How to write a positioning statement for your startup

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  1. Introduction
  2. Key components of a positioning statement
  3. Why positioning statements are important for startups
  4. How to write a positioning statement
    1. Identify your startup’s value proposition
    2. Define your startup’s core differentiation
    3. Think about your target audience
    4. Test and refine your positioning statement
    5. Revise periodically, as needed
  5. Best practices for writing a positioning statement for a startup
  6. Pitfalls to avoid when writing a positioning statement
  7. How to implement your positioning statement in your marketing strategy

A positioning statement concisely describes a product or service and its target market, articulating how it solves a specific problem better than its competitors' offerings do. It guides marketing and communication strategy, describing how a business will present its product or service to the market.

Take dating app Bumble, for example. Bumble's positioning strategy, which emphasises female empowerment and lets women make the first move, sets it apart from other dating apps. This positioning helped the business achieve a market cap of US$1.77 billion in 2024.

For early-stage startups, the positioning statement influences branding, marketing and product strategies. Alongside a startup's mission statement, the positioning statement drives the entire business.

Crafting a positioning statement requires a mix of analytical thinking and creative insight. It's about knowing the market, the product and the customer, then synthesising those insights into a statement that captures the essence of the product's place in the market. Below, we'll explain how to write an effective positioning statement.

What's in this article?

  • Key components of a positioning statement
  • Why positioning statements are important for startups
  • How to write a positioning statement
  • Best practices for writing a positioning statement for a startup
  • Pitfalls to avoid when writing a positioning statement
  • How to implement your positioning statement in your marketing strategy

Key components of a positioning statement

Writing a strong positioning statement starts with knowing the key elements that should go in it. Businesses typically include these components:

  • Target market: This is the group of customers at whom the product or service is aimed. A deep knowledge of the target market's demographics, psychographics and behaviour is necessary. This ensures that the positioning statement resonates with the right audience, addressing those customers' needs, desires or problems.

  • Market definition: This aspect defines the category in which the product or service competes. It involves a thorough knowledge of the industry and the niche the product or service occupies. This helps to distinguish the product from broad industry competitors and identifies the direct competition within the niche.

  • Unique value proposition: Often referred to as the brand promise, this is the core benefit that the product promises to deliver and a description of what makes the product valuable to the target market. This promise must be compelling to the audience and different from what competitors provide.

  • Reason to believe: This is where a business justifies its brand promise, including evidence that supports its central claims. This might include new technology, customer testimonials or research findings. This evidence gives the target market a reason to trust the product's promise.

  • Emotional payoff: This often-overlooked component describes the feeling that the customer will experience by using the product or service, whether that's a sense of belonging, security or innovation. This emotional connection can be a powerful differentiator in the market.

  • Competitive differentiation: This details how the product or service is different from, and better than, the competition. Identify what makes the product different and why that difference matters to the target market. This component should highlight the product's strengths against the weaknesses of competitors.

Why positioning statements are important for startups

Positioning statements are especially relevant for startups launching in a crowded market. A well-defined positioning statement can catalyse growth. Here's why:

  • Clarity of purpose: Startups usually have innovative ideas but often struggle to articulate them clearly. A positioning statement helps distil the core of a business's product or service into a concise message. This clarity is important for marketing and internal alignment.

  • Focused marketing strategy: Startups can't afford to waste time and money on unfocused marketing efforts. A positioning statement guides a business's marketing strategy, making sure that it communicates the right message to the right audience. This focus helps maximise the impact of every pound spent on marketing.

  • Market differentiation: The market is often full of established players and competitors. A positioning statement helps a startup carve out its niche by clearly defining what sets it apart. This differentiation can attract attention and be the deciding factor for customers.

  • Building a strong brand: Brand building starts with effective positioning. For startups, establishing a strong brand early can be a major competitive advantage. A positioning statement helps build a brand that resonates with its target audience and stays consistent across all touchpoints.

  • Attracting investment: Investors want to see that a startup has a strong vision and a plan to capture market share. A well-crafted positioning statement demonstrates to investors that the startup knows its market, customers and competition and has a plan for success.

  • Guiding product development: Startups often evolve quickly. A positioning statement can guide the business during changes, helping product development efforts match with the market needs and the overall vision.

  • Establishing customer loyalty: Building a loyal customer base during the early stages of a startup is valuable. A good positioning statement helps startups connect with their customers on a deeper level – through the product as well as shared values and emotional connections.

