Positioning Strategies in Business Markets

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Positioning Strategies in Business Markets

An executive summary for managers and executive readers can be found at the end of this article

Positioning strategies in business markets
Stavros P. Kalafatis Markos H. Tsogas Charles Blankson
Professor of Business Marketing, Kingston Business School, Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey, UK Senior Lecturer, Kingston Business School, Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey, UK Assistant Professor, Grand Valley State University, Allendale, Michigan, USA Keywords Business-to-business marketing, Product quality, Positioning Abstract Tests the relevance of positioning within the domain of business marketing through the application of a new typology of positioning strategies. The proposed typology is tested in a well-established market sector which is characterised by commodity products and consequently the research deals with positioning as applied to actual companies rather than specific brands. Our results offer strong support as to the stability of the proposed typology and the relevance of the concept of positioning in business markets. The authors suggest that although business positioning is predominantly determined by hard criteria (e.g. product quality) and relationship building factors (e.g. personal contact), other considerations such as company structures (i.e. geographical coverage), breadth of offerings and degree of integration (i.e. location in the distribution chain), also play an important part. Finally, we offer support to the claim that, level of familiarity with a specific company is a contributing factor to perceptions of the pursued positioning strategies.

Concept of positioning

Introduction There is general agreement that the concept of positioning has become one of the fundamental components of modern marketing management (Kotler, 2000; Hooley et al., 1998). Its importance is further supported by evidence that indicates a positive relationship between company performance (in terms of profitability and/or efficiency) and well-formulated and clearlydefined positioning activities (Brooksbank, 1994; Devlin et al., 1995; Porter, 1996). lthough a number of authors in business marketing fail to deal/debate issues of positioning (Wilson, 1991; Powers, 1991; Haas, 1995) there is also clear acknowledgement of the relevance and importance of the concept within the domain of business marketing. Dovel (1990) contended that: Positioning shouldn't be just a part of your strategy. It should be the backbone of your business plan.

This is echoed by Webster (1991) who stated that:
Positioning is an important strategic concept, developed in consumer marketing but with equal applicability for industrial products and services.

He goes on to refer to it as ``. . . the firm's value positioning . . .'' which he defines as ``. . . the firm's unique way of delivering value to customers.'' An earlier version of this paper was presented at the IUFRO & FPS Conference held in British Columbia, Canada, in June 1997. The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at http://www.emerald-library.com

416

JOURNAL OF BUSINESS & INDUSTRIAL MARKETING, VOL. 15 NO. 6 2000, pp. 416-437, # MCB UNIVERSITY PRESS, 0885-8624

Despite the above, we have been unable to identify empirically developed and reliable positioning typologies and models that would allow the development of normative guidelines. Such observations formed the basis of the research reported here. More specifically, the purpose of the present research is to test a new positioning typology in the domain of business marketing and determine whether the proposed typology contains predictive and/or explanatory powers in terms of positioning strategies as perceived by those operating within a well-established, commodity market sector. Cross-sectional study In this paper we first debate general issues of positioning before we proceed to review literature that deals specifically with the diffusion and use of...
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