The Four Questions of Positioning

Today I am sharing a blog post from my friend and associate, Les Stern of L. Stern & Associates. It is a look at four questions for business. I hope you enjoy reading and wish everyone a Happy Passover and Happy Easter.

This week is Passover.  Jews around the world will gather for the Seder to tell the story of Passover.  A central part of the Seder is the asking of “The Four Questions.”  Traditionally asked by the youngest participant at the Seder, the questions ask “why is this night different from all other nights?”

Questions-[Converted]While conducting research for a client, I made the connection that creating positioning for any entity also revolves around four questions.  They are:

  • Why do our prospects want/need the types of products/services we offer?
  • What are the important purchase decision drivers?
  • How do we as an organization rate on those drivers?
  • Where do our prospects get the information they need to make decisions?

Let’s look at each question in more detail.

Question 1:  Why do our prospects want/need the types of products/services we offer?
For some types of companies, the answer is easy:

  • Airlines: To get to my destination quickly
  • Hospitals: To maintain or improve my health
  • Plumbers: To fix a leaky faucet

For other types of companies, the answers might not be as simple, because the primary motivation might be different.  For example, if you are a golfer, your primary motivation might be exercise; it might be to spend time with friends.  It might be because you are driven to be a better golfer.

Or ask yourself why you are on Facebook.  Is it to connect with friends and family?  Is it to learn about products and services?  It is because you know you can get great deals?  Different motivation requires different positioning and messaging.

Question 2: What are the important purchase decision drivers?
To understand the purchase process, quantitative research (telephone interviews, online surveys, more sophisticated methodologies such as discrete choice, etc.) should be conducted to determine how important specific attributes are.  Attributes can include:

  • Reputation
  • Professional or personal referral
  • Price
  • Location
  • Have specific features I am looking for
  • Size of company
  • Past experience

But also use qualitative research to ask open-ended questions.  For example, ask: how do you decide which airline you are going to use?  Or how do you select a construction company to do your home improvement?  While this qualitative research will not produce quantifiable results, the actual words you hear can provide meaningful input for the language you will use to create positioning and messaging.

Question 3:  How do we as an organization rate on those drivers?
Using the same attributes, identify how prospects perceive your organization, and your competitors.  These are natural follow-up questions to be asked right after you have answered Question 2. Some hints:

  • Ask about your organization and competitors
  • Distinguish between customers and prospects
  • Keep the research anonymous.  You will get more honest answers that way

Answering these three questions should help you determine positioning and messaging.  What you are looking for are those attributes that are both important to your target market, and for which you rate high.  Those are the attributes to emphasize.

Question 4:  Where do your prospects get the information they need to make decisions
The final question helps you determine where to deliver the messages.  Quantitative research again is the best way to go.  Sources of information may include (and for each general category, be specific):

  • Friends/relatives
  • Mass media (newspapers, television, etc.)
  • Websites
  • Social media ( ask specifically about Facebook Twitter, Google+ Pinterest, etc.)
  • Other

Now that you have answered the four questions, you will be able to create your positioning and messaging, and know where to deliver it.  Of course, you may want to conduct further research to test the positioning, messaging and creative concepts.  But that is another story.

To learn more about L Stern & Associates, go to

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