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A Masterclass In Product Positioning with April Dunford – Episode #140

This episode is for all of my Product Marketing friends ūüĎčūüŹľ‚Ķ

April Dunford is the world’s leading expert on product positioning. She works with fast-growing tech companies helping them clearly articulate the value they alone can deliver to customers. She is the author of the bestselling positioning book Obviously Awesome: How to Nail Product Positioning so Customers Get it, Buy it, Love it. She also recently published a new book titled, Sales P!tch: How to Craft a Story to Stand Out and Win which is available for purchase on Amazon.

Questions and topics we covered include:

  • What‚Äôs product positioning?
  • How does it differ from brand positioning?
  • What happens when a team doesn‚Äôt have solid product positioning? (Marketing and sales)
  • Who should own product positioning?
  • How does positioning change when there are multiple products and multiple personas?
  • When speaking to customers to hone positioning, what are the best questions to ask them?
  • Why you have to include the other solutions out in the market when trying to sell.
  • The events that occur in a business‚Äôs lifecycle, that can make your team revisit your product‚Äôs positioning‚Ķ

And more

Learn more about April through her LinkedIn, website, or podcast below:

Connect with me on LinkedIn here –

Full Episode Transcript:

April Dunford  0:00  

positioning defines how your product is the best in the world at delivering something some value that a well defined set of customers cares a lot about. Now, people will often confuse positioning with messaging, or positioning with branding. But I think those things are really different. And in fact, I think positioning is kind of the foundation for all the rest of the things we do in marketing.


Kenny Soto  0:22  

You just heard a clip from our latest guest on episode 140 of the people Digital Marketing podcast. And this guest is one of the biggest guests I’ve had on the show. name is April Dunford, before introducing APR, and giving you more context on who she is, I first want to explain the mission of this podcast mission of this podcast is to help marketers impress their boss, and eventually become their boss. And part of being the CMO of an organization is being a partner, to your product team. And that means you need to be really, really good at product marketing. Specifically, one skill that can help your organization grow and evolve as it grows. And that is product positioning or positioning in general. And April is going to give us a masterclass in positioning and how you can use it to elevate your business. April Dunford is the world’s leading expert on product positioning. She works with fast growing tech companies helping them clearly articulate the value they can deliver to customers. She is the author of the best selling book, obviously awesome how to nail product positioning, so customers get it by love it. And she also recently published a new book titled, sales pitch, how to craft a story to stand out and win, which is available for purchase on Amazon. And today, we’re going to be talking about all the things that you need to know for positioning, which is a core component of Product Marketing. Without further ado, let’s enjoy this conversation that I had with April Dunford. Hi April, how are you?


April Dunford  2:05  

I’m good, how are you?


Kenny Soto  2:07  

I’m excited, you are the expert of a topic that can seem simple at first. And I want to make sure that we give space to cover both the foundation of this topic and then start diving deeper into the nuances of it. But before we do that, I want to quickly just get a better understanding of your career. April, how did you get into sales and marketing in the first place?


April Dunford  2:33  

Yeah, you know, I’m a bit of an accidental marketer. So you know, I actually didn’t go to school for marketing, I studied engineering systems design engineering. But when I finished school, I ended up working at a startup and, and I got hired in Product Marketing. And the reason I got hired and product marketing was it was kind of a technical product. And they needed somebody that a wasn’t afraid of public speaking, because there was a lot of public speaking involved in this role. And, and B, knew how to write an SQL query. And I knew that engineering school. So I got this job. The company I was working at, ended up getting acquired by a big company in Silicon Valley shortly after my boss quit, and they put me in charge of the marketing department. And I did okay at that job. And then I kind of decided, well, this is it, I’m just never looked back. So that’s how I ended up in marketing. The first product I ever worked at was a product that looked like a failure. And we did a repositioning on it. And we didn’t really know what we were doing, we kind of just messed around until we got a position that work. And so we did a repositioning on it, it became really successful. And in fact, a bit you know, even post acquisition, the product became the growth driver for even the bigger company that acquired us. And that got me a bit hooked on positioning, and you know, how powerful good positioning could be. And so I spent the next five or six years after that, trying to figure out how do we actually do positioning in a repeatable way? Once I figured that out, it kind of became my jam, like you hired me as the person who could come in and fix your positioning. So here I am.


