Putting You and Your Company in Position to Own Your Market

Americans have always liked their coffee hot. But then Starbucksmade hot coffee desirable, in demand, and extraordinarilyprofitable. And then Starbucks made coffee "cool" with itssuper-popular iced Frappucino drink -- just as trendy,fashionable, and universally appealing.

Starbucks is no doubt one of the greatest marketing stories ofrecent history. How this company turned an unassuming beverageinto an icon of sophistication and taste is no mystery, however.It's all about a marketing tenet called positioning.

The coffee company started out in Seattle's Pike Place market in1971 as a single gourmet coffee shop, and by 1995, the chain'searnings were $26.1 million. Marketing experts agree thatStarbucks' skyrocket to fortune centers on its aesthetic sense.In other words, the public's perception of Starbucks has to dowith how it appreciates this company's style. Sure, Starbucksfilled a need and created unique product brands, but whatattracts coffee drinkers again and again is the experience ofthe Starbucks environment and its products. Smooth,sophisticated, artistic: These are seductive qualities even fora business based on a little brown bean.

The Starbucks story illustrates at least two powerful marketingprinciples. Both help us to better understand effectivepositioning, or the process of finding a "place" for ourselvesin people's minds:

  • People buy for their own reasons, not anyoneelse's.

  • The stronger position is found in the experience, outcome,or benefit you provide as opposed to the methods you use forproducing those outcomes.Starbucks shows us that it's not about packaging -- it's aboutpositioning. The environment of Starbucks creates an experiencethat invites us to come study for exams, hang out andphilosophize with friends, or get the day started with a warmcup of java and the morning news. Starbucks is an invitation tolinger, not just get your coffee and go.

    When you are assessing your own position and considering how youmight improve your image and thus your market share, rememberthat there are essentially four winning positions: better,different, faster, or cheaper. You can certainly positionyourself as one of these, perhaps even two; capturing a positionas three of them is tough and probably not desirable, andcornering all four is just about impossible.

    Not everyone is up to the task of creating another Starbucks.It's tempting, with price wars so rampant, to believe that aperception of being cheapest is easiest to establish. Yet intruth this is the most difficult because of fixed costs. It'slike doing the limbo: you can go only so low, and then you'reoverextended or flat on your back. Definitely not the easiestposition to be in.

    How about being better instead? Contrary to popular belief, thisis perhaps the easiest position to take, since making animprovement or simply creating the impression of greater qualityor ability has no constraints. One tip: when you capture thedifferent category, you may get the better category as aby-product.

    Starbucks capitalized on this technique, as did Dennis Rodman,the oddball of basketball. He came up with a way to take twopositions in fans' eyes: both different and better. Okay, maybehe wasn't actually better than his teammate Michael Jordan, whowas unbeatable, but certainly he was perceived for a time asbetter (cooler, trendier) among those who were captivated by hisstyle. His fashion and fascinating antics made him so unique thathe became unforgettable. And because he was also an excellentball handler, he became famous and highly regarded in hissport.

    BMW has also taken the better-different approach. Until fairlyrecently, Mercedes-Benz had the better luxury car market sewnup, so BMW -- a competitor with a parity product -- simplyrepositioned itself. Its tag, "the ultimate driving machine,"appeals to a younger crowd and gives them luxury with power andhandling. This is "hip luxury," which is different from theMercedes position, which could be summed up as "elegant luxury."And voilà: BMW became as hot and desirable as a cappucino on awintry morning.

    BMW marketers had both a strong sense of the position theywanted to hold and precisely defined their premium clients, thecréme de la créme within their target market. You can do this,too. Once you've figured out what position you can successfullygain in your business, ask yourself the following.
    • Who is my premium client? Who would be the most enjoyableand rewarding to serve?
    • What are this client's unique desires, needs, andchallenges? How can I best serve this client?
    • What do I (or can I) provide in a unique way to help myclients achieve their business outcomes?
    • How can I position myself as an expert in this market?
    With this information, you can tailor your marketing efforts --everything you say to people, any support materials you use,even the way you dress and act -- directly to this audience tohelp establish your position. This is the first step to "owningyour market."

    Positioning is like popularity: You have to be seen in the rightplaces and with the right people. This is more than socialclimbing: You learn more about your clients and they learn moreabout you when you frequent the same places, attend the samefunctions, join the same associations, be published in theirperiodicals, and develop products and services specifically forthem.

    Positioning is as much about who you are not as it is about whoyou are. Starbucks is not a cheaper and faster cuppa joe; it isan upscale, gourmet coffee experience. BMW is no old-styleluxury; it is stylish performance. Dennis Rodman is no gentlemanforward; he is the outrageous, extreme athlete who is arecognized celebrity even for people who don't know basketballfrom billiards.

    Do you want to win big? If so, have the courage to answer thesequestions clearly and define your own game: Who are you? Who areyou not? Who are your clients? These are the essential decisionsyou must make if you want to not only understand but own yourmarket.

    James Arthur Ray of James Ray International is an expert inteaching individuals how to achieve Harmonic Wealth? inall areas of their life by focusing on what they want, opposedto what they don't want. He has been speaking to individuals aswell as Fortune 500 companies for over 20 years and is theauthor of four books and an inventor of numerous learningsystems. His studies of highly successful people prove that theycontinually achieve results by taking control of their thoughtsand actions to create and shape their own reality.

    The Power to Win seminar ( explain in detail how success is state of mind and how theprinciples of quantum physics (as seen in the movie What theBleep) can be applied to proven success-building techniques.James will also cover why people who are successful in onearea of their life tend to be successful in all areas. For more information,visit

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