Positioning not posturing

Positioning is at the heart of marketing and is a key driver for the decisions you make about how how to design, deliver and promote your products. Pretty important then. Whether you are a pharmacist, optician, dentist or any other kind of healthcare professional thinking about developing your next clinical service or you provide products and services for healthcare professionals, get your positioning right and you have a solid foundation.


Positioning is what you want to stand for in the minds of your customers. It is deciding what two, three or four key associations (mental links) you want people to have when they think about (or feel) of your pharmacy. A small number of simple associations works best because they are hard to build (and maintain) and people are busy. You might want people to associate your particular healthcare service with ‘speed’, ‘convenience’ and ‘value’ or perhaps ‘quality’, ‘product availability’ and ‘professionalism’. The choice is yours but don’t underestimate the effect it will have on your customers and well, everything you do.


There are three areas to think about when positioning. Working through the options to select the associations with the right balance is the skill. Start with your customer, then your competitor and finish with your company.  It is possible to get this totally wrong and set yourself up to fail. Many healthcare professionals suffer from this to some extent. For example as a profession, pharmacy is closely associated with free NHS services. That is generally good for them. However it can make it challenging to begin charging for private services. The beloved public have a strong association (mental link) between pharmacy and free healthcare. They expect it to be free. Around 90% of pharmacy services are. The pharmacy profession did a good job of reinforcing those association with free prescription collection and delivery and so on.  That is positioning working against pharmacy.


Now, positioning starts with and builds on targeting, segmentation and research, all of which take your initial idea and explore who will be most interested in paying you for it. You can’t position your business, product, idea or anything else for that matter without deciding on who you are positioning it to. Define your target market first. When defining your target segment you will think in detail about who the actual people in that segment are. What are their attitudes, beliefs and behaviours. During targeting it is common ot write a profile or description of those people. This is where that profile starts to come in handy. Look at the profile and identify what matters most and position based on that. Start your list of associations.


After thinking about your customer (always customer first) think about your competitors. List them and take a look at how they operate, what they offer and how they promote it. After a bit of practice you’ll be able to spot any planned associations very easily and also when there aren’t any at all! If you competitor is positioning on ‘lowest cost’ consider positioning on ’highest quality’. That is, somewhere towards the opposite. The aim is to establish a distinctive position that ensures customers don’t get you mixed up with your competitors and that they can choose you when they need help. Customer trumps competitor though so don’t immediately throw away your initial list of associations based on your customer. This is where the balance comes in. Develop your list of associations.


Let’s be clear about something. Positioning is not posturing. The latter deals with the aim of impressing others but often comes with a veil of deceit. Posturing involves misleading those your are posturing to. Humans hate being mislead. Positioning is not that. At all. In any way. You can’t promise what you can’t deliver and expect people to trust you. If you promise an apple and deliver an orange expect the road to be bumpy at best and most likely very short too. Make sure that you review your final list of associations to make sure you can consistently deliver what you claim to the standard expected. If ‘speed’ is your thing make sure you can and do deliver. Protect that capability. Associations take a long time to build and only a short while to break.

The implementation of your marketing strategy through the seven Ps to your brand experience should all be considered through the lens of your positioning.