Kenny Soto  4:17  

And to get some more context, April, what would you say you do today? As like your job? Yeah.


April Dunford  4:25  

So you know, I I started out as an in house VP marketing. So I did that on repeat, like I was a repeat vice president of marketing, I think for seven different venture backed startups. And then about 678 years ago, I made this switch to consulting just for something new to do and in my focus area now is really, really targeted. So I only do positioning work. I only work with tech companies. Even more specifically, I don’t do consumer products. I only do b2b I and any more specific than that most of the products I work on are complex enough. And the sales motion is complex enough that there’s a salesperson involved somewhere in the deal. And so that’s where I am now, I’m probably the world’s most well known positioning expert for tech companies.


Kenny Soto  5:18  

Did you find that as you specialized more? The job got easier?


April Dunford  5:27  

Well, yeah. You know, like, you mean as a consultant? Yeah. Specifically, yeah, like, I mean, I think it’s, I think, in consulting, the key to being a good consulting, is being really clear on what you’re really, really good at, and what you actually don’t know that much about. So my background was all big ticket b2b kind of enterprise software. And so I try to stay in my lane there, like so, you know, occasionally I’ll get companies come to me, and they’re super goods, or, you know, the other day at a call with a company, and they’re doing makeup, and it’s cool, but it’s just outside of my warehouse. And so I’m like, you know, I don’t want to have people come to me and work on stuff, or I don’t feel like we can really, really nail it. So the more targeted we get, the more I’m very, very confident that we’re going to do good work together, because I’ve seen 1000 other companies that look just like that. So I think for me, it’s helped, you know, it’s helped make sure that everybody’s getting a good result, like the companies are getting what they want, I feel very comfortable that we’re going to do good work together. And, you know, it allows you, it allows you to raise your rates as well, because it’s like, you know, if all you want is just positioning by somebody, there’s lots of people out there that do that. But if you want, you know, somebody that’s got a lot of experience that’s worked with hundreds of companies that are just like you, b2b tech companies with the sales team, then I’m your gal.


Kenny Soto  7:00  

You’re alluding to the complexity of positioning, because even within that domain of expertise, just slicing it between b2c and b2b, there’s different nuances to tackle. And I’m glad you brought that up. Because this is a perfect segue to just get a high level overview of what is product positioning.


April Dunford  7:27  

Yeah, so So I define it this way. So positioning defines how your product is the best in the world at delivering something some value that a well defined set of customers cares a lot about. Now, that’s a bit of a mouthful. One of the ways I like to think about it is it’s like context setting for products. And context is really important, because that’s how we make sense of something, particularly something new. So people will often confuse positioning with messaging, or positioning with branding. But I think those things are really different. And in fact, I think positioning is kind of the foundation for all the rest of the things we do in marketing and sales. It, it helps us define crisply, who are we competing against in the minds of customers? What do we have that differentiating from the other competing alternatives in this space? What is the value that we can deliver to customers that no one else can? And who exactly are those target customers that aren’t really good fit for the thing that we’re selling? And what is the market that we intend to win? So positioning defines all of that, if you want to do messaging or campaigns or build a sales pitch or anything else, you need those things as inputs and positioning defines?


Kenny Soto  8:43  

What do you say to the person that says brand should come first?


April Dunford  8:55  

Well, it’s, I would say, Okay, so we’re going to, we’re going to build a brand for product. Now, the first thing I’d want to know is, well, who’s the product for? Like, is it for teenagers, or bankers? Because the brand you’re building for teenagers, it’s going to use different language it’s going to use it’s going to have a different feel it’s going to have a different tone of voice, it’s going to have all that is going to be different if I’m marketing to teenagers versus bankers, right. The other thing I need to understand in order to build a brand is what does the brand stand for? What does it stand for? What is the value that we could deliver that no one else can’t? Well, where does that come from? That comes from your positioning. So I don’t see how we’re doing like unless we say branding is you know, somewhere in your branding process. You’re going to define all that stuff. Well, then I think you’re actually doing positioning but you’re calling it branding. But you know that really what you’re doing is you’ve got positioning and that’s the input into branding. We can’t do that until we understand the other thing.


