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Tag: positioning

Messaging, Positioning, Branding for Startups: What Happens After Product/Market Fit

mind imageMany startups do a poor job explaining crisply what they do, especially during their early stages. They often confuse or ignore messaging, positioning, and branding.

But as soon as product/market fit is achieved, and you enter a phase of predictable, steady growth, the stakes get higher, and you need to up your marketing game. Maybe that happens at about 20 employees, or maybe at 50 employees, and I’ve even seen 100-employee startups who still haven’t given serious attention to their strategic marketing efforts. I’d like to help them change that.

Messaging, Positioning, and Branding are intricately related concepts, and represent 3 important slices of startup marketing. Messaging is the series of orchestrated and planned communications tidbits you want to tell the market about you, in the simplest and clearest possible way. Positioning is what you do to the mind of the prospect, not what you do to your product. And Branding is a promise you make to your market and something you deliver in your product that makes your customers love the experience you give them.

Until your product speaks for itself, you have to do the talking, and you need to follow through with an easy to defend position, crisp messages and a brand promise that you live up to.

Sometimes the narrative takes care of itself by users who define well what you are about. Sometimes it doesn’t. The message is not always embedded in your product unless you are Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook. But these are anomalies.

The bigger your footprint becomes, the more formal you need to be about your messages, and the more you need to keep repeating them, accurately.

So, I’m starting to write this long awaited book that I’ve signed-up for at FG Press, a few months ago.

This book is going to help startups quickly assess and develop unique positioning that transcends the very essence of their brand, and that evolves out of an effective messaging strategy.

A common mistake that startups make is they forget to reach their prospects. Instead, they cozy up to their customers and users, and stay there, because it’s more comfortable. But Positioning is not aimed at your customers. It is aimed at your prospects, i.e. the market you want to reach and the minds you want to penetrate. How you reach them is a concerted effort, because you can’t just rely on virality and referrals.

Done well, a brand will tilt demand towards your products and give you an unfair advantage.

Branding is not about the color of your logo or the font you adopt. That’s called visual identity, and it is part of implementing your branding, but only one element of it.

Branding is not just what the market knows about you, but more importantly, it’s about the experience they are left with, when they use your product or are thinking about it. That doesn’t happen overnight, nor on its own.

In this book, some of the questions that will be answered include:

What is positioning? Does the market define a position for you, or do you play a role in shaping that position? How do you orchestrate the positioning and messaging delivery internally and externally? What role does your product have in your market position, at each phase of your evolution? What is the relationship between positioning, messaging and branding? How do you implement consistent messaging via content marketing, your website, media, influencers, and anything that touches the market? When do you seriously need to think about positioning? How do you link positioning to your go-to-market approach? How can your positioning help place a premium on your value (and valuation)? How do you turn your brand into a competitive advantage?

I will draw upon my life long work experience at large and small companies. I will subtract what’s not relevant anymore, and will add what’s new and applicable today for the world of tech startups.

Hewlett-Packard and Cognizant were the source of my classical schooling in marketing, but those years were augmented by several more recent years of startup experience, and the whole thing is complemented by researching, observing, interacting with, advising or mentoring a couple of hundred startups in the past year and half. The uniqueness I bring is how I’ve combined traditional principles of messaging, positioning and branding by known visionaries such as Jack Trout, Al Ries and Scott Bedbury, and applied it to the world of startups.

Startups don’t have to re-invent everything, but past learnings are here for them. Those that mix it up with their current experiences will get ahead of others.

So, here’s the book structure I have in mind. Your feedback can help to shape this content.



  1. The Hierarchy of Messages
  2. Honing Your Value Proposition
  3. ​Segmenting your stakeholders
  4. Developing a Messaging Matrix
  5. Implementing Messaging


  1. The Mind is the Battleground
  2. 8 Principles for Positioning
  3. Common Mistakes
  4. Re-visiting Marketing Warfare
  5. Go-to-Market Linkage


  1. Easy Brand Building Steps for Startups
  2. Your Competitive Context
  3. Your Brand Attributes
  4. Implementing the Brand
  5. Living the Brand

+ Tools, Templates and Samples


The Only 5 Types of Messaging You Need

wedge imageThe “thin edge of the wedge” is a popular analogy in startup development to explain how you first need to hook your users with a sharp feature that’s easy to try. If you don’t, customer acquisition becomes a lot harder, if not impossible. The same metaphor applies for your communications efforts when you’re trying to explain what your company does. The right words matter a lot. Yet, I see many startups not being clear enough with their messaging, in part because they don’t approach it from the point of view of how it all fits together, and often for not applying the rigors of simplicity.

Beyond the Obvious in Startup Marketing

balloon over forestSometimes, business concepts rise in popularity such that their mindshare becomes mind boggling, and we quickly start to believe they are the only things that matter. This happens all the time in the field of management. Looking back a few years ago, every large company was implementing The Balanced Scorecard as a panacea for good management. In the mid-90’s, we saw the Re-engineering craze (my last position at Hewlett-Packard was to head-up re-engineering). A decade prior, it was all about Total Quality Control. That’s as far as I can remember, but you get the point. In the meantime, others things didn’t stop to become important, just because these trendy ones were occupying our time.

Five Marketing Activities That Even Successful Startups Botch Up

doh barneyI’m sure there is more than five things that startups botch up. But I’m going to focus on these five marketing activities, because they can make a difference in propelling a company further ahead. The following five themes become increasingly important the more a startup matures and develops, whether they are growing their users or revenues, or both. Let’s dive into them.

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