red_tulips_white_tulipDavid Ogilvy, considered to be the father of modern advertising, famously said positioning is the most important decision you’ll ever make about your business or offerings. That’s because it impacts every other decision you’ll make about marketing and selling your services (or products for that matter).

If you’re looking to increase your revenue, make it easier to attract your best clients, and raise the number of  — and improve the quality of — referrals you get, then clarifying your position in the market is the first place to start.

Positioning refers to your Role and Rank.

Your position is the Role you play for those you serve and the Rank you hold in their minds as well as their hearts compared to others in your industry segment.

While being first in the mind of your buyer has been preached as what you should be shooting for, that’s not completely true.

If I say “car” and you say “BMW” that’s nice. But you always buy Honda.

Your objective as a business owner is to balance building awareness with carving out a place in the buyer’s heart as well as their mind.

This is true whether you sell direct to consumers or in the B-to-B space

Positioning is the foundation of branding and must be clarified in order for the visual and verbal branding to help the business reach and resonate with its best clients.

Here are 10 signs you’ve got a positioning problem:

  1. People tell you they either don’t understand what you do or can’t explain what you do. You see the same people at networking meetings you attend and have had some one-on-one conversations with them.

Maybe you’ve even met for coffee or lunch. But one (or more) of them has confessed – maybe when they’ve tried to introduce you to someone – that they really can’t explain what you do. This screams out you’ve got a messaging problem and that’s usually grounded in a positioning problem.

  1. You get pushback about your price. Price is a complicated subject, but for the sake of positioning, let’s assume you know you’re priced fairly for the results you produce and that you have solid evidence of that work. If you’re still getting pushback and you know you’re talking to your ideal clients then you’ve probably got a positioning problem. They aren’t seeing you as a high-value provider.
  1. The referrals you get aren’t a good fit. I once had a friend and past client send me an email that she had a referral for me (Yay!). She went on to tell me about the person’s problem and then proceeded to say “She’s a little bit crazy.”

I had to clarify for her that I don’t do crazy.

If you’re getting bad referrals you need to do two things: First, tell the person who referred the client that the person wasn’t a good fit (be very careful about the language you use). Then explain why. And be sure to explain what makes a good client.

  1. You get easily distracted and grab every new marketing tool that comes down the pike but aren’t consistent with any of them. Which social posting sites actually lead to referral partnerships and clients? Which sites are you on that you know for sure have the largest number of your ideal clients on and regularly interact on? Do you post to these sites regularly? Do you interact with others or do you just post your own information? Do you practice what marketing expert Pam Hendrickson calls “random acts of content”? If so, then you’ve got a positioning problem.
  1. Your marketing tools (website, social profiles, collateral material, etc) look and sound like everyone else’s in your segment. Your language is the same middle-of-the-road language. There’s no personality in any of your messaging and you use nothing but stock images on your site. Ho-hum. Today’s buyers have certain levels of expectation about messaging quality and impact. While they don’t want you to be salesy, they don’t want you to be white bread either. If you’re playing it too safe because you’re afraid of “chasing away” people then you’re not fully committed to attracting your best audience.
  1. You hate showing up at an event and discovering there’s someone else there who’s in your industry segment. This concern springs from several potential places; but if you were confident about your unique difference, the completely unique value you bring to your clients, and your unique client focus there would be no need for you to be unhappy that there are others in your industry segment at the same event.
  2. You struggle to create content for your marketing channels. If you’re struggling to come up with content, you’re likely focusing on the work (yes, it’s hard) and not the value to the audience and your business. Content helps buyers learn about their problem and the solution you recommend, so it’s critical that you share your knowledge, philosophy, and approach with them. Content creation is a critical element of the Pre-Selling process that positions you as an expert, demonstrates your personality and ability, and helps the buyer decide to take the next step in the buying process to move towards you (or away from you if they’re not right for you). So yes, you’ve got to make time to either do it yourself or work with someone who can help you get your message out.
  3. It takes you more than 30 seconds to describe what you do. You and I know it certainly does take longer than 30 seconds to fully explain what you do. But in the brief time you have to answer the question, “So….what do YOU do?” all you’re trying to do is help someone understand the problem you solve so they can tell if you can help them or someone they know, if there’s a potential referral relationship between you, and if you seem like a nice person. So if you’ve been oversharing in your introduction – or worse – you’re introduction includes any phrase that sounds like “…and I also…” then you’ve got a positioning problem.
  4. People don’t introduce you right. This is painful when it happens. I’ve had people do email or social media connections that I’ve read and thought “that’s NOT what I do!” That was one of my first clues that I was positioned badly.  Create a brief introduction for others to use and share it with them. No one wants to introduce you incorrectly.
  5. You don’t know how you’re different. This is the heart of a positioning problem. If you think you’re just like your competition then it begs the question why you started your business. You’re going to be considered a commodity and are going to be forced to compete on price or other easily identifiable differences your clients can see and understand.

Clarifying your own position can be a lot like trying to pull your own teeth. Sure, you COULD do it….eventually…but it will be an incredibly long and painful process to say the least.

The core elements of your position – the Role you want to play and the Rank you want to hold in the mind and heart of your best clients – come from deep within you. Their foundation is in your mission, your dreams for the business, your goals for your clients, and your motivation for serving them. It should also be something that your best clients see as valuable and is something your so-called competitors aren’t emphasizing.

Positioning is something within your own heart and mind, that must be given voice to and you must be brave enough to uncover, embrace, and communicate it.

About the author 

Winnie Anderson

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