How to position a search engine against Google?

Let’s say you want to positionpositioning a new search engine against Google. How would you do it? What we mean by positioning is that, from a prospective customer’s perspective, how would they compare your new search engine against Google.

You see this in marketing all time. It’s the simplest way to get to the prospect’s mind, and possibly the most effective in getting them to switch brands (or stay loyal), depending on how effective the product is positioned.

Positioning: 3 mistakes to avoid

So, where do we start? The mistake would be to do as follows:

  1. Criticize Google – that makes you look small. It signals to prospective customers that you feel the need to denigrate the competition to assert yourself. Not a winning strategy.
  2. Go Head On – in other words, don’t say we’re better than Google, Apple, Nike or whoever and give a laundry list of reasons. This fails as you’re blowing your own trumpet. That’s yesterday’s (failed) tactic.
  3. Promote Features – engineers and developers love features. Because that’s what they focus on. Customers don’t. They’re interested in the benefits,  coolness of the product, or its association with a celebrity. Features do work if you’re selling to other engineers, of course. For example, selling hardware or micro chips.

Positioning: new search engine

Instead, side-step the google issue and look for a different angle. Actually, you should stop competing with Google in your own head first, and then develop a series of tactics that allows you to convince others why your search engine is the best choice.

  1. Define the market segment – don’t target everyone. Focus on one group, for example, parents. Then develop a trustworthy search engine that resonates with them. In many ways, this makes your life easier. By focussing on one segment, you can tailor your product,  brand, and business model. Compare this to trying to please everyone.
  2. Focus on one benefit – instead of trying to be the best search engine, which is a huge task, zero in on one area, for example, security, family friendly, or that supports the environment. I’d say the family friendly search engine would do the best. This reduces a lot of the fears in parents, and also reduces the costs and hassle of child monitoring software.
  3. Develop a community  – think of Wikipedia. Imagine if you could harness the goodwill of a community and get them to develop a search engine, for the people by the people…

Positioning is about how others perceive you. It helps to be the first as you can write the ‘script’ for the customer. Saying that, if you can find a legitimate angle, where there is a demand, then you can own this space, ie as you’re the first one to identify it.

This is very different than trying to undercut someone on price, creating more features (many of which will rarely be used or valued), and running (expensive) advertising campaigns.

The book that helped me understand Positioning is by Al Ries. You can pick up a copy here.

PS – how would you position a new search engine?