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Prof. Dr. Christian Blümelhuber “Making positioning a part of everyday life!“

Issue 03/2016

Same range, same products: At first glance, orthopedic technology companies and medical supply retailers do not seem to have much potential to stand out from the crowd. How do they still manage to develop the right position for them and showcase their services more clearly to consumers? life spoke to Prof. Christian Blümelhuber, Professor of Strategic Organizational Communication at Berlin University of Arts, about this issue.

What is company positioning all about and why is it so important today?
Prof. Blümelhuber: The right position is a critical requirement for the success of a business or company. This success can be subdivided into pure financial success and personal success. Positioning is so important today because there are lots of similar providers and businesses in every industry that are also still becoming more and more interchangeable. The right position solves this problem and ultimately makes customers come to you rather than going to your competitors. It also gives the staff at the company or business the best reason to enjoy working there.

What factors play a role in positioning?
Prof. Blümelhuber: The first step is to analyze the market environment and ask yourself where you’d like to be positioned: Do I focus specifically on athletes or do I reach out to health and fitness enthusiasts? Finding your place in the market environment also depends on where you are situated in the region, the competitive environment , and the customer groups available. Your own resources play an important role too, especially a business’s capabilities, employees’ qualifications, and the company’s assets and location. And, last but not least , passion is important when developing a position: What am I passionate about as a CEO or what are my employees passionate about? What do I enjoy most about my work? A suitable position can then be developed based on the analysis of the market environment , resources, and passion.

What practical advantages does successful positioning offer?
Prof. Blümelhuber: Positioning affects customers, employees, and managers equally. Customers get a clearer picture of where they are shopping and what they can expect. This also gives them a kind of security that boosts business. For employees, positioning acts as a vital guide that shows them how to carry out their work, deal with customers and colleagues, decorate the shop window, or display the products in store. And finally, with clear positioning, the owner or CEO can communicate and market their business more effectively to differentiate it from its competitors. The resulting distinctiveness is the best method for moving away from competing purely on prices, for example.

Now, how can successful positioning be put into practice?
Prof. Blümelhuber: It is useful to analyze the current status of your own business: What are we particularly good at? What do we like doing most? Why do our customers come to us? You can use the answers to work as a team and develop a position that explains why the people involved do what they do and what is particularly important to them. You then need to share out the relevant tasks and responsibilities among your own employees, such as decoration, shop fittings, or purchasing, etc. With these activities, you always need to clarify the extent to which they support the position you are striving for. The position therefore also acts as a guide for the future: People understand better what needs to be done and also behave in a more coordinated way to pursue a shared goal. It’s all about making positioning a part of everyday life!

What kind of timeframe is a position designed for?
Prof. Blümelhuber: A position is always developed for the long term, so, the timeframe could be five to ten years. However, it should also be constantly re-examined, such as when resources change or new, major issues arise. In practice, you could arrange a meeting once a year to discuss whether there are points that need adjusting and which ones, and sharpen up and focus the relevant strategy.

What do you recommend for orthopedic technology companies and medical supplier retailers in particular?
Prof. Blümelhuber: In this industry, the way in which you deal with people is critical. However, the partners these companies work with are just as important. This kind of collaboration can also help a business to develop a position because it is benefiting from another strong brand. Ideally, the strength of the partner’s brand will complement the business’s own position. For medical retailers, this partner may be a company like Bauerfeind. However, a different kind of partnership, such as with a fitness studio, would also be conceivable – with the aim of establishing a network. This would expand the business’s own strategic focus and enable it to reach more potential customers more quickly. I would not recommend developing a position based solely on price or quality because there can only ever be one price leader and quality is a distinguishing feature that is more difficult to verify at first glance. In this respect , to develop a position, you also need the courage to make a statement and stand up for your place in the world and on the market. 

Picture: Bauerfeind