I’ve just read the classic book on positioning by Al Ries and Jack Trout, Positioning: The Battle for your Mind. It is amazing to think that this was published in 1981. The 20th anniversary edition, 2001, has great new commentary from the authors. The key message of the book is the concept of finding the hole in the mind of your prospect or as the French say, Cherchez le creneaux. I believe recessions expose weak positioning. Downtimes really test your compelling story. The book highlights the importance of defining and dominating your unique market. Management teams today, desperately need to revisit the notional hole they are filling!

IBM didn’t invent the computer. Sperry-Rand did. But IBM was the first company to build a computer position in the mind of the prospect. Michelob wasn’t the first high-priced beer to get inside the beer-drinker’s mind Heineken was. Michelob’s strategy? Define yourself as the first high priced imported beer. Of course positioning requires years of reinforcement which in the author’s view stopped happening at Michelob.

However the mind has no room for what’s new and different unless it’s related to the old eg the first car was called the horseless carriage, cleaner gas was called lead-free gas. So it’s not just about nailing your category, it’s also about positioning yourself against the existing players. Prospects need geography.

When I tell people that my hobby is competitive masters athletics, they say oh, do you do marathons! So I have to explain my events of 400m and 800m relative to marathons.

Even my new business, The Portfolio Partnership, only makes sense when I relate it to something people understand e.g. I prepare companies over a 5 year period to ensure they achieve huge premiums when Investments Banks sell them.

There are so many great examples in this book of repositioning strategies to drive growth in these tight economic times. We all need inspiration to find our niche, our reason to exist, so perhaps this book can inspire you to articulate a new compelling story.