Kenny Soto  10:00  

And you’re alluding to something where I, I believe that you can, you can probably move in the right direction without product positioning, but then you won’t know why you’re being successful, which leads to this question, what happens to teams that don’t spend the time and invest the time to define their product positioning? Hey there, if you’re enjoying this episode, and you’re a first time listener, when I hit the Follow button, my goal with each of these episodes is to introduce a new marketing concept, or dive deeper into one, so that you can become a better digital marketer. Hopefully, through these episodes, you join me on this journey, the path to CMO. So I’d love it if you subscribed. Thanks for listening so far.


April Dunford  10:57  

Yeah, like sometimes, in any suite see this quite a lot with startups. Like, sometimes the initial positioning for the for the product is kind of obvious. Like, it’s kind of obvious who you compete with, and how you’re different and what market you’re going to win. Like, it’s not that hard. And so you can kind of fall in to some good default positioning, without actually having to sit down and do too much work on it or, you know, sit down and do a structure positioning exercise or something to go get it. So I think lots of companies have that. But then what happens sometimes is the market changes. So new competitors come into the market, or maybe you had something that was really differentiating, and then other companies caught up with you. And so all of a sudden, you’re in this position where it’s like, oh, no, like, our positioning actually doesn’t work anymore. And now we have to shift it. We don’t know how to shift it, because we don’t actually know how we got it in the first place. And so sometimes, I think, you know, you can, you could be in a situation where the position is obvious, it’s not that hard. And you don’t want it’s easy, just kind of do it. But I think lots of times, that is not true, you know, the landscape is fairly complicated. What you do that’s differentiating is not entirely obvious, the way you express your differentiated value is not entirely obvious. It’s not entirely obvious how you define a best fit customer. And so in those cases, I think it helps to have some kind of a process or a methodology that you can use to actually go and define your positioning.


Kenny Soto  12:31  

Be proactive with this activity rather than reactive.


April Dunford  12:37  

I mean, ideally, right?


Kenny Soto  12:39  

When it comes to ownership of this process and this deliverable, is it the marketing the marketing departments job? Is it the product marketers job? Or are there potentially other stakeholders that own product? positioning?


April Dunford  13:00  

Yeah, so traditionally, I think people have thought of positioning as being kind of a marketing thing. You know, it’s closely tied to messaging. And so that’s a marketing thing, and closely tied to branding. That’s a marketing thing. So I think a lot of people would say, oh, positioning is just a thing that the marketing department does. Well, one of the big things I learned about positioning is that, you know, it actually sets the tone for a lot of things like yes, marketing, needs to use the output of it needs to use positioning as an output in things. But you don’t sales obviously needs to understand the positioning, the product team needs to understand the positioning. You’ve got other folks on the executive team, the founder, the CEO is out there talking to customers every day, how do we ensure that we’re all being consistent on this? So I don’t believe that the work of doing positioning is actually something that should just be done in a little silo in the marketing department. I think it’s best done with a cross functional team where we’re getting input from sales and product, about what’s working in the market, what we have this differentiating, I think, ideally, we have the executive team and there’s founder the CEO driving the process, so that we can get everybody in agreement in alignment on it so that we’re all singing the same song once we actually have developed positioning. Now, that said, once a position has been developed, I think it is helpful to have someone be the steward of it, to ensure that we’re being consistent about the positioning across everything that we’re doing, and also to be the person that kind of puts a hand up to say, Hey, I think we need to revisit the positioning now. So we should get the gang back together and look at it again. Typically, I see this as a product marketing function. So you know if if there is a product market or a product marketing team, that would be the obvious place for us to put the stewardship of positioning If you’re a company that doesn’t have product marketing as a function, then usually that sits in the marketing department, occasionally it will be in product. Are


Kenny Soto  15:08  

there any exceptions to that?


