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December 2021

Honing Your Positioning Strategy: Read These Insights from Top Product Marketers at Peloton and Uber

For early-stage companies, there's nothing more important than developing a winning go-to-market strategy. In this series, we’re sharing hard-won advice from the Canvas Go-to-Market Council, developed from the lessons they’ve learned over the years. Check out previous posts about growth marketing, building out a sales team, and partnerships. To ensure you receive all the latest GTM tips and tools, follow Canvas on LinkedIn.

The best product doesn’t always win. It’s often a “good enough” product paired with killer marketing powered by unique customer insights.

Entrepreneurs are innovators by nature, perpetually creating newer, better products. But connecting those products with their intended audience is where the real magic happens. And in today’s overheated advertising climate, getting people’s attention is hardly a given (see our post about growth marketing for more on that). A solid positioning strategy comes in to bridge that gap. At the most basic, we’re talking about explaining what your product does. But truly sophisticated marketers know that it’s better when you can connect to people’s needs, desires, and emotions. 

LEARNING FROM THE BEST

Canvas GTM Council members Ali Wiezbowski and Coley Czarnecki know precisely what it takes to bring a new product to market. Ali has experience at tech companies of all stages, from starting her own brand to scaling Uber in hyper-growth mode. In 2012, she founded TopCoat, a tool that helped users find and book appointments with local nail artists. A few years later, she joined Uber as a lead on the driver business, where she led go-to-market strategy for 75+ global products and campaigns. Ali is currently Director of Product Marketing at Peloton, where she leads bike and portfolio product marketing globally. 

Coley started her career in brand and sponsorship at Visa, where she led strategic development and creative execution of Visa’s global marketing activations for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup, 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil, and 2012 London Olympics. For her work at Visa, Coley was named to Ad Age’s 40 under 40. In 2015, Coley joined Uber as one of their first product marketing hires and was the first on the grocery and delivery business, which has grown to over $3B in revenue. Coley is currently the Head of Consumer Product Marketing for Uber Eats.

5 PIECES OF ADVICE FOR PERFECTING YOUR PRODUCT POSITIONING

You might think: The value of my product only comes through when I describe all the good details.

Think again: If you can’t describe it in a push notification, you’ve already lost their attention.

“How would you clearly communicate your product if you only have the space of a push notification? A lot of companies I see build really interesting complex technology, and it may be really, really cool. But if you can't clearly communicate what it is, or why it matters in a single sentence, that might be a problem. People aren’t paying attention and thinking about your brand all the time. Often, all you have is the attention of a subject line or a push notification to bring them in. I would challenge even product teams who are in early stages of development to think about ‘What's that one line? What is that one promise that I am trying to build towards? That should inform the scope of the product that I’m building.’” - Ali

You might think: Without a six-figure budget, I won’t be able to make an impact on my product launch. 

Think again: Have you considered puppies and ice cream? Creative goes a long way.

“There is a lot that you can do for a little, and some of these things can have an outsized impact. In the early days at Uber, we created days where you could get puppies and ice cream delivered. It leveraged the core functionality of the product, it was very affordable for us to market in that our customers still paid for the experience, but it was a hugely successful way to drive awareness, buzz, and trial. So be creative and really think about ways that you can push the envelope.” - Coley

You might think: I need to be clever to get people’s attention.

Think again: Clarity trumps cleverness. Think about how you would explain the product to a family member, then do that for your customers.

“A lot of times we get into this practice of trying to be really creative and cute and clever with our positioning. We really strain ourselves to come up with messaging that's unique and differentiated. What I have experienced is that a lot of the time is that folks who aren't really comfortable with positioning can get in their own heads about it. So I like to, with my own teams, tell them to take their hands off the keyboard when they're struggling to write positioning, and I ask them, ‘how would you explain this to a family member?’ Often it's sitting in the back of your head. It's just that in the practice of trying to put this on a page, it becomes challenging. Clear and simple is better than overly creative.” - Ali

You might think: I've already told my customers about my product. I have to use different messaging the second, third, and fourth times to get their attention.

Think again: Repetition never spoiled the prayer.

“It's very easy, when we are living and breathing our products and brands and companies all day every day, to assume that our customers are as well. I hate to break it to you, but they aren't. There are times, where I’m like, ‘We've said the product. We've described this new feature. I need to think of more creative ways to say that.’ But most of our customers don't know yet, so what I need to be focused on is how we repeat that message, and the best ways to reach them. Repeating your message can be a really good thing, especially when you're trying to build awareness of a new product or offering.” - Coley

You might think: My customers told me what they think and so we’re all good.

Think again: Don’t stop with the first answer. Keep asking “why” until you get to the deeper motivation.

“When you ask your customers questions about why they might consider something, or what they are motivated by, you have to push beyond the first response someone gives you. Let them give you the answer and then ask why again and again and again. You will end up unearthing insights that will be really powerful and ultimately may lead you in a different direction than you thought. If you can appeal to their deepest motivation, and deliver a solution that truly solves their need, you’ll not only earn their engagement - you’ll earn their loyalty for the long haul.” - Ali

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The Canvas Go-to-Market Council is a select group of marketing leaders sharing their hard-won expertise at early-stage companies with the Canvas community. Learn more on the GTM council page and follow Canvas on LinkedIn to stay in the loop.


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