How to write a positioning statement

A lot of preparatory work is involved in crafting a positioning statement before the writing begins. Here is a step-by-step guide to writing a positioning statement, including key factors to consider:

Identify your startup’s value proposition

Knowing your startup’s value proposition is the first and perhaps most important step in writing a positioning statement. You need to identify what your product or service brings to the market and how it solves a problem or meets a need better than any alternative. Here’s how to identify your value proposition:

  • Identify the problem you’re solving: Start by defining the problem your startup’s product or service solves. It’s important to be specific. The more precisely you can define the problem, the better you’ll be able to describe your solution.

  • Determine your solution’s key benefits: Next, outline the benefits of your solution. What does your product or service do that no other business does? Frame those benefits in terms of how they make your customers’ lives easier, better, or more enjoyable.

  • Quantify the benefits: Whenever possible, use data to quantify the benefits of your solution. Those could include efficiency gains, cost savings, time saved, or any other measurable impact. Quantifying benefits can make your value proposition more tangible and compelling.

  • Lean into the emotional appeal: Consider how to use the emotional appeal of your product or service. Does it bring peace of mind, joy, or a sense of belonging? Sometimes, the emotional benefits are as important as the practical ones.

  • Compare with alternatives: To further refine your value proposition, compare your solution with alternatives in the market. This comparison will help you better appreciate what sets your product or service apart.

  • Articulate the value proposition clearly: Once you’ve gathered this information, it’s time to write a straightforward, articulate value proposition statement. This statement should be easy to read and free of jargon. It should succinctly communicate why your solution is the best choice for the problem you’ve identified.

Define your startup’s core differentiation

Your value proposition is the foundation of your positioning statement, and your differentiation is how your business provides this value in a way that competitors don’t. This step is key for creating a positioning statement that resonates with your target audience.

  • Dissect the competitive landscape: Analyze your competitors to understand how they engage with customers, deliver messaging, and position themselves. This will help you identify gaps in the market that your startup can fill.

  • Unique features and innovations: What underlying technologies or methodologies set your product apart? If you’re using artificial intelligence (AI), for example, how does your use of this technology differ from others? Go beyond the “what” and highlight the “how” and “why” of your features.

  • Redefine the customer experience: Differentiation in today’s market isn’t just about a superior product; it’s about reimagining the customer experience. How does your startup transform a transaction into an experience? Consider the entire lifecycle—from discovery to advocacy—and create memorable moments for customers.

  • Your team’s individual edge: Often, startups are differentiated by the collective expertise and vision of their team. Highlighting your team’s skills, experiences, and perspectives can be a compelling part of your narrative. Investors and customers are attracted to teams with a blend of expertise and a shared vision.

  • Mission and values as differentiators: In a world where many products blend into one another, a strong, authentic mission can help you stand out. It’s not just about what you do; it’s about why you do it. If your startup is driven by a mission that transcends profit—be it sustainability, social impact, or innovation for the greater good—it can attract like-minded customers and partners.

A deep knowledge of your startup’s core differentiation requires an honest look at your business ethos. Determine what you provide and why it matters to your customers.

Think about your target audience

Understand who your customers are, what they need, and how they behave. It’s important to be thorough and precise during this analysis, to resonate with the people you want to reach. Here’s how to do it:

  • Demographic and psychographic analysis: Start by gathering detailed information about your audience’s demographics (age, gender, location, income level, etc.) and psychographics (interests, values, lifestyle, etc.). This data will describe who is in your audience and what matters to them.

  • Customer needs and challenges: Understand the needs, challenges, or other issues your audience faces. What is your audience struggling with, and how does your product address those issues? The more accurately you can define that, the more relevant your positioning will be.

  • Customer behavior and preferences: Examine how your target audience behaves, especially in relation to products or services such as yours. What are your customers’ buying habits? What do they value in a customer experience? Those nuances help tailor your positioning to fit their preferences.

  • Engagement channels: Identify where your audience members spend their time, online and offline. What social media platforms do they use? What kind of content do they consume? Then you can determine which channels are best for engaging with them.

  • Feedback loops: Establish mechanisms to gather ongoing feedback from your audience. Surveys, customer interviews, and social media engagement can provide valuable insight into what your audience thinks and feels.

  • Competitor audience analysis: Look at how your competitors engage with their audiences. What are they doing right? Are there gaps you could fill? Sometimes, your positioning can be informed by where competitors are falling short in addressing customer needs.

