Obviously Awesome Book Cover by April Dunford

My rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
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Obviously Awesome by April Dunford - Book Summary and Notes

If you are running your own business or doing marketing for a company, chances are you are always looking for an answer to this question: “What makes us different from our competitors?”.

Or, you may have been wondering “How to be different and stand out from other companies?”.

This book is written to help you do that.

I enjoy reading this because it’s more than just telling me why I have to position my business and what is positioning.

Before I read this book, I knew I had to position my company so that my business appeals to a certain audience. But I didn’t know how to do this.

I Googled for information and books on positioning, but none of them are actionable. They explain more of the reasons on why we have to position ourselves, yet I was still stuck after reading them.

Table of Contents

About the author

I’ve not spoken with her, but I’d love to meet April Dunford in person.

The closest I’ve ever got to connect with her was when I introduced this book to my network on Linkedin and she thanked me in the post comments.

Besides having written this book, April Dunford is a consultant and advisor to many startups and people from there. You can find out more about her on her website.

Summary of Major Points

  1. “When customers encounter a product they have never seen before, they will look for contextual clues to help them figure out what it is, who it’s for and why they should care. Taken together, the messaging, pricing, features, branding, partners and customers create context and set the scene for the product.”
  2. “Even a world-class product, poorly positioned, can fail.”
  3. Imagine a violinist busking along the streets versus the same violinist performing at a concert theatre. I’ve nothing against either one, point is, it isn’t the music or the violinist you are concerned about now. It’s the setting where the violinist is playing the violin. The difference in context leads to making a difference between the two settings.
  4. “Context can completely transform the way we think about a product.”
  5. “Trap 1: You are stuck on the idea of what you intended to build, and you don’t realize that your product has become something else.”
  6. “Trap 2: You carefully designed your product for a market, but that market has changed.”
  7. “Sometimes a product that was well-positioned in a market suddenly becomes poorly positioned, not because the product itself has changed, but because markets around the product have shifted.”
  8. “We generally fail to consider other—potentially better—ways to position our products because we simply aren’t positioning them deliberately.”
  9. “The customer’s point of view on the problem you solve and the alternative ways of solving that problem.”
  10. “The ways you are uniquely different from those alternatives and why that’s meaningful for customers.”
  11. “The characteristics of a potential customer that really values what you can uniquely deliver.
  12. “The best market context for your product that makes your unique value obvious to those customers who are best suited to your product.”
  13. These are the Five (Plus One) Components of Effective Positioning:
    1. Competitive alternatives. What customers would do if your solution didn’t exist.
    2. Unique attributes. The features and capabilities that you have and the alternatives lack.
    3. Value (and proof). The benefit that those features enable for customers.
    4. Target market characteristics. The characteristics of a group of buyers that lead them to really care a lot about the value you deliver.
    5. Market category. The market you describe yourself as being part of, to help customers understand your value.
    6. (Bonus) Relevant trends. Trends that your target customers understand and/or are interested in that can help make your product more relevant right now.
  14. Ask these questions to have the happiest customers: “What marketing campaigns brought in the most leads? Which pieces of content were consumed the most? What events had the most attendees?”
  15. “Your best-fit customers hold the key to understanding what your product is.”
  16. As with everything and anything in marketing and business, if you are selling something, you’ve got to understand your audience or customer. Same with positioning, your “best-fit customers hold the key to understanding what your product is”.
  17. “…many companies become very successful and large with only one main offering.”
  18. Hence, if you are asking whether you should position your product or company. Position your product first is most effective. “In the early days of a company with a single product, positioning the product and the company as the same thing is the easiest path to establishing a brand in the minds of customers, because there are simply fewer things to remember.”
  19. “Positioning impacts every group in the organization. Consider these outputs that all flow from positioning:
    1. Marketing: messaging, audience targeting and campaign development
    2. Sales and business development: target customer segmentation and account strategy
    3. Customer success: onboarding and account expansion strategy.
    4. Product and development: roadmaps and prioritization
  20. “Positioning is intertwined with the overall business strategy and therefore needs to be led by the business leader.”
  21. “Market confusion starts with our disconnect between understanding the product as product creators, and understanding the product as customers first perceive it.”
  22. “The best way to understand competitive alternatives is to answer the question, What would our best customers do if we didn’t exist? The answer could be that they would use another product that looks like a direct competitor with you. But often that’s not the case. For many new products, the answer is ‘use a pen and paper’ or ‘hire an intern to do it’.”
  23. “Concentrate on “consideration” rather than “retention” attributes. Consideration attributes are things that customers care about when they are evaluating whether or not to make a purchase.”
  24. “Remember: this positioning exercise is not about highlighting every little feature and attribute that our customers love. In positioning a product, we’re taking the most critical things that make us special and worth considering, and bringing the resulting unique value to the front and center.”
  25. “Target as narrowly as you can to meet your near-term sales objectives. You can broaden the targets later.”
  26. “Only choose a market if it makes your strengths obvious.”
  27. “Trends can only be used when they have a clear link to your product. Start by making the connection between your product and the market obvious.”
  28. “The most obvious immediate next thing after a change in positioning is to create new messaging that reflects the positioning.”
  29. “Write a messaging document. Every campaign you create or new piece of material you build is going to have a slightly different purpose and slightly different messaging.”

What I like about the book

It’s helpful that there are many real-life case studies of how the positioning of some companies has been discovered.

There are also examples and hypothetical cases of positioning gone wrong. Without these examples, I wouldn’t know what is a right or wrong way to position a brand.

Just reading and taking notes may be great to help you understand the fundamentals of positioning. But the key to applying what you’ve learned in this book is to put it into practice for real.

Especially if you have a team of sales professionals to help you sell your offers, you need to document your new positioning and send the message across to your team. They have to sell with the same consistent message to keep the new positioning in sync and in place.

Unlike positioning books like “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind” by Al Ries and Jack Trout, April Dunford provides an actionable 10-step process for you to achieve the right positioning for your brand.

This is something I’ve not come across in any book on this topic.

My recommendation

I highly recommend you to read Obviously Awesome by April Dunford if you are a CMO or Head of Marketing of any company. Although this book focuses a lot more on products. It helps with service businesses too.

I’m running a graphic design service business and the principles in this book applies just the same.


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