Have you got a positioning problem, or a marketing problem?

Sonja Sharon

How well positioned is your business? Have you got a positioning problem, or a marketing problem? Take the Valuable Test and find out.

Right here

“You don’t need to compete when you know who you are.” – Bernadette Jiwa

Matters of clarity

Confidence in business is always a balancing act, isn’t it? When you’re feeling right in the zone things just flow. Work is rewarding, clients are happy, anything seems possible. Lose that feeling of surety and life becomes hard.

If things don’t feel like they’re blossoming for you at the moment – if you’re not getting enough of the right leads or even the right conversations – it’s often easy to think ‘I must market the business harder’ or ‘I just need to get better at sales.’

But here’s one thing we’ve learned over the years. More often than not, losing your mojo isn’t a sales or marketing or content issue. It’s a positioning problem. It stems from not being clear on who you are as a business, and who exactly your business is for.

“More often than not, losing your mojo isn’t a sales or marketing or content issue. It’s a positioning problem.”

3 well positioned businesses, focused for success

Well positioned businesses share a powerful sense of identity. They’re clear what they stand for, who they’re in business to serve, where they’re headed and why.

When I think about well positioned businesses here are a few that spring to mind:

  1. Newfangled. My favourite US web agency helps knowledge-based firms (agencies and consultancies) create powerful digital marketing systems that make a measurable impact to the bottom line. They ooze focus, credibility and confidence: www.newfangled.com
  2. The Get Real Project. Our client Andrea’s training teaches firms of consultants and professional advisors the soft skills they need to build trust and strong relationships. Andrea is clear exactly who her services are for, and her confident, personality-filled website is drawing just the right leads towards her: thegetrealproject.com
  3. Death and Taxes. Niche positioning at its finest: an accountancy service run by a goth for other goths! The client book is full at present but you can still buy their merch, it’s great!: deathandtaxes.biz

Death and Taxes niche positioning

“The more deliberate and specific we are about who we want to serve, the better our products and services will be.” – Bernadette Jiwa

From the outside, these clearly positioned businesses are easy to refer. I’m clear who they want to work for and the problem they can solve, and I’m impressed by the approach they take to do so. I actively look out for opportunities on their behalf, and relish introducing them to those looking for help.

“Customers buy when they find that you are in their bull’s eye – i.e. exactly what they are looking for. But the more bland and boring your marketing message, the more you become one of many in the outer rings of the target. When you have a niche – either by who you serve or by what you do – then you stand out as a specialist.” – Paul Simister, Differentiate Your Business.

From inside a business, clear positioning gives you the confidence to make good decisions. It makes it easy to articulate what you do. It attracts the kind of clients that make you happy, and makes it easier to walk away from work and people that pull you off track.

In the 2018 High Growth survey by Hinge Marketing specialisation is singled out as a key feature of successful firms. Hinge’s research found that the fastest growing firms are specialists not generalists. They offer fewer services at a more specialised level.

Good positioning is the key to specialising, and developing profitable deep expertise. But if you’ve been running a business for a while then it’s often not easy to get your positioning clear.

Take the Valuable Test: Have you got a positioning problem?

How well positioned is your business? Score yourself against these questions:

Yes/No
Do you get a stack of referrals for the right type of business?
Are your services clearly defined and easily buyable?
Do you paint a clear picture of your ideal client and their challenges on your website?
Can you easily fill in the blanks:

We work for xxxx who need xxxxx. We deliver xxxx that gives them xxxxx. The way we do that is…

Do clients come directly to you asking for the service you want to deliver?
Do you get a steady stream of inbound enquiries for the right type of business?
Do you know just what to say in your content – in your blog articles, newsletters and guides, and on social media?

These are all signs of a business that has got its positioning right. How many can you say ‘yes’ to? (If you can answer ‘yes’ to them all and business still isn’t flying, then look at your marketing.)

Alternatively, how many of these sound like you?

Yes/No
Are you stuck when it comes to writing about your business?
Does underconfidence in your offer often lead to over servicing your clients?
Do you often find yourself competing on price?
Do you find it hard to answer the question ‘and what do you do?’
Do you spend time worrying about what your competitors are up to?
Do you have a stack of ‘personas’ but no clear picture of who exactly your business is for?

Answer ‘yes’ to these, and it’s likely that your positioning could do with some attention.

“If you find too many audiences when directing your writing, you haven’t focused enough.” David C. Baker

All good businesses revisit their positioning from time to time

If you’re struggling with your positioning know that you’re really not alone.

It can be tough to get your positioning and messaging right, and achieve the level of focus and clarity in my 3 examples. Like many of our clients we know from experience how much it hurts when you sense your business slipping in a direction that just ‘feels wrong.’ And how fantastic it is when you find your niche and everything slots into place. The direction and focus of our business has been a work in progress with too many ups and downs to list. But then the journey of a business owner is never smooth.

The search for identity is part of the joy and frustration of running a business (being a human!). It’s something we all tackle, and something all of us need to revisit from time to time.

How to tackling your positioning problem

Increasingly we’re helping businesses to tackle the positioning problem – it’s the foundation for all good marketing, for successful content, and for running a happy business.

Here’s where we start when helping clients to get clear:

  1. Think hard about your ideal clients, the ones that bring you joy, and give you the opportunity to do your very best work. Paint a picture of them and their challenges. (Try this exercise: What does your ideal customer look like?)
  2. Look inside – what do you WANT to do? What do you want your business to look and feel like? These 10 questions will help you.
  3. Big picture drawn, take your positioning quest out into the real world. Find out how others are positioning you now. The story is out there already.Your clients and contacts will already be positioning you – why did they come to you? Why are they buying? What’s the story they’re telling? How do they articulate the difference that you make? How do they describe your value?

Go off and gather that evidence, and use it to sharpen up the way you’re telling your story to the world.

Get your positioning and purpose right, and your marketing will become a natural extension of sharing your mission. You’ll know who you want to reach, and what you want to say to them, because you’ll be clear who you really are and why you’re perfectly positioned to help.

You might also like:

Need help with your positioning?

It’s hard to read your own label from inside the jar! If you’re a knowledge-based business looking for an outside perspective to get your positioning and message clear then we’d love to help.

  1. Get one-to-one consultancy support
  2. If you’re Bristol based, take a look at our Pub School programme.
  3. If you’re anywhere else in the world, check out Virtual Pub School.
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6 Comments

  1. Really great article, precise, informative and definitely inspires you to think about your own business. It is so easy to go off track eh! Cheers

    Reply
    • VC

      Thank you Susi. It is pretty much an inevitability that as your business grows and evolves you’ll need to check back in and refocus! So glad you liked our article. Good luck with all you’re doing for your business. Sonja

      Reply
  2. Brilliant – very useful to have this point reinforced. Thank you both

    Reply
    • Sharon

      Thanks Helen, we appreciate that!

      Reply
  3. Phew! I passed the test. It’s a good one. We talk about this in our Foundation Leaks – The Wrong Kind of Work. Increasingly, we’re getting people to overlay Purpose & Profit to create four strategies to sustain both their energy and bank balance. (See: https://watertightmarketing.com/2018/03/how-to-find-the-right-clients/)

    Once people have done this, and your process above, finding elegant ways to say no, or even let some existing clients go can be the critical next step.

    Reply
    • Sharon

      Cheers Bryony.

      I really like the idea of working with clients who sustain your energy and your bank balance.

      Saying ‘no’ to the wrong kind of work can feel risky to start with (‘but what if the phone never rings again? ‘we need the money now!’) but it’s essential if you want your business to be profitable, sane and happy.

      Reply

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