A positioning strategy is the position you occupy in the minds of your prospects and customers.
As a start-up, you have the awesome power to define that position from scratch. For an existing business you need to know your current position before you can plan how to change it.
First some background…
Thirteen months ago I started an internet marketing company.
My expertise and experience were in IT, mechanical engineering (BS from Kettering University), technology consulting, small business management (which I learned at the first business I acquired), and then a bit of business brokerage.
So starting an internet marketing business seemed like the best way to leverage all of those experiences, right? Right?
In fact it was…
First, I had to understand what would make my business and team unique.
Why would someone hire a computer-geek, mechanical engineer, entrepreneurial-junky to generate leads online instead of maybe someone with actual experience marketing?
In those words it actually sounds somewhat ridiculous. (Now that we’ve repeatedly proven our team can outperform anyone we’ve come across in internet marketing for service businesses, I’m finally fessing up.)
Here are the steps I took to position ourselves uniquely in the market as a start-up going up against multi-million dollar teams with more years of experience than I had years breathing.
- Study your competition – Know what they do, why they do it, and how they communicate.
- Study yourself – What does my team have that no one else does? What problems can we truly solve?
- Study your target market – If possible, survey them. What is important to them? What annoys them? What one thing would most help them?
Now take all of that information and formulate your Positioning Strategy. Your Positioning Strategy is the BIG PICTURE of what people will think of when they think of you.
It’s the stake you drive into the sand that separates you from everyone else.
If you don’t know what makes you unique, your customer’s don’t know either.
Know Your Competition
Our competition fell into 2 primary segments… Web Developers and Ad Agencies.
By reading through their websites, reviewing their marketing, and talking with their customers, it was quite obvious that they both positioned themselves basically the same way.
They focused on:
- Advertising Awards
- Cleverness of phrases and headlines
- Decades of Experience in the above
- Measuring success objectively by the client’s appreciation of the design
It was obvious we could not possibly beat them at their own game. Instead, we defined our Position in the marketplace as:
- Results Driven
- Analytical (we use the scientific method not popular opinion)
- Systems focused
- Constantly testing to learn what works. (We openly admit we don’t have all the answers while pointing out that no one does.)
- More experience where it mattered (in the industry and with a new marketing medium)
- Success measured subjectively by the number of increased leads
As engineers, we could present a completely new skillset that was perfectly aligned with the internet marketing world. For the first time in history, we can test and optimize ALMOST EVERYTHING. Headlines, pictures, offers, videos, buttons, and calls-to-action can all be tested.
None of our current competitors knew the power of testing, or they simply weren’t communicating that they did, so we positioned ourselves against them to highlight our unique skillset.
Hence our (thoroughly tested) business name, Optimized-Marketing.com.
- Engineer- This has numerous advantages in the world of internet marketing.We understand how to setup scientifically sound split-tests for Google Ads, landing pages, and other online marketing.
- We are trained to build systems to solve problems. The problem is you need more leads and the solution we built is Traffic, Conversion, and Follow-up. Notice I didn’t say it’s about websites or SEO or Social Media. All of those things can change… But the system to leverage all of them may only need slight adjustments to keep up.
- We love numbers. Of course you can’t measure absolutely everything, but we can measure a whole lot more than most marketers will ever tell you.
- We focus on the outcome. Ever watch an episode of the Big Bang Theory? Engineers dislike fluffy, opinionated people. Until you show us the results, we don’t believe anything you say. That obsession with results, in the form of generating leads, makes us quite unique.
- GM’s in the industry – I’m one of you! Amanda and I can identify with our target customer’s struggles because we’ve both been General Managers in the water treatment industry. Identifying with their struggles goes a long way in building trust.
- Technology consultant – Experience doesn’t matter when the technology is brand new. Every time a new marketing medium like Adwords, Facebook, or YouTube comes out, we’re all back to square one. So, even though I had less marketing experience, I had a lot more experience using technology to improve businesses. Which is EXACTLY what we do.
- Obsession with motorcycles – A lot of our target market, small business owners, are men with an appreciation for cars and motorcycles. I’m about 10 steps beyond fascination to full out obsession so I often use that connection to become more memorable. On a regular basis I hear things like, “Oh yeah, you’re the motorcycle guy.”
You have to keep in mind that, in a small business, building your “brand” is as much about your corporate positioning strategy as it is about how people perceive you personally.
Know Your Target Customer
If you actively do this, you are one in a hundred businesses… Maybe one in a thousand.
If you want to know your target customer, <drum roll please> simply ask them what’s important to them!
Here are a few ideas:
- Ask your customers AND prospects what’s important to them, including the prospects who don’t buy. Don’t forget to ask the ones who don’t even take the time to contact you why they didn’t contact you.
- Track ALL customer complaints to Fix, Review, and Follow-up with them. Only about 1 in 8 customers who have an issue will complain about it so treat those complaints like gold. There are few better ways to learn how you can make it easier for customers to do business with you.
- Use surveys to ask the same question the same way. In other words, hearing 10 customers say similar things 10 different ways is not the same as their quantitative response to the question on a 1-5 scale.
How did we learn about our target customer?
I joined the trade organization of our target market to get access to our target customers’ emails and, instead of sending out an email saying “buy from me,” I sent out a survey.
The survey was a free tool for businesses within the industry to benchmark their marketing plans against other businesses within the same industry. All for free. Whether they were interested in our help or not, it was a great value to the market.
That’s how I got my first 4 clients.
My first few emails never even told them what I did or how I could help. I simply asked them where they needed help and then built a business around those needs.
The net result of a strong positioning strategy is that you become so unique, you literally don’t have any more competition. No one can compete with you because you don’t offer the same products or services as anyone else.
So, what is your Positioning Strategy ? If you don’t have one yet, when are you making the time (open your calendar and schedule it now) to create one?
To better positioning yourself for success, Bryan
P.S. We rarely try to convince prospects that our position is correct. If you prefer catchy branding over continually-optimized, results-driven marketing then we don’t really want you as a client.