I was recently asked to name the biggest product positioning mistake a startup could make. My answer was that most companies don’t position their products at all, at least not actively. Worse than that, they let customers position their products for them.

Your product is positioned, even if you didn’t do it on purpose

If a company does not deliberately position their product in a market, one of 2 things will happen:

  1. The team will collectively use a “default” or assumed market position.

In either case, there is a chance that the resulting positioning works, and it makes…


One by-product of having so many early stage incubators and accelerators in the startup ecosystem is that most young founders have done a lot of pitch training very early in the life of their companies. Maybe too much. Many founders I meet have completed more than one incubator program before reaching product/market fit and well before they have significant customer traction. Having completed programs with weekly and monthly pitches complete with a handful of pitch contests, I suspect some of these founders have done 10X more investor pitches than they’ve done customer pitches. …


Scroll down for a template — but I recommend you read the post before you try to use it.

I’ve been a marketing executive at a half dozen successful startups and I’ve been a consultant and advisor to dozens more. I’ve also worked with a handful of massive global companies. If you asked me to point out the most common problem I see, my answer would be the same, regardless of the size of the company. Every company I have ever worked with has struggled to make their awesomeness obvious.

I’ve watched startup founders, after working for weeks on a…


No product exists in isolation. Every offering is presented to potential customers within a context or a frame of reference, whether we set one deliberately or not. That context helps them understand what it is, who it is for and why they should care. A great product, presented within a context that highlights it’s strengths is unstoppable. However even a world-class product can be completely undone by a context that does the opposite.

Here’s a simple non-startup example that illustrates what I mean.

Context: An Experiment

In 2007 the Washington Post conducted what they described as an experiment in “context, perception and priorities”…


For SaaS companies with a somewhat complicated sales model (i.e. sales process that involves a person talking to a prospect in order to close a deal), the sales process should evolve as the company grows. The best way to move through this evolution is to relieve the congestion that naturally occurs in the sales funnel as it builds (and not before that). In my experience, evolving from founder selling to building a sales team too quickly comes with a lot of risk that is easily avoided by making sure you are ready for each new phase in the evolution.

Here’s…


I was one of the judges in a pitch contest last week (thanks for having me Innovate Manitoba) and listening to the pitches it struck me how for most products, the answer to the question, “What are you?” could be answered in multiple different ways. It also struck me that how you answer that question changes a lot more than just your marketing — it changes your vision of what your company could become in the future.

An example: one product, two frames

Here’s an example. One of the companies pitching (I’ll leave their name out of it since I haven’t run this piece past them)…


Positioning a product today is radically different from what it was when the concept was first introduced. Anyone who has read Ries and Trout’s “Positioning — the Battle for Your Mind”, would be understandably left thinking that Positioning is an exercise completed by the marketing department (or marketing agencies) for the marketing department. The examples we have studied to learn positioning generally involve marketing teams coming up with creative ways to position products in advertising campaigns through the use of slogans or taglines or creative branding. …


I frequently talk to startup founders with innovative products that struggle to explain why their offering is really exciting. I frequently think the problem is really one of improper context setting or framing as I like to call it.

What’s framing and why should you care?

Framing is the act of providing context to help prospects understand what you are and why they should care. It works much like the opening scene in a movies does. In the opening scene of Apocalypse Now we see Martin Sheen punching a mirror in in filthy hotel room full of empty booze bottles and we have a pretty good idea…


Positioning as a concept has been around since 1969 when it was first introduced by Jack Trout. The idea became mainstream marketing knowledge after Ries and Trout published “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind” in the early 80’s and marketers have been taught this style of positioning ever since.

Ries and Trout argued that Positioning was the solution to standing out in a noisy marketplace filled with too many products and too many marketing messages trying to promote them. They reasoned that customers, when presented with too many choices, will look for ways to compare and classify solutions. …


When I ask startup folk if they have a “Marketing Plan” I get a range of reactions from a slightly embarrassed “Yeah we probably should have one but we aren’t doing much marketing so…” through to the more assertive, “We don’t do plans, because we’re like, you know, a startup!”

At my first startup we didn’t have a marketing plan. We were a small team working on short-term tactical projects. Those tactics changed every week or two and we didn’t see a need to document anything. My first encounter with a marketing plan came after we were acquired by a…

April Dunford

Entrepreneur, speaker, consultant, board member, advisor. Former CEO Sprintly. I help companies launch innovative new products. http://aprildunford.com

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