How to create a positioning map successfully in 8 steps

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 13 September 2022

Published 3 January 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Businesses have reason to use the right strategies to compete in the competitive marketplace. In such a competitive environment, marketers use strategic positioning to give their products or services the best advantage to win. If you are a marketer, understanding how to do strategic positioning can help you improve your business' sales and competitiveness. In this article, we consider how to create a positioning map and review eight steps you can follow to create one.

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How to create a positioning map

Before we consider how to create a positioning map, it's essential to define what a positioning map is. A positioning map, also called a perceptual map, is a tool to find the place your business' products can be most effective in the minds of prospects and customers. This position is where the business can have adequate numbers of potential customers to be profitable. A perception map is a visual representation of brand perceptions in your business's marketplace. Here are the eight steps you can take to create a positioning map for your business:

1. Draw a positioning map

When you start with a positioning map, take a piece of paper and a pencil. Draw a vertical line or the Y-axis across your page. Now draw a horizontal line or the X-axis halfway across the vertical line. You've got a box with four quadrants. You can create a positioning map digitally using word processing or presentation software.

2. Choose two attributes to focus on

Choose two attributes of your products. It's best to choose two attributes that are important, meaningful or desired by your customers. For example, if your business sells healthy foods, your horizontal axis can be 'healthy', with the left side of the line representing 'unhealthy' or 'low health', while the right side represents 'very healthy'. Another attribute of your products may be their taste. Your vertical line can represent 'taste', with the bottom of the line representing 'not tasty' and the top part of the line representing 'very tasty'.

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3. Add your business and its competitors

Now you can add circles to represent each of your competitors. Place them in the quadrant that best represents their position in the minds of theirs and your customers. To add more meaning to your positioning map, make the circle representative of their market share. For example, the greater their market share relative to other competitors, the bigger you can make the circle. Now add a circle to represent your position on the positioning map. Your circle's size depends on your market share compared to your competitors.

When adding your business and its competitors, it's vital to be objective. People typically overestimate their own brand's benefits and underestimate their competitors' branding benefits. Using an objective third party may be helpful to determine attributes your customers value most and in what priority with more certainty. Another tool to use is a quantitative survey to determine your customers' perceptions and the prospects of your and your competitors' brands.

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4. Interpret your brand positioning chart to determine a positioning gap

The positioning map you've created may provide some valuable insights. It may provide you with a clear picture of the competitive marketplace your business operates within, and it may help you identify your position in its marketplace. The results of your positioning map help you visualise your brand compared to your competitors based on a two-attribute matrix. The purpose of the positioning map is to find the positioning gap for your business.

For example, using the example of the healthy food from before, you may assess your positioning map in this manner:

  • Does the positioning map show a gap with low competition in the quadrant representing 'healthy and tasty?' If so, you may have found the best place to position your brand.

  • The quadrant representing 'tasty, but unhealthy' may have no competition, but you've to assess whether this is where you'd want to position your brand.

  • You can assess whether there is a positioning gap in the 'very healthy, but not tasty' quadrant. Consider if this would be a profitable market to operate within.

  • The last quadrant, representing 'not-so-healthy and not-so-tasty', may be unoccupied. It's unlikely that the customers would want to eat something that is not that healthy and not that tasty.

5. Consider alternative attributes for more insights

Suppose the first version of your positioning map didn't give you insights into a desirable positioning gap or niche. In that case, you could replace one or both of the attributes you've used in your original positioning map. Choose attributes your customers or prospects care about for the best results. The more meaningful the attribute is to your customers, the better is the potential for your market share, but it may also be more competitive. You can use a positioning map to find a profitable niche your business can own in your customers' minds.

Other attributes you may use depend on your product or service. Your product or service may have unique features you can consider adding to your positioning map. Typical attributes to consider are ease of use, service availability, financing options, speed, frequent upgrades, fuel economy, colour, beauty and style, sexiness, strength, reliability or being environmentally friendly.

6. Create a positioning statement

Once you've discovered the best placement for your brand, you can create a positioning statement. Such a statement consists of one or two sentences and describes your brand's unique offerings to your customers concerning those of your competitors. When planning your positioning statement, answer these questions:

  • Who is your target audience?

  • What is the category of your products or services?

  • What is the most significant benefit of your product or service?

  • What proof do you've of that benefit?

7. Develop your tagline

After you've created a positioning statement, you can create a tagline or slogan. You can also use this for external communication with potential customers. A tagline is a condensed version of your positioning statement, which you can use in marketing initiatives to get your unique offering across to customers and other stakeholders.

8. Test your marketing positioning

After you've created your positioning statement, you can test it and experiment with it. It's beneficial to get feedback from your customers about whether your positioning statement achieves its objective. The best strategy for this is to use both qualitative and quantitative research to test your positioning statement, and your research can comprise surveys, polls, focus groups, and in-depth interviews. Based on the outcome of your tests, you can solidify your positioning in marketing and adjust your marketing plans accordingly.

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When you're not getting valuable results from a positioning map

If, after trying positioning maps using several attributes, you could not find an available and profitable market gap, you still have options:

  • Consider repositioning to adjust the customers' existing perception of your brand to a less congested quadrant of the positioning map. Repositioning is not always possible and you may consider developing a new brand.

  • Narrow your focus by segmenting your target market by finding a target segment that aligned significantly with a single attribute or brand position. A smaller business may serve this segment better than a larger competitor, and you can prepare a new positioning map with the new attributes to find an attractive market gap.

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Advantages of a brand positioning chart

There are several advantages of using a positioning map. These are:

  • A market position map helps you better understand the marketplace you operate in and positions your products based on the customers' perception of your brand. A competitive positioning map helps you develop an understanding of customers' perceptions of your competitors' brands.

  • The results of the positioning map can help you build a more effective marketing strategy, which may increase product sales and generate more profit for the business.

  • It assists with the design of a market survey. Using a positioning map can help marketers develop a rating scale for the attributes used in the mapping exercise.

  • It helps track the position of new products. Marketers keep track of all the products a business launches. It allows marketers to review the implementation of marketing techniques and surveys conducted for each new product.

Disadvantages of a competitive positioning map

Perception maps have several disadvantages, including:

  • It simplifies the positioning of a product or service based on only two attributes, but in practice many other attributes may affect the positioning.

  • The data used in a positioning map is expensive and sometimes challenging to get.

  • Often, there is a difference between the perception of a brand's benefit and the reality.

Related:

  • 5 position statement examples (definition and importance)

  • What is strategic positioning? (With tips and benefits)

  • What are positioning strategies? (Plus types and how-to)

  • How to write a positioning statement (plus examples)

  • Product positioning: definition, benefits and examples


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