Define your B2B brand positioning in six questions


Adam Ketterer


12th April 2023

Working on your company positioning is one of the most important tasks you’ll face as a B2B marketer.

All your marketing, brand storytelling and messaging work will be built on this foundation for years to come. It also happens to be one of those occasions when the marketing team gets a top seat at the highest table. More than just a marketing exercise, positioning work sets the strategic course for your company. No pressure…

But positioning can feel like a dark art. And that’s not a nice feeling when you’re about to set out on such a high-impact, high-visibility project with your CEO. So how do you crack a B2B brand positioning? Where do you even start?

Beware of traditional frameworks

A lot of the advice out there is patchy – especially when you’re trying to position a complex B2B offering. And traditional frameworks like the classic fill-in-the-blanks positioning statement (commonly used in product positioning) are useful to a point, but the results are usually underwhelming. 

You’ve probably heard a version of: “For _____ (target audience) who need _____ (statement of need), our company/product is a _____ blah blah…”

The problem with a framework like this is that it leads the witness. It gives you a positioning-by-numbers template for the structure and logic of your argument. 

The end result is also likely to be as dull as anything. Sure, this kind of positioning statement should be thought of as an internal guide rather than a piece of customer-facing copy to be quoted wholesale. But it is the foundation of all your storytelling and content, internal and external, so don’t let a tired template train your team to think boringly.

Here’s another way. No one’s reinventing the wheel here, but you can approach positioning in a more flexible way that frees you, your CEO and the rest of your positioning-process stakeholders to get creative, explore different routes, and build a strong foundation for all your strategic storytelling.

Six questions to kick-start your B2B brand positioning

A B2B brand positioning process involves a lot of research and interviews. Hundreds of questions. But when you boil them down, we think you get to about six key questions you need answers to. Use them to establish the elements of your positioning.

Why must your story be told now?

Capture a moment of significant change or a challenging state of affairs in your customers’ world. This demand trigger is the relevant backdrop to your story. 

What market category do you want to be in? 

In other words, what type or product or service are you offering? Note the use of ‘want to’ here: on some (quite rare) occasions it might make sense to create a category. Or you might simply need to reframe the context in which people think about your offering.

What defines your ideal customer? 

Identify who needs to hear this story, and who doesn’t. (The worst positionings try to be all things to all people.) And we don’t just mean standard personas that give you someone’s job title and what they had for breakfast. Identify the relevant traits that make these people the sole focus of your attention.

What do you help them achieve?

What is it that makes you the hero? Showcase the value, benefit or outcome that you ultimately give them. It also helps to show the peril of the status quo, to add danger and urgency. This can help you establish the villain of the piece.

What are your competitive alternatives?

What are your potential customers using instead? Bear in mind that these might be recognised competitors or some kind of homegrown solution… or nothing. This is what you need to de-position.

What makes you better than the alternatives? 

What value or USP do you offer that none of these alternatives can, and that the people out there sorely need? This is the magic you bring to the party.

Turning your positioning into a brand narrative

Answer these questions and you’ve got the elements that make up not just your brand positioning, but all of the strategic storytelling and messaging work you do on the back of it. 

Your brand narrative is the most important of these – the story of all stories. Depending on your unique situation, your strategic narrative may highlight certain elements over others. The elements can be combined in various ways and in different orders – many of them good but not quite right for your brand. (Beware the wrong story, told well.)

The trick is to synthesise everything in a way that captures your story at its best, logically and creatively. The right story, told well, will make it clear that what you’re selling is the best (the only, the inevitable) solution to a specific problem faced by a particular group of people in need.

Craft a great B2B story

So you’ve got answers to the six questions, and you’re ready to turn those ingredients into a brand narrative, the foundation for your messaging and content. 

How do you do it? Here are some tips to help with that particular challenge: read The five Cs of a great B2B story

And if you want a whole guide on the topic of storyful brands and how to build them, here’s just the thing.