Test and refine your positioning statement

Once you’ve drafted a version of your positioning statement you feel confident in, then it’s time to test it. Writing a positioning statement requires quite a bit of deep focus that can make it easy to lose perspective. Testing and refining your positioning statement is important to make sure your statement accurately resonates with your target audience. Here’s how to do it:

  • Create variations: Draft multiple versions of your positioning statement. Each version should slightly vary in focus, language, or emphasis, giving you a range of options to test.

  • Gather a diverse feedback group: Assemble a group representing a cross-section of your target audience, along with team members and possibly industry experts. Diversity in this group will result in a broad range of insights.

  • Employ A/B testing: Use A/B testing to evaluate the versions of your positioning statement. You can do this through online surveys, email campaigns, or social media posts. Track engagement metrics to see which version resonates the most.

  • Conduct focus groups and interviews: In-depth focus groups and one-on-one interviews can provide qualitative insights. Those discussions can reveal emotional and psychological reactions quantitative data might miss.

  • Improve based on feedback: Use the feedback to refine your positioning statement. This might involve revising the language, emphasizing different aspects, or rethinking parts of your value proposition or differentiation.

  • Test market response: If feasible, use your refined positioning statement in a small-scale marketing campaign. Monitor the market’s reaction to gauge the effectiveness of your statement in a real-world setting.

Most startups don’t get their positioning statement right on the first try. It’s an iterative cycle that hones your positioning statement so it captures the core of your startup and resonates with your audience and internal team.

Revise periodically, as needed

You should periodically revisit your positioning statement and decide whether it needs to be revised—but it’s also important to not revise it too often. Frequent changes can confuse your audience and dilute your brand message, while infrequent updates might leave your positioning out of sync with the market. Here’s how to get the balance right:

  • Set a review schedule: Establish a regular schedule for reviewing your positioning statement. This can be annually or biannually, aligning with your planning cycle. Consistent reviews ensure your positioning remains relevant as your startup evolves.

  • Monitor market changes: Monitor market trends, emerging technologies, and shifts in customer behavior. If substantial changes occur in your industry, you might need to review your positioning statement outside the regular schedule.

  • Assess business growth and evolution: As your startup grows, your products, services, or target audience might evolve. Reflect those changes in your positioning statement to accurately represent your current business.

  • Avoid frequent overhauls: Though it’s important to stay relevant, avoid constant overhauls of your positioning statement. Frequent changes can create brand inconsistency and customer confusion. Subtle tweaks are often more effective than major shifts.

  • Involve key stakeholders: When revising your positioning statement, involve key stakeholders in the process. This includes leadership, marketing, sales, and customer representatives. Their insights can provide a holistic view of what needs to be changed.

  • Communicate changes clearly: If you make changes to your positioning statement, communicate them effectively to your team and stakeholders. Everyone should be aligned on how the startup is positioned in the market.

Best practices for writing a positioning statement for a startup

While writing your positioning statement, consider best practices you can use to ensure that the statement is effective:

  • Conciseness and clarity: A positioning statement should be easily digestible – every word counts. Avoid jargon and complex language; your statement should be easily understood by everyone, from industry insiders to potential customers.

  • Emphasise real-world impact: Focus on the tangible impact your product or service has on your customers' lives or businesses. Instead of dwelling on features or technical specifications, highlight how you solve real problems or improve situations.

  • Adhere to the business strategy: Your positioning statement should align closely with your overall business strategy. It's a reflection of your long-term vision and goals, so make sure that it supports and amplifies your direction.

  • Be authentic and believable: Authenticity builds trust. Your positioning statement should reflect your startup's true character and capabilities. Overpromising or misrepresenting can damage credibility.

  • Differentiate with a story: People connect with stories. If your startup has a compelling origin story, weave this into your positioning. It humanises your brand and can be a powerful differentiator.

  • Use customer insights: Infuse your positioning with insights derived from customer feedback and behaviour. This will make sure that your positioning addresses actual customer needs and preferences.

  • Visual and verbal synergy: Make sure that your positioning statement is reflected in words and the visual elements of your brand. What you say should match how you present yourself visually.

  • Prepare for evolution: Acknowledge that your positioning might evolve as your startup grows and the market changes. Build flexibility into your positioning strategy to adapt and refine as needed.

  • Test and validate internally: Before going public, test your positioning statement internally. Getting your team to give feedback and making sure that the statement matches employees' vision for the startup is an important step in this process.