April Dunford  15:12  

Well, I give Yeah, like if the again, if you don’t have product marketing, then you’ve got to figure out where it’s gonna go live. It almost always sits in marketing. Like, that’s when I was a VP marketing I was I was always responsible for positioning, regardless of whether we had product marketing. Sometimes you’d have a product team, where the you know, there’s, there’s folks on the product team, that part of their job is product marketing. And so they sometimes make sense for it to sit over there. But in generally, generally, it’s one or the other. After


Kenny Soto  15:43  

the positioning is defined, and you have that steward, you mentioned this in passing, where potentially there could be a competitor who launches a similar feature or features that are product in general. Are there any other key moments or events in a company’s life, if you will, that require a revisiting of product positioning?


April Dunford  16:10  

Yeah, I think there’s, I think there’s lots of, there’s lots of trigger points that could happen. So I’ll give you an example. I worked at a company and we worked on the positioning, and we had a strategic partnership with another company. And so part of our positioning was, you know, talked about the strategic partnership we had with them, and there was value to customers and that, and so we worked on the positioning, we develop that everything was great. And then about three, four months later, that company got acquired by another company. And so then we were like, oh, no, we’re gonna have to go back and shift this. So we went back, we reworked the positioning, and we kind of aligned with the new company that had acquired them. But it did require a shift in the positioning, because the new company had a different focus. And so we did the repositioning it that worked really good for about six or seven months, and then the acquiring company themselves were acquired. So we had to go back to the drawing board a second time. And so we’d repositioned three times in a little over a year, due to unforeseen events in the in the industry. So I think things like a big acquisition, you know, depending on what your positioning looks like, if you’re, you know, got a strategic partnership with somebody, something happens with that, maybe you’re going to have to revisit it. Sometimes it’s your competitors have caught up to you and things that weren’t differentiating anymore, you know, now are, are things that we’re differentiating are no longer differentiating, sometimes you’ll have a thing where you put out a new release of something, and and it’s, you know, a big change in functionality, that change can drive additional value for customers. And so you’ll want to adjust the positioning to account for that. I’ve seen companies adjust their positioning with they’ve done an acquisition. So they’ve, you know, brought in new capabilities. So the positioning would have to change due to that. And then sometimes there’s things that are just beyond your control, like that impact the way customers think about value. So for example, in when the economy’s really good, typically value propositions that are focused on growth, or how helping companies grow and make more money, tend to work better than value propositions that are all about helping you save money, or conserve the assets and do more with less. But when the economy’s bad that flips, and everybody goes into cost cutting mode. And all of a sudden your value proposition that’s all about, here’s how we’re going to help you save some dollars, those become actually better value propositions out the market. So sometimes we’ll have a shift like that. And then sometimes we’ll have things that are just like completely unpredictable, like, you know, COVID, for example, and hold industry shut it down for months where, you know, so there was a lot of companies that did some pretty radical repositioning in the early days of COVID. To take into account that, you know, the complete difference in the market landscape due to COVID.


Kenny Soto  19:12  

I want to pontificate with you on this next question. And I want to use Apple as an example just because it’s very timely, when an organization has multiple products, and they’re, they’re balancing the positioning between all those different products, and now they launch a new one. So in this case, the Apple vision pro could you do this example of apple and the vision Pro, the scribe the challenges that occur when you have multiple products and multiple personas you’re servicing?


