How can you expect anyone to buy into your business if you aren’t clear about your offer and how you compare to the competition? In this the second in a series of articles about attracting the right type of client we examine positioning. Whether a one-man-band working out of a home office or a multi-national with a presence on every continent positioning is vital, but is often overlooked. It defines how you see yourself and your business in the marketplace and how you establish yourself next to competitors. Positioning is the first step of a business plan and provides the framework for your marketing and communications strategy.
What is positioning?
Positioning is about defining how your clients see you when they think of products/services in your industry. In their book, Positioning: the Battle for Your Mind Al Reis and Jack Trout explain it as occupying a space in the mind of your client. In the same way when we discussed networking we talked about the need to generate an emotional reaction that the client would remember when they thought about you, positioning provides the same framework. When clients think about buying a specific product or service they think of an emotional benefit associated with it and at that point you want your name to pop into their head.
Why is Positioning important?
If you get your positioning right you can; differentiate yourself from the competition; create clarity around your offer which can help speed up the sales cycle; help drive demand for your products/services; inform your communications strategies and help you stand head and shoulders above the competition. For example:
Over 15 years ago I worked for a company that pioneered executive coaching in the UK. When they launched their business in the 70s there were no other companies providing business coaching and to say that you were a business coach was enough to set yourself apart from other services like training. Today it’s a very different story if you say you are a business or life coach you are just blending into the background. That statement alone is too generic you have to be able to describe what type of coach you are, for example, The Happiness Coach, The Accelerated Career Coach, Style Coach, Wealth Coach. Even these identifiers can appear generic and will be accompanied by a supporting statement that further drives home the coach’s positioning , target audience and uniqueness.
Many small business owners I have come into contact with understand the power of branding. Good branding definitely plays a part in helping to carve out that coveted spot in the market place but takes time and money to see a return. What the very best business owners do is begin with positioning. It provides them with a concrete foundation to distinguish their product and service and provides a base from which to launch a branding strategy. Failure to differentiate creates market confusion.
Creating your positioning
Before you can start to create your positioning you need to be able to answer the following questions;
- What problem does your product/service solve for your prospective clients?
- How does the competition solve the same problem?
- What benefit does your product/service deliver? Often companies talk about features but people buy based on emotion therefore you need to talk about the emotional benefits your product/service will provide.
- What makes your product/service better than what is currently available?
- How is your product/service unique and why is that of relevance to your potential clients?
- Are you communicating the elements that make your product/service unique?
Once you can answer the above with confidence you are on your way to creating a solid positioning for your business. But if the above proves difficult try the following steps to help gain greater insights;
- Make a list of your audiences and for each grouping identifying what their urgent needs are.
- Examine the competition – how are they positioning themselves, how do you differentiate your product/service from them, what do your customers care about and how are you communicating that to them?
- Go out and talk to potential clients to get a better understanding of their wants and needs. This should be carried out once a year as part of your client audit.
- Brainstorm – write down all the ways you want to be perceived by your clients and write down the qualities of your ideal client.
- Review the results from the above points and distill the essence into a few pithy sentences. Test out your draft positioning statements on friendly clients, colleagues, friends and family who know what it takes to run a successful business. At the Women Unlimited Business Club meetings there is always an opportunity to test out your positioning statements in the break-out groups.
If you are still scratching your head then don’t persist on your own. Someone who is impartial will provide the much needed insight and views you are looking for to sharpen your vision. Consider asking a trusted business adviser, mentor, coach or employ an expert to work with you on this task.
So what’s my position?
When you have all the information to the above you will be able to start crafting your positioning statement and supporting key messages. This need not be an encyclopedic document; a positioning statement is generally a couple of sentences in length. It tells a client what you do, who you’ve done it for and how you are uniquely placed to solve their problem. These key messages are not told once but over and over again at every opportunity, they become part of your business’ DNA; in a crowded market place repetition is vital.
Establishing a position is a lot easy and quicker than establishing a brand. It helps your clients to understand the benefits of your products/services and if it’s right for them. Can you imagine what it would be like if all your potential clients knew exactly what you were offering and the unique benefits they would get as a result of engaging with your business? It really would save a lot of time. Clarity is key. Vagueness and fuzziness can lead to problems and difficulties ahead so the clearer you get on your messaging the better it will be for your clients and ultimately your business.
Networking helps you reach new and potential clients who will help your business grow; positioning is what helps you know how to sell yourself. It reflects an understanding of your marketplace, the challenges your clients will face and how you can solve them. It is the most important step in defining yourself as an expert and experienced voice in your field.