Positioning your firm correctly is fundamental to generating the right type of business, getting paid more for what you do, and establishing enduring relationships. It's so much more than wordsmithing the right set of words.
Great positioning conveys the impact you have on your clients' businesses.
You don't win more of your ideal clients by explaining how you're different from the competition. You win more of your ideal clients by explaining why you're the best choice for that client.
Casting a wider net is the hard and uncertain way to grow. The smart way to grow zeros in on why your best clients select you above other options.
Clients you win this way are cheaper to get, easier to please, and more profitable. And, even if you ccharge more, you're nearly impossible to displace.
Most people—especially marketing consultants and agencies—tell you positioning is telling the market how your firm is "different" or "unique." The truth is, potential clients don't care how you're different. They care about why you are a better choice for their situation, their needs, and their resources. The most effective way to demonstrate you are the best choice is to talk about the benefits to the client's business from working with your firm.
It's easy to be different. Knowing the reasons your best clients select your firm requires seeing the world through their eyes. That's a lot harder. For professionals with technical or specialized expertise, distilling it themselves may be impossible. It's hard because it's not why you would select your firm. Not why clients ought to select your firm. It's why they actually select your firm.
Is Your Marketing Working Against You?
A well-established firm dialed up sales and marketing efforts when revenue plateaued. The greater investment and spend failed to translate into more project wins. Most distressingly, their ratio of wins to proposals actually fell. Doubling-down on what produced results in the past wasn't working. They didn't know what to do.
It turns out their marketing was actually working against them. They emphasized experience and competence. They made the shortlist as the “safe option," but there’s no money in that.
Taking the time to learn how and where their best customers see value caused them to focus on the projects where they excelled and to clearly communicate why they are better than other options for these customers. Accepting that most other firms also do quality work freed them to concentrate on where there is a real difference. The results were dramatic.
Branding is what other people say about your firm when you aren't around. Positioning is what you say to the market. Your brand is important, but you can't control your brand. Positioning is not "branding." Positioning that isn't strongly aligned with your brand comes across as salesy and self-serving.
No one else has the same relationships you have with your clients. Distilling this allows us to express your secret sauce in powerful and accurate positioning. Getting there takes in-depth interviews with your clients, but the payoff is huge.
The payoff for nailing your positioning is a shorter sales cycle, clients that talk less about price, and the ability to identify and win more of your best clients.
Unlike poker, it's not cheating to deal yourself the hand you want. Substance matters. Fancy or colorful language doesn't lead to better positioning. Excellent positioning seems obvious once you find it. But finding it takes work. Much of the challenge of finding the clarity that allows you to be concise.
Bobby Robertson, CEO, HealthCareFirst