April Dunford  19:49  

Yeah, so typically what you’ve got, in general, for big companies, typically what you have is kind of an umbrella positioning. that says, you know, we’re apple, and we stand for this, and you should buy all this stuff from me. And it has this common thread through it, right? This, you know, this is what we stand. And, uh, you know, and I think in Apple’s case, there’s a handful of those common threads like beautiful design, you don’t security has been a common thread for them for a long time. Really simple to use user interfaces, that’s a common thread for them. And so if you buy something for them, you know, you expect that there’s sort of a premium product, you expect it to have sort of a premium feel, but you also expect to pay a premium price for it. So that and so you know, but if you look at their overall arching positioning, the story around Apple has been kind of consistently about, you know, computing and new ways to do computing, right. So when they launched the iPhone, for example, they really positioned that as like a little computer because that’s, that’s their DNA, that’s where they come from, they build computers, they’re all about computing. And so you know, when they got into the phone business, it wasn’t about the phone. It was about computing, right, and we’re gonna, we’re gonna browse, and there’s gonna be x, and there’s all this stuff. Same thing with the watch, when the watch came out, it was sort of an extension of, you know, computing. And so now we’re doing, you know, wearable computing, and we talked about that same thing with the iPad, you know, it wasn’t, it wasn’t positioned as something really different, it was positioned as another form factor for computing. Now, if we look at the new thing, they had said, that, you know, they made some very deliberate choices there. Like we’ve seen other companies releasing headsets, and they’re positioned as, you know, augmented reality, or virtual reality or something else. But, uh, you know, what I think is really interesting about the Apple example is, you know, they’re just treated just like another thing in the portfolio, just like everything else. And so this is now spatial computing. And it’s a, it’s a wearable device, and we’re doing computing in another realm. And, but if you look at the text underneath that, it talks about how, you know, it leverages everything that they’re really good at, they were you’re gonna do FaceTime on that thing. It’s either there’s an app store, and there’s gonna be apps. You know, it leverages their chipset. It’s got built in security, just like all the other things they have, you know, so it’s, they’re kind of positioning it as an extension of everything they already do. This is really smart. If you’re a market leader in a space, right? If you’re a market leader in his space, what you want to kind of do is extend the space that you already dominate, so that anybody that tries to come at you competitively kind of has to take you on in your home turf, where you’re already really strong. So they could have said, Oh, this is all about virtual reality, or the metaverse or entreating, the metaverse, they don’t then that that word did not cross their lips. They’d be competing with metta if they did that. Right, right. So you don’t you know, the contrast this with what Facebook’s been doing, which, which I think is maybe an example of how to not do this right that they leaned heavily into this new concept, which was the metaverse the examples that they show when they first did that big Metaverse launch was, you know, collaborating in a work environment, which, which we don’t think of Facebook as doing that. So they kind of came out with this thing. And it felt like a really hard pivot, and it felt very disconnected from Facebook’s core business. It wasn’t about social networking, it wasn’t about what we’re already doing with Facebook, it was about you know, we’re reinventing the whole company to go do this other thing. And I think that’s much much harder than what Apple’s doing, which is saying, Hey, we’re gonna do the stuff you’re doing with Apple things right now, you’re just now going to do it with this thing on your head. And it’s going to be spatial, and this is how it’s gonna work. Like, it’s easier for us to imagine that and how that might work. I think what Facebook’s trying to do is, frankly, a lot


Kenny Soto  24:08  

harder just to recap, because I want to make sure I’m bringing this into my mind, you have an umbrella positioning, and as you scale your company with new products and features, they get their own treatment, if you will, is that correct? That’s


April Dunford  24:24  

right, like, and, you know, part of this depends on how you sell okay, like stone companies. They’re gonna give you an example. So there’s so I used to work at IBM. And so at IBM, we’re trying to sell to a few 100 Big, big companies around the world and that’s it, and we want them to buy everything we’ve got. So whenever we go into a new account, or an existing account, we’re talking about everything. You know, we’re talking about everything hardware, software services, here’s everything we can do for you from my Yeah, but we’re going to sell you every now. And then, you know, so the each individual product sort of fits into that overall story of how we’re going to do this, I think Apple is doing the same thing. You know, we’re all about computing in different form factors in different ways. And here’s all the ways you could do that with a phone and watch and the tablet, and his headset. And you know, we’re all about that, then you’ve got other companies where it’s a little bit different. So sometimes what you have is you have what we would call a lead product or a wedge product. So that’s where you’ve got a product that is very, very strong in the market. And you have all these other products, but they’re maybe not quite as strong, but they’re very strong. Once you’ve got the lead thing. They’re like an add on or cross sell. And so a good example of this is traditionally Salesforce, not Salesforce right at the moment, but Salesforce by rolled it back 510 years, they had multiple, multiple products. But if you went on their homepage, or looked at their advertising, for new client, who only ever talking about the CRM, which is Sales Cloud, the idea being they were, they’re there, they’ve got super strong market presence there, they’re like double the market size of anybody else in there. And so it’s very easy for us to come in and just sell you the CRM. And then once you have the CRM, then we can say, Oh, well, you’ll need something for your service people. And you’ll need something for your marketing people. And you’ll need to, you know, and you’ll need all these other things. And everything else is sort of positioned as an add on. So that I think, is smart marketing. Because it’s, you know, everybody’s not going to buy everything all at once, we’ll start by selling them the thing, that’s the easiest to sell. And then once you’ve got that, and you’ve made a big commitment to that, then I can come in and say, Hey, I’ve got this marketing automation thing. And I don’t have to position that marketing automation thing is the world’s best marketing automation. It just has to be the best marketing automation for someone that’s already made an investment at Salesforce. So sometimes you want to do it like that. It depends really on your go to market strategy. And you know, are you trying to sell everything to everybody kind of all in one big bite? Or are you know, do you have a lead thing, and then you’re going to sell the other thing is cross sell upsell, because that’s easier. So I think you need to make some decisions about this before you start tackling the positioning.


