The first thing Mark’s clients commonly ask him to do is come up with a marketplace position for their company. The reason?
Your marketplace position drives all your initiatives. It’s your point of differentiation, your competitive advantage. It’s why clients choose you instead of a firm that’s bigger, faster, closer, and cheaper.
How do you pick the proper position? You find the point where your strength, your competitions’ ignorance, and your market’s most pressing problem intersect. That point becomes your position.
A Positioning Example
Suppose you’re a plumber, and you want to make yourself distinct.
Since prospects usually look for plumbers in the Yellow Pages, you decide to place an ad there. You open the book, look up “Plumbers,” and curse. Staring you in the face are the names of 400 competitors. What can you do to get an advantage?
You study their ads, which all look the same. Each stresses the plumber’s years in business, their quality, and the fact that they’re insured. Each ad also says, “No job too big or small.” That phrase sets you thinking.
You hate small jobs. They don’t pay. You want big jobs.
When do you normally get such jobs? When you do new construction. Your most lucrative and satisfying jobs come when you put in the entire plumbing system for houses being built. An added benefit: you don’t have to root around in dank basements. Everything is new, clean, well lit.
You decide to become a new construction specialist. That’s how you’re going to advertise yourself. That’s your marketplace position.
You write your ad, calling yourself “The New Construction Specialist,” with a tagline that says “A Plumber For Homes and Businesses Three Years Old And Less.” In the body of the ad, you put in bullet points about your knowledge of new construction materials and techniques, and the benefits of working with a plumber who understands the challenges of new construction systems.
When your ad goes into the phone book, will it turn some people off? You bet. People who have pre-war businesses and Victorian homes probably won’t call. But your large-scale, big-paying, new construction business will increase dramatically. Why?
You’re the specialist. To all the other plumbers, new construction is a side line. No builder or homeowner who has sunk hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars into a property wants to work with companies who consider their business a side line. They want someone who knows their situation inside and out. They want an expert, and they’ll pay more for that expert.
The Many Ways
In the plumber story, you were positioned by the type of work you do, new home construction. In reality, there are many ways to position your company: by audience, product, feature, benefit, guarantee, process, attitude, style of doing business, and on. Each helps you stake out a business territory all your own.
Mark’s positioning process takes two weeks, and is broken into six steps:
1. He emails you detailed questionnaires, which you complete and return. These questionnaires ask you to discuss your goals, company structure, business model, clients, products, pricing, offers, competitors, points of differentiation, promises to the market, revenue streams, messaging.
2. He reviews your websites, articles, books, and any other documents that might give him insight into you, your markets, and what triggers your customers’ buying decisions.
3. Then, it’s on to interviews. He talks at length with you and, if necessary, your colleagues, customers, and suppliers. You and he can do these interviews by phone and email, but, if possible, he prefers to visit you. When Mark’s on site, he sometimes get impressions about your company which you might miss (that’s one of the advantages of hiring an outsider).
4. He presents you with his research, which you discuss, and he recommends a position for your company, based upon what he’s discovered about you, your work, your competition, and the marketplace.
5. You and he create the language tools which support your position, including a Value Proposition and a back story.
6. He presents you with a 5-7 page report, clearly summarizing what you’ve created. In the report, you get your positioning statement, Value Proposition, back story, a pitch, and ideas about how to use your position as a way to drive enthusiasm for, and sales to, your company.
A few things to note:
What you and Mark talk about is confidential.
This process works because it’s collaborative. What you come up with truly reflects you and your audience. When you’re finished, you’ll not only have a position for your company, you’ll also be able to explain why you have that particular position, and how you’re going to use it to make a splash in the market.
At the end of the positioning process, you’ll have all the information you need to make your company or product into a powerful brand. However, should you want to keep Mark on as an implementation advisor, you can do so on a retainer basis. Mark has six-month and year-long retainer programs.
A Strong Position Guides Your Prospects And You
A marketplace position tells prospects why they should hire you, and how you should move. It’s Magnetic North for your business.
Your Position Attracts The People Who Count
A position attracts the right people — those who share your view, think your ideas strong, and have money enough to bring you onboard. Your positioning and key messages act as selectors.
Words Mean Money
Look at the big-name consultants. How do we know they’re brilliant? It’s their words, which we’ve read in their books and heard in their speeches. The proper words have tremendous monetary value. Every company should work hard at finding the right words to describe their offerings. Those words will stop prospects who would have kept walking, and convert them into customers and fans.
Style Is As Important As Content
People won’t pay attention unless your marketing messages are entertaining. Does that mean an entertaining style wins over meaningful content? No, it means style can be as important as content. Style can influence content. Style affects people’s understanding of content.
Persuasion Is Based On Simple Principles
A persuasive message is based on reliable communication principles. For instance, people want to hear about themselves first, you second. Therefore, begin your sales message by calling attention to your prospects’ pain. Demonstrate that you know exactly what’s bothering them, and how they’re losing sleep over it. Then, and only then, do you deliver your remedy.
Get People To See The Value In What You Do
You can have the best product in the world, but if the audience doesn’t understand how it’ll benefit them, you might as well be selling dust. Never assume people understand your service and benefits. You must spell things out. Make all your implicit benefits explicit. Work at building value. One of the best ways to build value is to figure out the dollars and cents surrounding your service. How much will your clients lose if they don’t use you? How much extra will they make? Figure out all the permutations and parade them.
Let People Know You Want To Do Business
You may not want to come across as a hardcore pitchman, but the persuasive element in your messages must be strong. After all, you’re running a business. Your prospects understand this. You need revenue to survive. To play it coy and pretend you don’t want the sale is duplicitous.