Positioning your startup: highlights from David Benzaquen

Investor, advisor, and founder David Benzaquen recently hosted a fireside chat as part of the current edition of our accelerator programme. His focus? Positioning a company in the marketplace and the crucial role this plays in a startup’s success. Read on for some highlights from David’s discussion with our startups.

David Benzaquen is one of the world’s leading experts in the plant-based food sector. In his work as an investor and advisor, he has supported more than 150 companies, including plant-based-bacon manufacturer Hooray foods, the dairy-alternative company  CHKP, and ProVeg Incubator alumnus Plantcraft.

David has also founded several companies, such as the plant-based seafood company Ocean Hugger Foods and the consulting business Mission: Plant LLC. He is also one of the mentors we work with at the ProVeg Incubator.

David has built up a wealth of experience in strategies for company positioning when entering the North American market and has built a strong network with food accelerators, incubators (such as us), and venture capitalists.

Throughout our fireside chat, David explained the core points of positioning, provided examples, and asked valuable and thought-provoking questions about the topic. Knowing how to position your startup is essential to your success and it requires you to follow several steps. So let’s get started with the basics.

What is positioning? 

“Positioning is establishing who you are and where you fit in the market”, says David. “It is understanding how to create a space for yourself in the market”.

In order to understand your place in the market you will need to do your research. This  requires you to understand not only your customers, but also your competitors and your suppliers. This is so essential because it shapes every decision for your company throughout your journey.

When you define your positioning, you also define who your consumers are –  and not merely vague demographics, but where they buy, how much money they are spending or willing to spend, what things they like, their routine, and so on.

Why are these points relevant to your positioning? By knowing how much money your consumers spend, you can define your price. And by understanding where they shop, you can determine where you will sell. The examples are endless, as the value of positioning affects every decision one makes.

Bearing in mind that  these customers do not know your product and will already have their existing preferences, how does a new product differentiate itself in the market and stand out? David answers this question with a better question: what is it about your product or service that is going to be more valuable to your customers than the things that they are used to spending their money and attention on?

The importance of making choices

Ask yourself this question: what problem are you solving that is also a problem for other people?

Unfortunately, you cannot embrace the whole world and all the possible causes in it. Nor should you want to. “Your product is not going to stand for everything or everyone”, says David, “you must make choices”. By narrowing down your options, you will be able to develop a product that is tailored to your target audience and which they actually want. The choices you make are all to do with your positioning, which is also a matter of communicating what you stand for.

“Don’t be fooled”, says David. “It is not merely your product that communicates what you stand for. The cause that you are fighting for needs to be clear to your audience in terms of your brand, your image, and everything you say, do, and present to the world as a business”.

Brand and communication

Positioning is part of your brand and your brand is what your company represents, what you communicate to your audience. But how do you communicate your message through your brand?.

Externally, your brand consists of your logo, name, and reputation, but the tricky part is realising that brand is much more than what you show to your customers.

Internally, your brand is your mission, vision, values, personality, what you represent, and, of course, your positioning in the market. Much as these are well-known concepts to entrepreneurs, David reinforces their importance in terms of consolidating your brand and transmitting what your company stands for in terms of customer perception.

Incubator alumni startup Pink Albatross recently rebranded their plant-based ice cream

Point of difference

The things that make your company different, your unique selling points (USPs), are key to determining  your position in the market. If you need help in working out what your USPs are, start by asking yourself these questions:

What makes your company better than the competitors?

Do you have anything that is completely unique to you and your business??

What makes your company more valuable for your customers?

“Does having a delicious product constitute a point of difference?” you may ask. According to David, being delicious is great but not a strong point of differentiation! Startups should be aware of the fact that they are not going to automatically be embraced by the world.

“You won’t be the most sustainable, healthiest, and cheapest product! Even if you are for a while, it won’t last long” says David. You also need to make choices when it comes to your point of difference.

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