I was very flattered when the woman on the phone told me she heard me speak a few years ago and has been hanging on to my card ever since. But the conversation took a turn for the worse when she then said, “I want to work with you, but I’m afraid when everyone else in my industry sees what we’re doing they’ll copy me and steal our ideas. And if we work together, you couldn’t work with anyone else in my industry.”
First of all, an entrepreneur who is serious about standing out in their field, can’t allow the fear that someone will copy what she’s doing keep her from taking action.
A mindset like hers tells me this person is operating on fear because she’s not confidently and clearly positioned in the market.
Positioning is the action of communicating your unique value so clearly that you get into the mind of your ideal buyer and anchor yourself in so deeply that everyone else is seen as just an also ran.
Your Position is a combination of…
- the role you play for clients
- the niche segment you serve
- the problem you solve
- your approach to solving the problem
It gets communicated visually — through your brand elements like website, logo, color palette, and your or your staff’s appearance — and verbally — through the tone of voice you use as well as your specific word choice (I use “verbally” to mean written or spoken, online and offline)– and is the foundation of the brand you’re building.
This is about more than just about “brand awareness” or being known for what you do.
When I say “soda” (or “pop” as they call it up here in the Niagara Falls region), your first thought may be of Coke. But that doesn’t matter if Pepsi is what you spend your money on.
The best positioning goes deeper than just the mind. It resonates with the potential client’s heart.
There are four steps to Positioning:
First you have to actually get clear on who and what your business and offerings are all about.
The Father of Modern Advertising — the legendary David Ogilvy — called Positioning “the most important decision you can make” about an offering. That’s because it impacts every other decision you need to make about said offering.
Committing to claiming a position is a brave act — something solo professionals or the owners of small firms might talk about but often resist at a subconscious level for fear claiming a position is going to turn away too much business.
Ogilivy was faced with how to position Dove® soap and the decision is a great example of how powerful the choice is.
He had to decide if Dove® should be positioned as a a cleaning agent — something that gets skin very clean — or should it be positioned as a softening agent — something that cleanses skin while also making it soft?
Lever accepted his recommendation about 50 years ago and it’s still the foundation of Dove’s position.
The second step is getting found. It doesn’t matter if you’re the best at what you do. If those who want what you offer can’t find you or your insight when they need you, you’re struggling. Since the majority of people turn to the Internet to begin the search to solve a problem, you need a large digital footprint that communicates your position effectively so you resonate cognitively and emotionally with your Ideal Clients. And whatever you do needs to be able to be viewed no matter the tech device used.
Step three is to get into their heart. It doesn’t matter if you’re first in their mind or not. What matters is if they know, like, and trust you enough to choose to work with you. H&R Block might be the first name I think of if you say “Tax Accounting” but that’s not who I trust with my taxes. I might have moved 500 miles away from Bob, my accountant, but he still does my taxes.
Bob’s in my heart. And by getting into my heart he’s my go-to choice.
The fourth step is staying top of mind. Professional solution providers are nervous about this because we’re worried we’ll come across as a pest or that we’ll be seen as salesy.
But when your overworked, overwhelmed ideal client needs a solution provider they can often make a decision driven by convenience. The person who sent them an email this morning may get the business because the client forgot about you.
If you’re ready to truly attract more of your best clients and make it easy for others to refer you, then it’s time to uncover, embrace, and fully communicate your unique so you’re clearly differentiated from the others in your industry segment.