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What's Your Zone?

If you are responsible for marketing, you no doubt feel daily pressure to accomplish three things: get customers, keep customers and grow customers. And the pressure seems to grow every week.

If you’re like most marketing professionals, you are well aware that your marketing options are expanding at a rate greater than your marketing budget. So, what to do? Start with strategy.

The Marketing Triangle

To avoid the bundle-of-tactics-as-marketing-strategy dilemma, use the marketing triangle to determine where you and your primary competitors currently compete.

Competitors in the top of the triangle appeal to customers’ psychological needs such as status, affiliation, safety and security. For example, Volvo appeals to safety, Mercedes Benz appeals to status, exclusive country clubs appeal to affiliation. The top of the triangle is known as the Defensibility Zone (DZ), because customers in this zone are very loyal to the companies they choose. It is easiest to defend your market share in the DZ.

Competitors in the lower left appeal to customers’ functional needs such as reliability, availability, efficiency and performance. Honda is known for reliability; Amazon has the market cornered on availability and Staples helps you push the easy button. This area of the triangle is known as the Functional Zone (FZ). Competitors in this zone strive to differentiate themselves by consistently providing products and services that “out function” their competitors.

And not to be ignored are the competitors in the lower right who appeal to economic needs such as low price, perceived quality, cost per use and total operating cost. This area is referred to as the Commodity Zone (CZ), as many competitors compete on price. But do not be fooled into thinking this is an unattractive place to be. There are many successful companies in the CZ: Dollar General, Dollar Shave Club, Walmart (remember everyday low prices?). Just because a product or service is inexpensive (we won’t use the word cheap), doesn’t mean the profit is small.

Now that you understand the zones, try this simple exercise. Gather a few of your marketing and sales peers. Draw a triangle and plot your company and your significant competitors. Then have fun discussing these questions:

  • What zones are underserved?

  • Where do we have the skills to compete and win against a weaker competitor?

  • How can we leverage the power of our core competencies to move to a different zone?

  • What can and should we be doing to reinforce our position in the current zone?

  • What moves do we think our competitors might make?

Be intentional

Select your zone and be consistent in all of your marketing. Your value proposition, messaging, pricing, channel decisions and product/services must all reinforce one another. They must work together to let your prospects and customers know why you are the best competitor in your chosen zone.

And don’t get caught in the middle. The triangle in the very middle is no man’s land. This is a confusing place for your customers. How would you react to Walmart offering gourmet groceries? Now that’s cognitive dissonance!

After selecting your zone, making marketing plans becomes much easier. Use the marketing triangle to get, keep and grow customers with intentionality.

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