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Leading Your Market by Thinking in Reverse

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Traditional marketing says to look at the benefit your service offers and take that to the consumer.

However, smart positioning says to begin by understanding how the consumer thinks about your service and then communicate.

This is what we call “thinking in reverse.”

To get your marketing program in gear, it’s important to communicate the benefits of your service. However, before extolling the features and benefits of your firm, you need to start by examining what’s in the mind of your prospect.

Question the Right People

Instead of asking questions about what you offer or how you can benefit others, you first need to ask questions to determine what the public already thinks about you, your product and service.

Remember that you should always get the answer to the question, “What position do we own?” from the marketplace (which is composed of the minds of many consumers), not the marketing department. The marketing department typically looks at your service from a different vantage point than the consumer. You won’t find breakthrough answers by looking at your services until you first understand what consumers think of your services.

Marketing is a battle for position in the mind of the customer. Those on the top rung of the product category in the mind of the consumer gain the lion’s share of the business.

Always remember: It doesn’t matter what you think your position is. The only thing that matters is what the public thinks.

A Classic Example

The Cola wars were in full swing a few years back. Since the inception of this product, a cola was a dark, sugary carbonated beverage. And because Coca-Cola got into the mind first, it was able to dominate the market. Yet today many people simply ask for a "coke," when what they really mean is whatever carbonated beverage is available. Many times it is a Pepsi. Coke occupies the top rung of the cola category and thus enjoys a more favorable position.

Since Coke owned the top rung of the Cola ladder and Pepsi owned the second rung, there really wasn’t room for a good third option. What were their competitors to do??? 

Solution: Create a new category to be first in. 

Instead of trying to be better than Coke and Pepsi, 7-Up created the “Un-Cola” ladder. It took what was already in the mind and shifted it to a new ladder. It would not be successful fighting in the cola war. So instead, they became the first Un-cola (a clear carbonated beverage).

This brilliant move occurred because someone in the company understood the principles of positioning, learned how the consumer thought and communicated very clearly and consistently.

The folks at 7-Up understood how to think in reverse. They looked at how people thought about them, looked at their competition and created an entirely new category in the mind of the market.

Where to Begin 

You can do the same thing in your market. Take some time to really understand how the market thinks about your service. Then look for ways to relate what you do to what is already in their mind.

It’s a rare day when you can go against an established leader head-on and overtake them. It’s much easier to discover where they are weak and you are strong and highlight your unique attributes.

Think in reverse and discover what is in the mind of your prospect. By doing this, you’ll connect with your market in more meaningful ways, be remembered more readily and jump rapidly to the top rung of your market category in their mind. When you position yourself uniquely (instead of marketing like everyone else) you will attract more leads, convert more clients and grow your business long-term.

It all begins when you begin thinking in reverse.

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