“You’ve got a cool product, but nobody understands it. You think it’s simple, but customers don’t. They compare your products with those that are nothing like it. – April Dunford
April said that on the first page of the book.
It’s the nightmare all sales and marketing people never want to experience: prospects and customers who don’t understand your product’s positioning and its value to them.
And that means they form their own inaccurate ideas about who your product is for. April puts a stop to that.
Who Is April Dunford?
April Dunford is a positioning guru and tech exec, with over 25 years of experience as a VP of Marketing at series of startup companies. She keynotes tech and marketing conferences and offers workshops and consulting on product positioning.
So you’re probably not surprised that she crafted Obviously Awesome, all about product positioning, to give readers a comprehensive, step-by-step product positioning lecture. Not the finger-wagging type, the informative one.
(Note: Before we get too far, for full disclosure and transparency, April sent me a review copy of her book.)
April’s conversational, witty “voice,” was familiar to me, having seen her speak at a Toronto marketing conference in 2016. I enjoyed that she baked that same persona into this book. More on that later.
In this review, I want to highlight a few key points I made from the book.
These points are Enjoyability and Audience Engagement, Content Depth, and Organization and Layout.
Enjoyability and Audience Engagement
April had a few goals with this book that are quite clear to anyone who reads it: one, give an excellent positioning lesson, two, make it fast and easy to read for those of us with short attention spans and three, (I’m sure) to convey her thought leadership or guru status on this topic.
In my opinion, all goals were achieved.
As promised, I’ll speak to April’s humour in the book more now. If anything, April may have been able to get away infusing a bit more of her witty humour (or humor, if you’re one of our friends from the U.S.A.).
I particularly enjoyed her rant on the ineffectiveness of positioning statements and learned a new phrase in “malicious compliance.” I thought of the Dilbert comic strip.
Her enneagram on illustrating the sweet (or hot fire) spot between Trends, Your Solution, and Market Context is a good example of this, with lies symbolized by a “poop” emoji and “good, but boring” with a face nodding off to sleep, and a cool, but confusing face.
These visuals and other illustrations added a healthy dose of levity to the book.
The positioning stories made this an enjoyable book. People love stories. It helps them absorb the content.
When I review a book like this, one question that comes to mind is: how well does it address its intended audience, SaaS and other startups?
April not only makes it clear that her audience is startups; but she meets them on their level.
For example, in Step 6. Map the Attributes to Value “Themes,” there is a table included that breaks down what a feature (or attribute), benefit or value is.
A lot of people, especially in tech, get all jazzed about their features and assume everyone is equally excited them. They overlook the fact that features are just what the product has or does, as April explains out in the table.
When the benefits are drilled down to the value a customer actually experiences, that will mean stronger positioning.
Most people without a sales, marketing or copywriting background wouldn’t already know about features, benefits and value, so that’s why I say this section helps the startup crowd understand this better.
Seasoned Marketers Can Benefit Too
Conversely, this book is not too high-level for marketers who want to amp up their positioning game.
There are many pitfalls April warns seasoned marketers about, such as “tracking your positioning over time” and being careful with trends.
This book zeros in on a lot of scenarios marketers want to be thinking about as we try to position products for our own businesses or those of our clients.
Incredible Editing and Proofreading
A point I would like to congratulate April on, is the absence of spelling or grammar tragedies in this book. There was just one ‘s’ that needed a capital. And of course, I can’t find it again now.
Organization and Layout
This book doesn’t have a foreword to get in the way of the rest of the book. And that’s fine, because the book stands up on its own. No acknowledgement section either (Who reads acknowledgements?).
There is no index, but that doesn’t faze me either. The book is brief, so almost anything can be located from the table of contents. On the other hand, if you were looking to quote a case study, that might be easier to find from the index. To each their own, I suppose.
The Five Plus One Bonus Point
The Five (Plus One) Components of Effective Positioning gives readers a clear outline of what we need to know about Product positioning, before launching into the “10-Step Process.”
Speaking of the “10-Step Process,” April’s breaking it down piece by piece helped explain Product Positioning quite clearly. This numbered process also maintains the structure so it’s easily followed and referred to again and again.
Not Your Usual FAQs
Also, wrapped inside the 10-Step Process, and I think throughout the book, is a look at April’s checklist of important points. She essentially answered every Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) that someone would ask (and with her experience, has asked), without actually labelling these answers an actual, grouped, boring FAQ section.
From reading this book, it’s obvious that April has become the foremost product positioning authority.
The title Obviously Awesome fits so well. Of course, you want customers to see you as the awesome, obvious choice. And, it’s a catchy title that’s easily remembered. If neither of those things happened, it wouldn’t exactly play out well for a book about positioning, would it?
Easy or Simple?
I once learned the difference between easy and simple. In the page before the introduction, April wrote, “You have a positioning problem. I have a solution in 10 easy steps.” Easy is a powerful word in sales and marketing, so this was likely intentional.
But the ten steps aren’t really easy to do. Sure, they are simple. But not easy; as she said in some parts of following 10 steps.
An Obviously Awesome Book
April certainly achieved her objectives in crafting a book that not only gives us the depth of content, but allows the book to be quickly and easily read.
Although I read every word of Obviously Awesome from start to finish over two days for this review, it is definitely a good reference book on positioning that will see many more deep dives into the 10-step positioning process.
This is a five star book. Just buy it and read it. Then implement April’s concepts.