When working with a client or speaking at a conference, I often ask for people to share their definition of marketing with me. Interestingly, most definitions shared by groups include words such as "selling", "promoting", and "telling our story well". Sometimes, however, I will notice a few definitions that use the word "positioning". Both marketing and positioning are important, but they are both very different and complex concepts. Let's make the distinction.
My favorite definition of marketing is from the late Peter Drucker, who said "marketing is an exchange of value". This is a simple and straightforward definition and easy to remember, but, most importantly, it implies that marketing is about the client. If an organization is to be successful, it needs to focus on who the client is and what the client wants. Marketing is client-centric, which means that one should not make decisions about the famous "4 P's" in marketing (product, price, place, and promotion) unless they have completed their important research about the client.
Often confused with marketing, positioning is really about the competition. The basic concept of positioning is about understanding the landscape of offerings in your industry and finding a reasonable gap that can be filled. Positioning relies on two basic concepts: singularity (being the only one of a type or category) and differentiation (doing what you do different). Positioning, therefore, is competitor-centric, keeping your eyes glued to what your competitors are doing and what they are providing.
Which is more important? Both! The best organizations understand their client really well and meet their needs with thoughtful products that are competitively positioned in the marketplace. They understand the difference between the two concepts and really work hard to leverage both.
Have a great Wednesday!