6 Potential Positioning Strategies for Service-Based Businesses
Spotting your own uniqueness is a bit like recognizing you’ve got bad breath.
You typically need someone else to point it out to you.
Positioning is a concept people often confuse with branding. But positioning comes before branding because it’s a core element the brand is developed around.
I’ll share 6 ways to position yourself and some cautions for each as you figure out this foundational element.
And just because you’re business is already financially successful, don’t think you’ve nailed your position. You can be getting clients for lots of reasons that have nothing to do with a strong position.
“So,” you may be asking yourself; “why worry about it then?”
Because if you’re like most smart entrepreneurs who are building a service-based business, you’re not in this to kill yourself.
I’ll bet one of the reasons you started your business is so you could create a great life for yourself and those you love.
You want to work to live, not live to work.
You bought into the whole “lifestyle” thing that draws so many of us into being self-employed.
But when you’re working too hard to attract clients and working too hard to get them to say yes to hiring you, that’s often a sign that you’re not positioned very clearly and you haven’t built a strong brand.
So when you’re looking to position yourself, here are 6 concepts that can help you do that.
Be first in a category. This is almost impossible to do and it’s incredibly costly in terms of time, effort, and money. I’ve had a few students who are trying to launch something so unique and so unclearly positioned that people just don’t get it. Another challenge to using this strategy is when you ARE first, the copycats are soon behind you. You could find yourself competing based on price and having to re-position yourself all over again.
Price. This is just a bad idea. It’s an option…but a bad one. Unless you want to be Walmart or you have some sort of deep understanding of the wealthy and why they’d want your offer, competing on price typically attracts price-driven (and usually price-sensitive) clients who don’t value your uniqueness. Your objective is to make the value you deliver so apparent and help the potential client connect that value to their own wants in such a way that they can’t consider another solution provider. It’s you or it’s nothing. Your price really shouldn’t come into it until they know they want you and they need to figure out how to pay for it.
The Outcome You Deliver. Now we’re getting somewhere. Remember how Domino’s used to promote their hot pizza in 30 minutes or less or it’s free? Or FedEx’s “when it absolutely, positively, HAS to get there overnight”? Those are positions based on outcomes. Of course we know what happened to Domino’s. The pressure to get pizzas to every customer in 30 minutes or less or give away their product led drivers to behave recklessly behind the wheel. At least one lawsuit and that was the end of that particular positioning strategy. So consider just what can you deliver that is highly desirable and that you can truly stand behind. But be cautious about it and think through the unintended consequences you may create.
Who you serve. This is a good idea but it’s something so many entrepreneurs resist. Maybe you’re a family lawyer who only handles divorces involving special needs children. Or you could be an accountant who only focuses on family businesses. Or a physical therapist who specializes in 50+ fitness fanatics.
Can you picture in your mind how easy it would be to refer a friend to one of those professionals? Positioning yourself around a narrow segment makes you easier to refer. It makes it easier for you to focus your attention and build a colossally strong expert platform. We all want to work with experts who get us; so if there’s an audience you really get then by all means serve then.
How you deliver your offerings. This can be part of an “exclusive” type of positioning in terms of how you enter into engagements or it can literally be that your delivery method is in itself differentiating. Like the mobile pet groomer or the window glass people who come to you.
This can and should include your unique process or some type of unique system. For example, my core offering is built on my Sales Success Investigation(TM). Every private client starts with that offering. So think about the way you do the things you do and perhaps there’s something there that’s clearly different and different in a way people are willing to pay for.
Another thing to consider about how you deliver your offerings is what is your competition talking NOT talking about that you think is important to your audience, or at least to a large enough segment of your audience that you can zero in on that and build your business with those folks.
For example, back in the early days of advertising and copywriting, legendary copywriter Claude Hopkins was working on a campaign for Schlitz. Schlitz was ranked 5 among nationally sold beer brands at the time.
Mr. Hopkins was on a tour through the plant and was struck by how clean the place was and how clean the tanks were.
He decided to use this unique element as a point of difference and to position Schlitz as pure when in fact every other beer manufacturer did the same thing. They just hadn’t thought it important enough to emphasize.
So if you’re in a particularly crowded segment or you’re in a highly regulated industry segment or one where there’s little variation (I don’t want my accountant using his own special technique for balancing my books, ya know?) then really think about what it is that sets you apart and how can you build your positioning around that?
Make up some gumbo. You know how lots of people in business use sports analogies? When I was working in New Orleans, I had a boss who used food analogies. His favorite was relating something to making gumbo.
There’s about a zillion ways to make gumbo, so that’s why I think the best positioning strategies are your own unique gumbo — a special combination of the things on the list.
So do some serious reflection and consider your unique combination of the elements, as well as how you mix them together with your unique personality, beliefs, and values. That will make the position you establish for your firm powerful and magnetic to those who want what you offer and in the way you offer it.
The most important ingredients in your positioning gumbo have to be authenticity and truth for you and the business you’re building. Your recipe needs to be something your competition either can’t duplicate or is so cost- or time-prohibitive that either no one will bother or they’ll be an obvious copycat if they try.
So remember the analogy of the gumbo. Identify those unique ingredients you love and add them generously. Then season it with those things your ideal client find tasty and worth much more than what you charge.