  • Deploy across channels: Once finalised, your positioning statement should permeate every aspect of your communication – from your website and social media to pitch decks and advertising. Consistency across channels reinforces your positioning.

Pitfalls to avoid when writing a positioning statement

When you write a positioning statement for your startup, certain pitfalls can undermine its effectiveness and clarity. Being aware of these common mistakes can help make sure that your positioning statement is powerful and well crafted:

  • Vagueness and overgeneralisation: Avoid statements that are too broad or vague. Your positioning should be as specific as possible, outlining what sets your startup apart. General statements that could apply to any business in your industry won't help you stand out.

  • Over-promising: It's tempting to make grandiose claims to capture attention, but over-promising can backfire. Your positioning should be ambitious yet achievable. Over-promising can lead to unmet expectations and erode trust in your brand.

  • Ignoring the competition: Failing to consider what your competitors are doing can lead to a positioning statement that isn't differentiated enough. Knowing what your competitors are doing is key to carving out your place in the market.

  • Underestimating the importance of language: The words you choose matter. Jargon, buzzwords or overly complex language can alienate your audience. The language should be accessible and engaging and resonate with your potential customers.

  • Misalignment with business strategy: Your positioning statement should support your overall business strategy. A disconnect between those can lead to mixed messages and confusion, internally and externally.

  • Neglecting emotional connection: Though it's important to be practical and focus on the value your startup provides, neglecting the emotional aspect of your positioning can be a misstep. People connect with brands emotionally, so your statement should also evoke feelings and not just convey facts.

  • Inflexibility to change: The market and your startup will evolve over time. A positioning statement that's too rigid and not open to evolution might become irrelevant. It should have room for adaptation.

  • Failing to test and refine: Not testing your positioning statement with your target audience is a missed opportunity. Gathering feedback and refining your statement based on this input is key to its effectiveness.

  • Inconsistency across channels: Once established, your positioning statement should be consistently reflected across all marketing and communication channels. Inconsistent messaging can lead to a fragmented brand image.

  • Overlooking internal buy-in: Make sure that your team fully appreciates and supports the positioning statement. Your employees are your brand ambassadors, and their buy-in to the statement is important for consistent, authentic representation of your brand.

How to implement your positioning statement in your marketing strategy

Sometimes, businesses will spend months agonising over their positioning statement, get it to a place they feel good about and then simply put it in a folder and never touch it again. Positioning statements are not worth much if they aren't used within the organisation. Implementing your positioning statement in your marketing strategy is a key step to make sure that your brand messaging is coherent and impactful across all touchpoints.

Here are tactics to effectively weave your positioning statement into your marketing strategy:

  • Integrate into brand messaging: Your positioning statement should be the core of all your brand messaging. It should inform the tone, language and content of your marketing materials, from your website and social media to brochures and ads.

  • Educate your team: Make sure that your team knows the positioning statement and its implications. This includes the marketing team as well as sales, customer service and other departments. Consistent messaging across all levels of interaction reinforces your brand position.

  • Customise marketing campaigns: Design your marketing campaigns to reflect your positioning statement. Whether it's content marketing, paid advertising or social media campaigns, the core message should match the core of your positioning.

  • Product and service alignment: Make sure that your product or service experience delivers on the promise of your positioning statement. This alignment reinforces the credibility of your brand and builds trust with your customers.

  • Customer experience: Match the customer experience with your positioning statement. Every touchpoint, from initial contact to post-purchase, should reinforce your brand's position and values.

  • Consistency across channels: Maintain consistency in how your positioning is communicated across different channels. Whether it's digital marketing, print or in-person events, your positioning should be unmistakable and consistent.

  • Feedback loops and adjustments: Establish feedback mechanisms to gauge how your target audience perceives your positioning. Use this feedback to make adjustments to your marketing strategy as needed.

  • Content strategy integration: Integrate your positioning statement into your content strategy. This includes blog posts, case studies, videos and any other content that provides value to your audience. The content should consistently echo your positioning.

  • Training and development: Regular training sessions for your team can help keep everyone in tune with the positioning statement. This is particularly important in a shifting startup environment in which teams are quickly growing and evolving.

  • Measure and fine-tune: Regularly measure the impact of your positioning on your marketing efforts. Use metrics such as brand awareness, engagement rates, conversion rates and customer feedback to assess effectiveness and fine-tune accordingly.

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