Service Creation

Position your service in 5 steps

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Find your digital product a position, and take it.

Strangely enough, you might think, there are hundreds and thousands of digital products and services on the market who have yet to really nail their ideal position on the market. If you're working with a service, and can relate, then this short positioning exercise + canvas should help.

Who should read this?

If you've just taken over as Product or Service Owner for a digital service at a large organisation, then read on...

I've worked with large corporations who have built legions of digital services. New digital services for every business unit, for every country they operate in. All without any high level synchronisation. This leads to graveyards of digital services that are barely used; definitely not profitable (perhaps without any provable business model whatsoever); and absolutely not "positioned" to conquer a segment.

Which is baffling, because oftentimes there are VERY similar services being launched in two or more different markets. In at least one case I remember a gang at a large company had built a digital service almost IDENTICAL to a service built by people at the same companies branch in Holland. And it was a complete coincidence! 

How much money could be saved with just a little synchronisation plus a dash of positioning? 

"You cannot be everything to everyone." - Jeroen De Flander

5 Steps to a clear position

NOTE! This process is for an EXISTING service that's already on the market, and already has a base of users. It is not really for positioning a brand new service yet to be launched.

There are 5 main areas to work through that will help you position your service. April Dunford outlines these beautifully in her incredible book on product positioning.

  1. Competitive Alternatives
    What would your target customers "use" or "do" if your product did not exist. Really important to map out any "non-product" solutions here. For example, how would the users problem be solved alternatively to a product. For example "get a person from HR to do it"; or "use a spreadsheet" or "use a What's App group + paper and pen". You get the idea. Other scenarios that would solve the user's problem.
  2. Unique Attributes
    What are the unique capabilities or features that your service has that the competitive alternatives do not have? Could be a technical feature, but it might also be a business model, a unique delivery model, a unique patent... anything.
  3. Value (and proof)
    Value is the benefit your customers get from Number 2 (the unique attributes). If number 2 is your secret sauce, then number 3 is the reason someone loves your secret sauce.
  4. Target User Characteristics
    Your value is likely somewhat relevant to a wide group of people. "Somewhat" being the key word here. However if you're working with a limited budget, a corporate start-up project or similar then your sales & marketing efforts need to be clearly focused on the customers most likely to buy from you. The ones who will care the most about your Number 2. The ones who will most appreciate your secret sauce.
  5. Relevant Trends
    Not quite the same as the market category you're looking at, but relevant trends are just that - contemporary trends - that may be worth bullet-listing. They may be a nice addition in your positioning work.

So get started with your positioning work:

Download the canvas below. Start by adding the name of your service, and the Market Category. Market Categories are somewhat of a necessary evil. You need to choose one to help the core users identify and recognise themselves. Be prepared to possibly tweak this later.

First things first:

  • Gather your team, or at least your Product Owner; a subject matter expert from your company (i.e. someone who is extremely knowledgeable about the industry your service operates in - whether it's air-conditioning units, cement mixers or pink widgets); and someone who has been involved with the particular service in question from Day 1.
  • Work through each section of the canvas (as a team) - discussing, and with one person taking notes on the canvas.

So you've done your positioning canvas. Now what?

OK! You've worked through the canvas meticulously and honestly with your team. What should you do now? Like everything else, a filled-out canvas on a piece of paper is still just a piece of paper...

The actions that need to result from this positioning work are all-important. And worth a future post here on Hacking Business (I'm on it!).

However, your positioning work should kick off activities & changes covering: 

  • Translating your positioning into a new Sales Story.
  • Messaging (for marketing, sales and comm's material).
  • Product Roadmap
  • Pricing
  • Tracking your positioning over time.


Useful tools, frameworks or further reading.

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