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You have to be in it to win it

business strategy 4If you use words like positioning or point-of-difference, many retail operators switch off because all they hear is ‘theory’. It is worth remembering that the process works like this: you RESEARCH what happens in PRACTICE in order to formulate a THEORY. So, in fact ‘theory’ describes what happens in practice, and in practice retailers ‘position’ themselves differently.

The problem is that it happens by default and not by design.

Below is a simple approach to design your positioning; if done correctly, it can be the difference between success and failure. I will use a furniture store as an example.

There are a range of competitors – from dollar shops to the big furniture retailers – in this category. How do you find a niche, communicate that to your customers in such a way that you have a sustainable business?

What is Positioning?

Positioning is how you want your customer to think of you. (Your ‘position’ is the space you occupy in the mind of the customer.)

Can you identify the brands based on how they have ‘positioned’ themselves?

  • The go to place for…birthday cards
  • The drink to get if you are thirsty and hungry
  • The car to buy if you like driving for sheer driving pleasure

In order to conduct a positioning exercise, we usually recommend it is done on a two-dimensional matrix, but in this example, we take a different (more user-friendly) approach.

Step 1: List all the criteria/attributes that are relevant to your sector. Be sure to concentrate on those variables that matter to consumers. (This stage is important, and should be done with real insight. If you are able to identify a variable that really matters that no one else has considered, you potentially have discovered some ‘blue ocean’.

Apple ignored ‘capacity’ and ‘size’ when it came to portable music players, and instead focused on ‘aesthetics’ with the iPod. They hit the jackpot, which was amplified when they launched iTunes to also provide ‘access to music’ instead of ‘owning music’.

Step 2: Plot your business on these variables.

Step 3: Plot competitors. (The more data-driven insights you have the better, but sometimes common sense gives an answer that is close enough to be good enough.)

Step 4: Identify the point(s) of difference (POD).

Step 5: Claim one POD and communicate that with laser-focus.


The following is an incomplete list of strategic positioning variables for two furniture retailers.



While these are hypothetical examples, for the sake of testing yourself, which positioning path (for example) represents Harvey Norman and which would better represent Oz Design?

If you were, say, Beds-R-Us, where would you position yourself on these variables – and which one would be your POD?

Point-of-Difference describes how you differ from your competition. The diagram above will reveal your point-of-difference that you focus on. Communicate this difference with consistency over a long period of time and the message will eventually embed in the mind of the consumer.

If you succeed with that, all that it means is that you are in the ‘consideration set’ of options when a consumer makes a decision about buying your product. Your POD may not be relevant to them or may not be the most important variable when it comes to making the decision.

But if you are positioned appropriately in the mind of the customer, at least you are in the game.

And as our friends at Tatts remind us; you have to be in it to win it.

Dennis Price: Co-Founder at and – can be reached on 0411030436.

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