By Andrew Neitlich

How to set your services apart: Two dimensional positioning

By Andrew Neitlich

The last blogs (remember the case of the inland seafood restaurant) talked about one dimensional positioning: Finding one criteria that matters to customers, and focusing on that to set your business apart. Successful businesses do this by turning a weakness into a strength, building on a strength, or focusing on one thing customers value that no other competitors have picked up on yet. So if you don’t have a waterfront view, focus on the quality and excellence of your seafood menu.

That’s one dimensional positioning.

Now let’s get even more sophisticated. Two dimensional positioning means choosing two criteria that matter to customers, and making sure that your business is the best at both.


To do this, draw a standard graph with an x and y-axis. Each axis represents one criteria that matters to customers. Your business should appear in the upper right hand corner, while competitors should be in less optimal positions on the graph. If you choose your axes (e.g. customer criteria) correctly, you will set your business apart!

For instance, I’m currently working with a software client. In their market, at least before their solution arrived, you either paid a lot for custom software, or you paid a little for off-the-shelf solutions that weren’t very robust. So they decided to create a solution that is economical and customizable.

Now their marketing collateral has a 2-dimensional graph on it. Dimensions include cost and customization. They map out their competitors, and of course, they show up in upper right hand corner of map as the best of both worlds. It’s a great way to set themselves apart.

What dimensions should you consider? Here are ideas:

– Cost
– Expertise with focused niche
– Knowledge of particular solution (e.g. navigation schemes, SEO, end-to-end ecommerce, subscription-based web sites, content management)
– Customization
– Follow up support
– Ironclad guarantee
– Flexible pricing (e.g. by use)
– Ease of deployment
– Time of deployment
– Product leadership (e.g. proprietary technology)
– Proven return on investment/increase in sales
– Award-winning designs

Does this make sense?

  • Yes! It does make sense! I love the graph idea, but I have a question. Would 3D Positioning be trying to push too much? I mean, you would have to have a 3d model to see where you fit in…. :-)

  • aneitlich

    The problem with 3 dimensions is that it gets too complicated for customers/prospects to understand, and too hard to show graphically. If you can’t articulate your advantage on 2 dimensions, then maybe you don’t have one.

    But yes, you can do it. Just try for 1 or 2 first.

    4 is DEFINITELY too many dimensions, and don’t get me started on string theory.

  • I guess the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” comes to mind. I must say I haven’t really thought of using things like graphs as a marketing tactic. A graph implies research, quality and knowledge of the topics being graphed. A very useful tool indeed.

    When it comes to the crunch though, you still need to be able to prove that what the graph “says” is correct. Otherwise your credibility will go down the drain once people see you making things up. Or worse, perceive that you’ve made it up even if you have done all that research and can prove it in your own head.

  • aneitlich


    The above link gives one example of a company using a 2-D graph to show how they are unique. In this case, they don’t follow the “upper right corner” approach, but they do differentiate their offering.

    Take a look.

  • I assume the graph is just for internal company use in understanding the dimensions we are trying to dominate?
    You aren’t suggesting a graph should be part of our marketing?

  • aneitlich


    It’s up to you. As the link above showed, some companies do use this type of approach in their marketing.

    And all companies eventually translate these dimensions to how they communicate to their prospects and customers about who/what they are.

  • Yeah 4 is waaaaay to many. OK, another question, I am a teen starting my business, could one of my “dimensions” be that because I’m just starting, I have to be sure I do a good job? or Because I’m a teen, I’m more on the cutting edge?

    Or is it a bad idea to emphisize that I’m a teen and just starting?

  • aneitlich


    Being a teen is all about you. Being cutting edge is getting to be all about them. But it’s not quite there. Maybe innovation and knowledge of most recent developments in effective design. You want it to be about them, not you, so keep noodling on this.

    Just starting — don’t emphasize that either. But flexibility and personal customer service — that’s better because it is about them.

    What is it with teens that they only think of themselves?:) (Actually, it’s part of the human condition, I think).

  • What is it with teens that they only think of themselves?

    Hey!!! lol But I see what you’re saying, I’ll try to think more about them and not me (the teen). :-)

    Thanks as always!

  • The idea of “them and not you” is frequently articulated in most marketing materials as the distinction between features and benefits.

    The feature is WYSIWYG editing in your content management system. The benefit is that your existing office assistant can edit the web site.

    If you spend your time selling them features, you will find it an uphill battle. If, on the other hand, you sell benefits, it’s much easier going. Most web developers are pretty focused on features, while their clients are focused on benefits.

    This isn’t just a B2B thing either. Just watch a night of TV and look at how benefits are sold rather than features. And, when features ARE mentioned (as in car commercials), they’re almost always tied to benefits as well.

    Sprite has carbonated bubbles, but is sold as “refreshing”.

    The hand sanitizer on my desk contains “Ethyl Alcohol” which is it’s active ingredient, but the front says that it “kills 99.9% of germs without water”.

    Excedrin contains aspirine and caffeine (which are what make it work), but is sold as a solution to “alleviate the pain of tension headaches”, etc.

  • Ahh! *The light has just be turned on* I can see the difference!

  • Alex King

    Thanks LetterJ, that’s a great analysis!


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