Kenny Soto  27:25  

This is why I love marketing, because it’s literally like chess. And it always depends on the organization always depends on the team dynamics and the customers you’re selling to when it comes to those customers. Specifically, I have to assume that within the process of defining your positioning, umbrella positioning or specific products, you got to speak to them before you nail down what it is that what is the right positioning, if you will, when you are speaking to customers, are those conversations within an actual sales cycle? Or are there separate meetings where you sit down with customers or prospects to discover what the right positioning is?


April Dunford  28:09  

Yeah, so you know, if we’re talking about a product that’s in market, yeah, and has reasonable traction. people inside the company know a lot about customer already in, in, in particular, your sales team, because they’re having conversations every day with customers that are trying to solve problems and trying to make progress on stuff and trying to make purchase decisions. Your Sales Team will know a lot about, you know, what is the status quo look like in a in an in a deal? So what are we trying to displace what other companies end up on a typical short list? Why did they pick us? Why do they not choose us? Sales knows a lot about that, if we’re trying to build something new, then we’re going to have to go out and understand that. And so there’s a process of customer discovery that needs to happen, where we’re out trying to figure out, you know, what are the what’s the customer’s situation? What’s their set of problems? How can we potentially build a solution for those problems? And then sometimes we’ll have a situation where the market is changing in a way that, you know, we’re not really sure what’s going on. And we’re going to need to actually go out and talk to customers to figure out there’s a shift going on here. What does that shift mean for our positioning and our brand? And how are we going to respond to that? But so I think there’s a lot of, I think you need to deeply, deeply understand the customer situation. I don’t think that customers are experts on solutions. I think customers are experts on pain. So going to customers, we can’t be going to customers, you know, trying to figure out what solution we should be building. We’re going to customers to understand their pain, their situation, and then it is our job to figure out what our point of View is on how that pain or that situation can should get solved. That


Kenny Soto  30:04  

doesn’t just touch, product positioning that touches marketing in general, I love how you frame it, they’re not experts in in solutions are experts in pain in the problems that they experience. I am in


April Dunford  30:18  

general, in b2b, the folks that come as buyers, like, in general, we dramatically overestimate the customer’s understanding of the solution space. And I think it is a huge missed opportunity. Most b2b companies could do a really much better job of helping customers understand what their options are in terms of solutions, and what the pluses and minuses are of different approaches to solving the problem. I think, really, really smart sales organizations do a really good job of educating customers, and making sure that customers really understand what their options are, and what the trade offs are for different options, and can do it in a way that positions their product to an advantage for a certain kind of buyer.


Kenny Soto  31:09  

I work in B2C, but I can assume that some of the listeners who are b2b marketers have faced this conversation before, what do you say to the executive that says we don’t want to talk about our competitors?


April Dunford  31:23  

Yeah, like you don’t, I would say, then don’t Okay. But you can’t, you cannot successfully position a product in the market without addressing alternative approaches to the problem. So you can do that without naming the competitors specifically. But there’s no way you’re going to be able to do that, without at least admitting that there are other ways to solve that problem. The thing can be to be is a customer is coming to you and having a sales meeting. Why? Because they’re trying to make a purchase decision. Right. And so they’re coming to you the question they’ve got in their mind is not, why should I pick you? That’s not the question. The question is, why should I pick you over all the other things? And so if you’re just refusing to talk about the other things, you’re not answering that question.


