How to use Qualitative Marketing Research for Product Positioning

Product positioning plants the unique selling proposition in the minds of your target prospects and customers.

It's the reason somebody buys your product and not your competitors’ products. It makes sales.

It's a message that highlights important differences. It tells how and why your product, service, or brand is different and why people should buy it.

It's strategic. Positions are durable.

Get Noticed

Chances are you have several competitors. Rivals abound. Each struggles for attention and sales.

To be noticed, your product needs to stand out; it needs to be different in a way your prospects and customers value.

You want targeted prospects and customers to associate your product with features, benefits, and emotions they consider important. You need features, benefits, and emotions that are different from those of your competitors. Ones competitors weakly provide, or don’t provide at all.

Positioning gives your brand or product meaning. It carves out a specific place in the mind. You want to own the position. It’s your position in the product category. It’s your place on the map. You want people to associate your brand with a specific position.

The position can be real or perceived.

Persuade prospects to want your brand.

Use qualitative research to,

  • Find important and differentiated features, benefits, and emotions
  • Identify language that resonates with prospects and customers
  • Screen messages with concept testing
  • Develop marketing communications strategy

Let’s understand the parts of a positioning message.

Unique Selling Proposition

Product positioning is often a unique selling proposition, or differentiated selling proposition.

The unique selling proposition contains four parts.

  1. It promises functional and emotional benefits
  2. Benefits are important to target prospects and customers
  3. It is different from competitors’ selling propositions
  4. It is easily communicated and understood

For example, Volvo’s position is safety. Volvo’s features support the promise of safety. Safety is an important, higher order benefit especially in the minds of parents with children.

In this case, safety is also a feeling, value, and belief. Volvo’s message is important and different. Volvo communicates safety often. And their message is easy to understand and consistent.

How to Identify Product Positioning Opportunities with Qualitative Research

You start with laddering depth interviews.

Laddering is an interviewing technique that identifies the features-benefits- emotions chain of a product or service.

Review the article about laddering. It’s a useful and important moderating technique.

Here are the steps.

  1. Ask laddering questions about the product category.
  2. Ask laddering questions about your products and those of your competitors.
  3. Map your position and your competitors’ positions.
  4. Pick an open or weakly held position and write your messages.
  5. Then test your messages in concept interviews.
  6. Pick the best message for development and use it in marketing communications and ads.

Depth interviews are effective for laddering.

Make sure the respondents are category users. You want to interview respondents who use your product and your competitors’ products.

Once you have gained positioning information, map it. Make maps for each target segment of interest.

If users perceive a competitor holds an important benefit, check how strongly the competitor holds the position. If the competitor has a weak grip, you may consider dislodging the rival.

You need to judge the effort involved… the money and time needed to convince the customer. It is better to claim an open position. Make sure it important.

Concept Testing and Product Positioning

Next, create positioning concepts and then conduct concept-testing qualitative research, using focus groups.

Show your concepts to product users. Get their reactions to each concept message. Then select the best message.

Positioning qualitative research is similar to concept testing and advertising research.

Here are questions to assess positioning concepts. Also review the article about concept testing.

Show one message concept at a time. Hand concepts to respondents. Ask them to keep silent while they write the following:

  1. Circle words, phrases, sentences, and images they like.
  2. Cross out words, phrases, and sentences they dislike.
  3. Place questions marks on things that confuse.
  4. Give an overall grade to the ad… A, B, C, D, F.

Open the discussion and ask follow-up questions and probes to gain deeper understanding.

Then, pick the best concepts for development.

Use the message that positions your product in ads. Use it in the sales pitch. Use to sell.

Help prospects decide in favor of your product or service.

Product positioning is why people buy from you and not your competitors. Get prospects to want your product.

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