How you position your business determines where it lives in the hearts and minds of your customers. Is positioning king? You be the judge. I am fond of saying marketing is all about perception. Positioning is the process of creating a perception for a business or product in the minds of your target customers. People don’t know what to believe about your business until you show them what’s important for them to believe and that ties back to how you position your business.

“The position of a product [company, or service] is the sum of those attributes normally ascribed to it by the consumers – its standing, its quality, the type of people who use it, its strengths, its weaknesses, any other unusual or memorable characteristics it may possess, its price and the value it represents,” (T. Harrison, a Handbook of Advertising Techniques).

Positioning is not something that you can completely control, external factors can influence the way customers think about your business and can change your positioning. Therefore, you must plan carefully and react quickly to changes in market conditions. Many companies have learned how to reinvent themselves continuously in response to market changes.

Many companies don’t do this, but before you can begin to position your business, you may want to consider your “unique selling proposition” (USP). Your USP is what you stand for and what you believe about your business, product, or service. This is the thing that makes you unique, it draws customers to you, and it’s the most important thing that you want your customers to know about you.

Think about unique selling proposition this way. Unique – what sets you apart from your competitors? This also helps you position your business. Selling – what is it about your company that makes a customer want to pay you for your products or services? Proposition – is the act of offering or suggesting something for consideration, acceptance, adoption, or completion.

Your USP becomes the driving force of your business and it helps ensure your success. You can use your USP as a branding tool. USP helps you deploy marketing strategy by incorporating it into every marketing effort across all mediums. It builds position and a lasting reputation while you're making sales. Ultimately, the goal of your USP and your marketing efforts is to have potential customers say, "Yes I've heard of you. I’ve seen your ads. I know who you are.”

Developing a USP is not an easy proposition, but it’s something that is well worth your time and effort to develop. Enlist your entire organization. Find out what they think are your unique qualities, list three or four. Ask your staff why a customer would want to pay you for your services. What is the proposition that you want to put in front of your customers? In other words what pain are you going to solve for your customers? If you need help, bring in somebody from the outside to help you work through the process.

Once you have these details on the table, rank them in order by category, and begin to put them together, to tell your story. You want to distill your USP down to one line. Go online and Google the USPs of famous companies to see what USP’s those companies use. FedEx’s USP is - "When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight." Mercedes Benz’s USP is – “Engineered Like No Other Car in the World.”

Begin to incorporate your USP in all of your advertising efforts. Your USP will become instrumental in developing your positioning. In addition to the information that you used to develop your USP consider also the points that are important to your customers.

Some typical examples of important points include price, quality, service, and value. Without your help, customers will position your business or brand in their minds relative to a company, a product, or a service that is especially visible to them. They could consider the market leader, it could be another offer with higher TV or radio exposure, or it can be a company with an above average marketing budget. Use the most detailed market research that you can access and determine relevant factors in order to understand how customers rate products and marketing variables.

First, define the market segment or segments in your particular area. Next, decide which segments on which to focus. Do you plan to focus on homeowners or business owners? Are you in the replacement market or new construction? It’s perfectly acceptable to have a USP for the residential side of your business and one for the commercial side. Regardless of the segment, make sure you understand the needs of the target consumers. Make sure you study and understand what those customers expect and believe to be the most important considerations when deciding which company to use for their HVAC needs.

As you develop your products or services, ensure they cater specifically for these needs and expectations of your targeted customers. Evaluate the positioning and images of your competitors. Try to perceive them as your customers might perceive them. Review competing product offerings in your selected market segments. In the case of a product, select an image that sets the product apart from the competing products, or in the case of service, cultivate the right words to describe your service, to ensure your image or words match the desires of your target customers.

After you have worked through these details, it’s time to inform potential customers about your services or products. Promotion is very important to positioning. This is where you let your target customers learn you are out there. A good place to start is on your website and on your Facebook business page. This is where you can use your research and USP to announce to the community who you are and what you stand for. You’ll know when you have done a good job when you begin to see an increase in traffic and phone calls.

Positioning can be the driving force in your business. FedEx’s business took off after running their USP as a tagline in their TV commercials. “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.” When you think of overnight shipping, which do you think of, FedEx or UPS?

When you think of top automobiles, which brand comes to mind first? Examine their positioning; what put them in the number one position in your mind? Mercedes Benz had a rough time with quality a few years ago but they corrected the problems and came back. Cadillac used to be the gold standard when it came to luxury automobiles but appeared to be fading so it reinvented itself by moving to the sport luxury category. Lexus is coming on strong and fighting for its share of the luxury auto market. BMW positioned itself in the sport luxury market with crossover to the luxury market. Where do you see your business in your market?

Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to determine your USP and position your company as a leader in your market. Notice that I didn’t say “the leader.” You don’t have to be the undisputed leader. Find your niche and position yourself as a leader in that niche.

Andy Fracica is president and CEO of Fracica Enterprises, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in marketing, PR, social media, and lead generation strategy. He has over 30 years of sales, marketing, technical training, and product management experience in the heating ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) industry. He concentrates on helping manufacturers, distributors, dealers, and startup companies find their voice in an ever increasingly crowded market place. Contact him at 260-338-4554, andy@fracicaenterprises.com or visit the website www.fracicaenterprises.com.