Mastering the Market: The Ripple Effect of Strategic Positioning

(Or, how strategic positioning propels challenger brands to long-term success)

There’s one word to describe the state of B2B business in 2024: glacial. According to the International Monetary Fund’s recent World Economic Outlook report, global GDP growth is expected to decline from 3% last year to 2.9% this year.1

The good news:

Inflation is slowing down, suggesting a more optimistic outlook than last year. This provides CMOs and CEOs with a more stable economic environment, allowing for more strategic long-term planning and investment in growth initiatives.

The bad news:

Decision-making processes are still long, and customers are cautious about investing in B2B solutions. Overcoming the hurdles to get them to commit isn’t for the faint-hearted.

With the economy sending mixed signals, it’s no surprise that businesses are tightening their belts and cutting costs.

And when the marketing budget is under the microscope, every penny counts.

CMOs are under pressure to achieve more, faster. And with less.

(Then even more with even less, even faster.)

According to HubSpot, generating traffic and leads is a top concern this year.2

Yet, for many companies, growth remains elusive.

Fewer than one in four companies outpace their industry peers on revenue and profit growth.3

As McKinsey reports, only 13% of companies grow at a rate faster than 10% annually.4

There’s also the fear

When you confront ‘growth’ as your primary objective, it can loom large and intimidating.

Whether through market penetration, product development, or diversification, the task appears insurmountable – like climbing a mountain.

Especially when dealing with long sales cycles and stagnant budgets.

But what if the key to conquering this behemoth lies in a single strategic move?

Enter positioning.

The starting point that sets a chain reaction in motion – taking growth and increased ROI from abstract goals to stone reality.

The Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal (BHAG)

Improved growth shouldn’t just be a KPI. It should be the ultimate mission.

But reaching this summit requires more than mere ambition. It demands strategic positioning.

This catalyst creates a ripple effect, dismantling barriers between you and unprecedented growth.

Positioning is finding the right parking space inside the consumer’s mind and going for it before someone else takes it.”

Laura Busche, brand strategist, author, and speaker

The myth about positioning

Business leaders believe positioning is a one-off exercise – rather than a continued process of development and refinement based on market and customer dynamics.

Some even confuse it with branding.

Branding is about:

Creating a unique identity for a company

Evoking specific emotions within the target audience through associations with the brand

Fostering recognition, trust, and loyalty among customers

Positioning, on the other hand, is about:

Determining how a brand or product fits into a particular market

Establishing your place in the minds of target customers

Developing a clear and concise message about why you’re better than the competition or the status quo

Communicating a point of view that gives you a first-mover opportunity

Both are crucial for a company’s success and often work hand-in-hand to build a strong market presence and unlock growth potential, even within budget constraints.

Take Slack as an example.

Originally, the team set out to create a computer game called Glitch.

When the game failed and was shut down in 2012, one thing stuck: the interactive chat feature that both players and employees used.

Recognizing the opportunity, the company repositioned (and rebranded) itself as Slack.

The team then repositioned its product as a productivity tool.

This, in turn, informed how the team talked about and promoted its offering.

The ripple effect was what made Slack’s rapid growth possible.

The company went public in 2019.

By 2022, it had over 169,000 paying customers.

Customer growth - paid customers of Slack

Source: Slack

By 2023, it had approximately 20 million active daily users.

Let’s look at the ripple effect in slow motion.

Ripple 1: A defined positioning strategy

Positioning is more than just window dressing, even though it can seem that way.

At first glance, its impact can seem intangible and hard to quantify.

But herein lies the crux of the matter.

It’s not that companies don’t value positioning; it’s that they fail to recognize its true worth.

Positioning is the foundation that fuels your momentum, propelling your company forward with unstoppable force.

When you reshape perceptions, you gain the power to reshape the narrative in your favor.

By clearly defining what you stand for and consistently communicating your brand messages in the right way, you attract your ideal customers and create a loyal following that trusts and believes in you.

Companies with strong and consistent positioning see an average revenue increase of 10-20%.5

Here’s how Mailchimp did it.

Mailchimp used to be a no-frills email marketing software company.

However, key stakeholders recognized that its customers’ needs were evolving.

As a result, the Mailchimp team wanted to expand its services beyond email marketing to offer various marketing tools.

But before they did this, they underwent a thorough positioning process that informed their new strategic direction.

This involved readjusting the hierarchy of their messaging.

Instead of their homepage greeting users with their ‘Send better email’ headline, the new headline became ‘Build your brand, sell more stuff’.

Their repositioning ensured that every subsequent step aligned with Mailchimp’s new position in the market – like developing a refreshed visual identity.

Ripple 2: Clear solution positioning

41% of marketers say keeping up with changing market needs is a major obstacle to understanding their target market.6

But when you have a defined position, it’s easier to match what you offer with what the market wants.

This helps you clarify your solution positioning.

That’s the art and science of defining how your overall offering (as opposed to just one product) stands out in the marketplace and why customers should choose it over other options.

For example, are you a better-value alternative?

Is your solution more strategically aligned to customer requirements than the competition?

Or do you offer more holistic features and benefits?

The answers to questions like these are essential to solidifying your value proposition.

In our experience, businesses that achieve this often see a customer lifetime value (CLV) increase of 20% to 50%.

Ripple 3: Enhanced sales and marketing enablement

Once you have a defined positioning strategy and value proposition, the ripple effect flows into your sales enablement activities.

According to G2, sales enablement catalyzes ROI by

decreasing onboarding time by


Clear, robust brand and solution positioning equip your sales team with compelling narratives that deeply resonate with potential customers.

This clarity streamlines the sales journey, enhancing its effectiveness and efficiency.

Your sales interactions become more persuasive, resulting in heightened engagement and conversion rates.

From the work we’ve done with our clients, we’ve seen increases of 10% to 30% on average, depending on baseline performance and market conditions.

Ripple 4: Faster and more impactful market activation

As sales become easier and more predictable, you’re in a better position to allocate more resources to your market activation efforts.

This means more budget and resources can be directed to:

Marketing campaigns

Customer outreach

Engagement initiatives

When your positioning is crystal clear and aligns seamlessly with your sales strategies, your marketing messages resonate more deeply with your audience.

This reduces unnecessary costs and drives down the cost per acquisition (CPA).

In our experience, businesses with a clear value proposition have achieved notable reductions in CPA, often ranging from 10% to 25%.

Not to mention: effective market activation broadens the reach of your brand messaging, opening doors to a wider audience.

This expanding customer base fuels ongoing growth, creating a feedback loop of success.