preferences, purchase intentions, and values considered important.
  3. Competitive positioning: this version of the map is a representation of brand positioning, i.e. your brand compared to competitors. In this case, instead of attributes defined by consumers, you will have attributes related to your brand that can identify, for example, the target audience and the price range of your products.

Once you are in possession of the specially arranged data on the chart, you proceed with the analysis of the distances between the various products and develop an appropriate positioning strategy.

This helps identify the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors and brings out the differences between your business and others in your niche market and any opportunities.

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How to create a positioning map

In order to build a positioning map, surveys have to be done. For the perceptual or preference survey, surveys are made of consumer’s minds, i.e. of preferences, purchase intentions, values, and perceptions, which will determine the position of the competition.

If the brand is being evaluated, market research is carried out. You can handle the research in-house if you have qualified personnel to do so, or you can hire specialized market research agencies.

positioning map in marketing

The data obtained will be represented in the ranking map according to attributes. This involves constructing a graph by allocating each product to the right quadrant according to its attributes.

Free spaces represent untapped business opportunities with low competition. Spaces already populated by other products, on the other hand, represent a situation of saturation of the market segment.

In the latter case, consumer needs are already satisfied by other brands making the launch of new competing products less profitable. With the support of this graph, one can identify the weaknesses of a product already on the market and possible opportunities for repositioning.

Here are the steps to follow to create an online positioning map.

Determine attributes

Attributes are the features and benefits of a product, and those of your product must be different from those of your competitors.

Based on the data collected, the first thing to do is to understand which attributes are important within the industry and select those most valued by consumers. The classic attributes to include in the positioning map are quality and price, but there may be many to consider.

Analyze them all and choose 2 to 4 most relevant attributes, which will be analyzed in the positioning map.

Examples of attributes in the digital sector:

  • Streaming music platform: the presence of advertising (interruptions) and price.
  • E-commerce clothing and accessories: product quality and price.
  • Cloud-based management system: customization, data security, and price.
  • Food e-commerce: tradition, innovation, price, and quality.

Choose periodicity

The positioning map needs to be drawn up before you actually start your business so that you can choose the right market positioning strategy that will allow you to stand out from the start, learning from what your competitors are doing and trying to get where they are not. Learning from competitors is part of the marketing strategy, so the key is to learn what they do well and then replicate it.

Since the market changes very quickly due to various factors, the positioning strategy should be reviewed periodically. Obviously, the cadence will depend on the type of industry, but a quarterly, half-yearly, or yearly review might be useful, depending on the speed of market evolution.

Strategically, it is useful to do this study before the launch of a new marketing campaign and another a few months later to see if you have achieved the desired results.

Set a goal to achieve

In the beginning, you make sacrifices and investments, so you may decide to start from a less profitable position and aim for a more comfortable position for finances.

One can, for example, think of starting with a good quality product at a lower price than that of competitors, and, once the brand has achieved an established position in the market, and has gained the loyalty of its public by winning their trust, one can consider raising prices and obtaining higher margins.

By keeping the positioning map always up-to-date, you can use it as a compass to understand how to move at all times.

Example of a positioning map

I have created a fictitious positioning map for you so that you can see and understand in seconds what you have so far only read about.

Let’s assume that you intend to start an online shop selling quality clothing for the whole family. You are already clear on who your buyer personas are, but you still need to figure out your marketing and especially your pricing strategy, so it is worthwhile to test the waters and figure out where your competitors stand based on price and quality factors.

This will allow you to find the right position for your business and avoid crashing into a competitor against whom you would not stand a chance.

Look at the position of the competitors and you will see that a good place to start could be to offer a very good quality product at a low to medium price.

Conclusions and Strategic Consulting

We can conclude that the positioning map is indispensable for business planning in order to get a snapshot of the market segments one wants to enter. It serves to understand where to position a product by taking advantage of niches not yet covered by the competition.

In this way, one can direct one’s efforts towards a realistic and attainable goal and consequently spend less to win a place in the consumer’s mind. In a second step, it is used to check exactly where one stands in relation to one’s competitors, to understand whether the consumer has really perceived the product as it was conceived in the strategic marketing plan.

I hope that this article has helped you understand the usefulness and importance of this tool, and above all that it has provided you with elements to fully understand what positioning maps are and how to create them for your business.

If you are planning a new digital business, it might be useful to learn more about what is meant by strategic digital positioning and how to elaborate your positioning strategy with the help of the Digital Strategy Framework method.

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