5 Questions with April Dunford (author and product positioning expert) – Part 1

April Dunford (CEO Ambient Strategy) is an executive consultant, speaker and author who helps technology companies make complicated products easy for customers to understand and love.

She is a globally recognized expert in positioning and market strategy, and has launched 16 products into market across her 25-year career as VP of marketing at a series of successful high-growth startups. April advises leadership, sales and marketing teams through training, workshops and keynote talks. She is also a board member, investor and advisor to dozens of high-growth businesses. She is the author of the best-selling book Obviously Awesome: How to Nail Product Positioning so Customers Get it, Buy it, Love it.

Q1: How do you figure out how to position a product? Can you walk us through your process?

I wrote 200 pages on this process so it is difficult to summarize it in a quick answer but I will try. Once you have enough traction to start to see what types of companies love your product and why, you can work on refining your positioning. The process starts by isolating your best fit customers (the ones that closed quickly, intuitively understood the value of your product, don’t churn on you, refer you to others, etc.) and asking yourself, what they would say your competitive alternatives are. A good question for this is “What would they do if your product didn’t exist?” Once you have that you can make a list of capabilities that your offering has that the alternatives do not. The next step is to map those capabilities to value that they enable for customers. This usually results in 2-4 “Value Themes.” When you have the value, you can then determine the characteristics of a customer that make them really care a lot about your value. This is your segmentation. Lastly, you want to determine the market category that makes that value obvious to your target customers.

Q2: Does this process apply to both B2C and B2B startups? If not, what are the differences?

My experience is almost entirely with B2B software companies so I have validated it and I know that it works there. For B2C startups I think the principles still hold but it’s a lot harder for B2C startups to determine who their best fit customers are and what the real competitive alternatives are because there tends to be much less direct interaction with customers and seeing the pattern across a larger number of customers is more difficult. Customer research can help but there are generally large gaps caused by not knowing what to ask and bias around who takes the time to answer the survey.

Q3: What are 3 of your favorite growth tactics?

In early stage B2B companies, I think target account sales is very underused and often a powerful way to grow. Other than that, it really depends on the company, the buyers and the offering.

Q4: You’ve launched many successful products, but you’ve also failed a few times. What did you do wrong, and what did you learn from those experiences?

The failures were mainly because the market that our product could win was just too small to meet our (or our investor’s) revenue goals. I learned it is important to really understand the characteristics of your target market so you can take stock of how big it is.

Q5: What’s your view on positioning statements?

I think they are not only useless but potentially dangerous. They trick you into thinking that there is only one way to position a product which is never true.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this interview.

Meet April at the How to Web Conference 2019 on the 30th & 31st of October! Get your ticket here: https://www.howtoweb.co/buy-tickets/.

Sign Up to receive exclusive How To Web updates:

You may also like

5 Questions with April Dunford (author and product positioning expert) - Part 2

April Dunford (CEO Ambient Strategy) is an executive consultant, speaker and author who helps technology companies make complicated products easy for customers to understand and love. She is a globally recognized expert in positioning and market strategy, and has launched 16 products into market across her 25-year career as VP of marketing at a series… Read more »

Read more

5 Questions with Bob Moesta (co-architect of the Jobs-to-be-Done framework)

April Dunford (CEO Ambient Strategy) is an executive consultant, speaker and author who helps technology companies make complicated products easy for customers to understand and love. She is a globally recognized expert in positioning and market strategy, and has launched 16 products into market across her 25-year career as VP of marketing at a series… Read more »

Read more

With the support of