Simple positioning for startups

Increase conversion with clarity

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5 seconds.

If a visitor can’t tell what your startup does in 5 seconds, you’ve probably lost them.

I look at lots of startup websites each week.

Often, I come away confused.

These sites have weak positioning.

Honestly, I didn’t know what positioning was for a long time. I thought it had to do with the brand.

To have clear positioning, you must quickly articulate a couple of these:

  1. What your product does

  2. Who it’s for

  3. What problem it solves

  4. Why it’s different

For startups, you communicate your positioning on your website.

More specifically: the top half of the page which we call "Above the Fold".

If you don’t nail this section, you will confuse potential customers and your conversion will be lower than it should be.

Here’s my simple approach to creating clear positioning for your product:

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1) Speak to a target audience

Good messaging speaks to specific segments.

These segments generally have similar pains and goals.

When you’re looking for a solution, you want to know that the product serves you.

So you can quickly help people decide whether the product is for them just by calling out this segment.

This removes confusion.

Vercel is an example of a company who does this well.

Vercel Home Page

They position the product for Developers.

Within seconds, I know who the product is for.

Being specific to an audience allows them to use language and action-based CTAs that connects directly to your audience's goals.

E.g. "Start Deploying"

It can be a little scary to speak to one audience and sometimes teams resist it so they don’t lose out on potential other segments.

Understandable - but the effect of this is your website isn’t as clear and so people leave.

It pays to be specific.

2) Make it clear what category your product is in

Say what your product is.

This is the simplest way to position a product. Give it a category so people know what it is.

Doing this means your visitors aren't confused and can quickly figure out what it is you do.

I’ve never used a time tracking tool before so if Toggl just spoke about the benefit of boosting performance in an easy, powerful and frictionless way, I’d have no idea what it does.

But by clearly stating it’s time tracking software - it’s clear to me.

Toggl Home Page

Tip: Don't try to invent a Category

I was recently working with a chat app.

When I audited the product, the main issue I had was I didn’t understand it.

They were trying to ‘invent’ a category by using jargon.

They were making up a category and expecting the visitor to know what it was.

Rather than having it in a 'new category' we just mentioned it was a specific type of chat app. This was a category people related to and understood.

We edited the category and made some small changes to the headline and subheadline.

Result: We doubled the number of trial signups.

Putting the product in an obvious category meant that visitors didn’t have to guess whether it was right for them.

All the other tests around sign-up, onboarding and in-app didn't have an effect on metrics.

But changing a few sentences on the homepage did.

Clarity is powerful.

3) Focus on the problem

Sometimes you don’t know who your audience is.

Or what category your product sits in.

So instead don’t focus on this - especially if your product is in a new area without a clear category.

Instead, address the problem.

People connect with that.


Slite addresses the pain of creating and managing company information.

“Free up your team from the burdens of creating, managing and finding trusted company information”

Even if a visitor hasn’t heard of a ‘knowledge base’ (category), they would be able to connect with that problem.

That would be enough for them to realise this product might be for them.

4) Have a unique functional benefit

Your product needs to be different in some way to stand out.

The best way to do this is to take a specific feature or attribute of your product and tie it to a benefit.

I call this a “functional benefit”.

A functional benefit works because features by themselves don’t help.

Benefits by themselves are too fluffy.

The functional benefit leverages both to make a realistic claim based on what your product really offers.

Here Tango directly outlines what you can do with the product (feature) and how quickly you do it (benefit).

Tango Home Page

The websites with the clearest positioning will use a number of these elements together.

Here’s an example of Grain - who leverages 3 out 4 of these elements Above the Fold. 

(Below the fold they mention the problem too)

Early-stage companies won’t have all 4. But as you get to product/market fit and beyond, you will.

Before then, your goal is to figure out the elements you have a good grasp on.

Grain Home Page

When you're thinking about your positioning, it doesn't need to be complex.

But it does need to be clear.

So before being clever, be clear.

Resources on Positioning:

April Dunford’s Introduction to Positioning (Get her book Obviously Awesome for a more detailed look into positioning)

A big segment of companies with a product-led motion target developers.

They are an audience who definitely don’t want to talk to sales before using a product.

They want self-serve.

I recently came across a great resource to help product-led companies do developer-focused marketing.

It’s a detailed guide on Developer Marketing by Jakub Czakon. Worth checking out.

When you’re ready, here’s I can help you grow:

Get the Startup Growth Roadmap - my playbook of 25+ templates that's helped 300+ founders and marketers to scale their startups.

Work with me 1-1 to solve your most pressing marketing challenges and help you set up a high-converting onboarding sequence.

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