Kenny Soto  32:18  

And someone else will, and they’ll get the sale and elsewhere. Yeah. I have two more questions for you, April. My next one is I’ve been trying to conceptualize how I’ll ask this. So we’ll work with me here. Okay, of course, you’re selling the service. And there’s a need for the service. And this is why you’ve worked with hundreds of companies. But in this hypothetical scenario, if people didn’t need your services, because they understood the most complex parts of product positioning. How would this come about? What would be the core things an organization needs to know? So they don’t need your service?


April Dunford  33:03  

Oh, I see. Like, let’s be super clear. I think there is only a very, very tiny, tiny slice of the world. Yeah, yeah. needs my service. Like, like, like, just to be very clear about this. And in fact, you know, I would, and I’m not exaggerating this about nine out of 10 companies that call me I send them away, because I think they can do it themselves. So it’s only the ones that end up with me are the hard cases. The ones that end up with me are the ones that have been generally wrestling with this stuff for months and months. And for whatever reason, they cannot crack that nut and they need professional help. And that’s where I come in what everybody else, I think most companies, the vast, vast majority of companies are perfectly capable of doing positioning on their own. And so in so here’s how I think most companies get at that like, like, the first thing they need to think about is look like, what do we need to position against? And they need to really understand this like that, you know, so if we didn’t exist, what would a customer do? And so you got to position against that for the customer. The customer is going to be like, Why pick you over this list of things. I need to know what the list of things is, in the minds of customers. So that’s usually something status quo, which might not even look like you like it might be a spreadsheet or pen and paper, something that looks nothing like you. But then there’s in b2b, we generally don’t pick the first thing we come across, we’ll make a shortlist and you got to beat those things, too. So that’s the first thing you got to understand. What do I got to beat in order to win a deal? And then I look at my own product and see, well, what have we got that they don’t have? And importantly, why is that valuable? So it’s not just about the features and capability that our company has that the our product has that the other guys don’t have. It’s about what is the value that those capabilities enable for a certain kind of business? So we need to get really clear on that with what’s our differentiated value, the value we can deliver to companies that no one else can. That’s the answer the question why pick us over the other guys, then the next thing I think is really important is that value is not super important to everybody, it but it’s super important to a certain kind of customer. So what are the characteristics of a good fit customer that makes them really, really care a lot about the value that only you can deliver. And so if you can define all of that, then you you got all the piece parts for really good type positioning, in my mind. So. So I mean, I wrote a book that describes my process for doing exactly that. And I think, you know, the, the majority of companies do positioning without even so much as a methodology, they just kind of brute force their way through it. And then I think anybody that does get stuck, because they don’t have a methodology could use something like mine, you know, which is book cost 10 bucks. And you could go do that. And then I think, if you’ve tried that, and you’re stuck, either, because like companies get stuck for a handful reasons, sometimes they’re stuck, because, you know, there’s a team, and there’s a lot of eight personalities on the team and people or disagreement, and we can’t get agreement across the team. So that makes sense. Maybe bring an outside person to try to get agreement and alignment and consensus across the team. Sometimes where you’ve got a just a really complicated market landscape, like a lot of competitors, a lot of products that kind of look the same, but aren’t actually the same. And so it’s really difficult to kind of get really tight on the differentiated value. So sometimes that’s really hard. And again, an outside person with a lot of experience doing that, I think could help with that. And then the last kind of company that comes to see me is some of them. Companies are actually pretty good at figuring out the positioning, but where they’re where they’re struggling is how do we actually take that positioning and turn it into a sales pitch? Like how do we tell the story in a sales call? And that’s part of the stewardship correct? The sales pitch part? Yeah, like I mean, if you have, if you have product marketing, product marketing is going to be working with sales to figure out what that sales pitch is. So I think anybody that’s, you know, attempted to do it struggling with that, then maybe you could look for some outside help to try to get you on blocked from that. But I think the vast majority of companies can do this without anybody’s help.


