Yammer is facebook for Business! – Product Positioning and Messaging!

Yammer is facebook for Business! – This was apparently the Product Positioning choice of its own CEO.  The CEO thinks that this is good shorthand for conveying what his product is all about. It could also be meant in a pejorative way. Users could feel that the user interfaces and functionality are too similar to each other, and so may not be too original!

Here is a funny example of bad product positioning:

This product claims that it can not only clean your skin but also gives you a burst of energy? Sort of Dove Soap combined with Red Bull? What else can it do? Increase your brain power and makes all your kids geniuses?

On the other hand, here is a terrific example of both excellent product positioning and messaging together:


If you watch the ad carefully, you will see the words Born in America on the front of the truck and the camera dwells on it for a few seconds before it moves on. Also you see the word Tundra in huge letters on the side of the truck. This is because their main competitors in this class of truck are Ford, Dodge Ram and Chevy.  They bombard the airwaves with ads that claim that they are tough american trucks implying that Toyota trucks are not. So with this one commercial Toyota is trying to message two things.1. that they are tough enough to tow a space shuttle and 2. that these trucks are not only manufactured in the US,  but designed also in the US! Here are some samples of what Toyota was up against:

Built Ford Tough!


Here is the other big competitor for Toyota – Dodge Ram.


Product Positioning involves broadly the following:

*   The Product Category or the market in which the product will compete. Could be broad ones like Social Media, Business to Consumer (B2C), Business to Business(B2B), etc. or narrower than that,  like Customer Relationship Management (CRM) for Textile SME companies, for example.

*   Defining the Encapsulation or the Attributes of the product that define the Product Space more completely. Could be Status Updates, Images, Videos, Instant Messaging in the case of a Social Media product or attributes like Prospect Registration, Prospect Emails, Contact Tracking, etc in the case of a CRM product for SMEs.

*   Surveying the perceptions of a sampling of prospects, customers and clients about your product or idea or existing solutions from competitors. This is one area learning up on Lean Startups and how those methods are used could be invaluable..

*    Visualizing or mapping where your product stands in relation to others in the market.

*    Determining your current location in the Product Mapping and assessing how well your product fits the market.

*     Making adjustments to your product positioning and features so that you are comfortable with the new Product/Market fit that the changes would bring you.

Documentum is a great example of how a company changed its positioning a few times to become one of the most successful Document Management Software companies. They first started with a custom solution to store, index and retrieve Training Manuals for Boeing. They then morphed into a Document Management solution for Pharmaceutical companies that required a similar solution to manage a new experimental drug’s FDA approval process. They needed a system to store large volumes of data in documents and spreadsheets, index them and make them available through search easily. In addition they wanted a system where someone could check out a document for editing and check it back in when done. You don’t want two people copying a document, making changes independently and over writing each others’ edits. Their next move was to make this a general document management system that could be useful for many other groups of people – like attorneys and paralegals to store and edit filings for cases. Today they are part of EMC corporation who integrated workflow systems with the Documentum document management system to add to its utility.

The above is also a great example of how a “document management system” category could be merged with another category “workflow systems” to create a super category “Collaborative Environments”  to compete with other products like Microsoft Sharepoint Portal.

 Product Messaging involves the following and follows Product Positioning:

*  Following proper Product Positioning, the proper messaging efforts starts with profiling your prospect, client or customer depending upon what your product is. What is the buyer Persona or Personas?

*  What is your product’s value proposition to each of your buyer personas?

*  Evaluating your product’s value proposition. This is one area where Lean Startup methods come in handy again.  Is it as valuable to your customer personas as you think they are?

*  Evaluating your competitors’ messages

*  Crafting your own messaging

*  Testing your messaging

*  Rolling out your messaging but do testing and refining on a continuous basis

Here’s a great example of how Steve Jobs keeps the messaging about Macs, iPods and iPhones very simple and keeps it to the point!


Product positioning is critical to a product start-up’s growth and determines to a large extent what your messaging will be. It may be possible to change the positioning drastically earlier in a start-up’s life  but as you line up customers and revenues,  it may become more difficult to pivot. Clean slate approaches where you change the name of the company and the product is also possible and done often!  This is also when you realize that you need one or two other competitors in a product space to make it a proper category! Categories always make it easier to describe what you are doing  and explain what makes you different. Investors are also comfortable with categories since they provide some validation of the product space. If you have competitors, others may have invested in them and so, reduces risk for them!

I learnt the hard way about positioning in business, about catering to the right segments – Shaffi Mather.