Kenny Soto  37:50  

That’s good to hear. It just goes to show that you need to, you need to take the time, that’s the first step. Take the time to actually start developing what it is, what is the positioning? April, my last question for you is also hypothetical. If you had access to a time machine that can take you back into the past about 10 years, knowing everything you know, today, how would you specifically accelerate the speed of your career?


April Dunford  38:16  

That is an interesting question. You know, I’ll tell you, I spent the first 25 or so years working in house as a VP marketing. And I don’t regret any of that time. Like that’s, that’s actually where I built my expertise, except maybe the last one. Got it? Though, like, because I had started a consulting business. And then, you know, ended up joining a company that was one of my clients, but that I probably should have just stuck. I it was time for me to go do my own thing and run my own thing. But that’s maybe the only thing I would have changed, like, but the rest of it now you probably have the time machine and probably end up doing the same stuff. Was


Kenny Soto  39:05  

it? Is it something that’s based off of feeling like is there just a feeling in your gut that tells you now it’s time to do my own thing?


April Dunford  39:13  

Yeah, like I had to kind of exhaust like, I had things I want to do as a VP marketing, like I wanted to work at, you know, in the early part of my career, my big goal was I wanted to be like, Vice President marketing at a fortune 500 company. And so I became a very senior marketer inside IBM and learned a bunch of stuff. And then once I got there, I was kind of like, little now what. And then I went back to work in startups. And then I was more interested in, you know, working at startups with a bit more scale, or at least with the potential to grow to a bit more scale. And so I did that for a bunch of years. But, you know, now what I’m doing is is super fun, like, but it’s a very different job. And so it’s more focusing on this one particular thing and coming in as the expert on one particular team. And I’m basically more of a teacher than anything else, like I’m coming in and teaching you how to do this thing. So you go run with it on your own, and then I go to the next company. And that’s very different than the vice president marketing job, which is coming in and be responsible for everything and driving it all to completion and, you know, being the boss. And so yeah, like, I, I don’t think I would have changed any of that. I think part of the reason why I’m a good consultant is because I have had so much experience doing it in house. So without that, I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing now.


Kenny Soto  40:40  

And it’s so interesting. You started off as an engineer, and shifted into marketer. And now are consultants. Last teacher? Yeah, it just changes over time, a broke, if anyone wants to say hello to you online, where can they go?


April Dunford  40:54  

A few places. So on social media, the place where I’m the most active right now is LinkedIn. So if you look up April Dunford on LinkedIn, I think I’m the only April Dunford. My website’s April And so if you’re, you know, interested in finding out more you can go there. The book is called obviously awesome. And you can go buy that wherever you buy books. And then if you just want to kind of want to go deeper on positioning stuff, I recently launched a podcast where it’s kind of a solo show where I tackle every week, I kind of gnarly piece of the positioning problem, and go deep on that. And so that’s called positioning with April Dunford.


Kenny Soto  41:36  

And I highly recommend it. I am a listener to your podcast whenever I’m walking around the lake near my house, and I definitely have to give you kudos because you’re a great storyteller. That’s awesome. Thanks, man. And it’s really cool. And I just want to say thank you to you, April. And thank you, to you listener for listening to another episode, Episode 140 of the people Digital Marketing podcast. We are almost three years into the podcast. And I just want to say thank you to every single person who stuck with me on this journey, so that we’re all learning together so that we can impress our boss and then eventually become our boss. If you haven’t done so please rate this podcast, please subscribe. And please share it with one co worker so we all can continue learning together. And I hope everyone has a great week. On the next episode, Episode 141 of the people Digital Marketing podcast, I will have George Huff, the CEO of Opal on the show. And the theme of next week’s episode will be how to not become the check box marketer how to think more strategically how to be more useful to a marketing team. We’re going to go into some high level thoughts around content strategy as well, and how to make a bulletproof content strategy. But we’re also going to be going deep into the weeds of just how to be a good team member on a marketing team. So if you enjoyed this episode of April Dunford, don’t forget to subscribe. Share this with a co worker. And tune in next week for our new episode that will be coming out with George Huff.


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