How many of these words show up on your website?
All good things, right? All things potential customers want to hear, right?
Guess what: every other firm out there thinks so, too. They have the same words splashed all over their websites. The result is an endless list of identical firms, all fighting over the same pool of prospects with the same message.
And when prospects are forced to choose from multiple identical firms, what ultimately drives their decisions? Price. Location. How friendly a firm’s team photos look.
In other words: things that shouldn’t matter. Things that have nothing to do with whether a firm will actually do a good job. Things that translate into low-paying, low-loyalty, high-maintenance clients, and under-appreciated, unmotivated, high-turnover firms.
Here’s the reality: modern clients aren’t clamouring for another full-service “customer focused” firm. They’re looking for the firm that can do the specific thing they need best.
You need to be better. To start, you need a solid positioning statement that will attract and serve the right clients.
Why your current positioning isn’t working
Lots of firms have convinced themselves that they are well positioned and highly differentiated, but that’s just not the case.
Tim Williams, author of Positioning for Professionals, recently asked a group of professional service firms and their clients whether their offerings were “highly differentiated.”
80% of companies’ executives said YES, we are highly differentiated.
…only 8% of their clients agreed.
One client shared this: “I wish that agencies would stick to what they are good at. They try to do everything, and they would be better served to narrow their focus. You can’t do everything, and if you try to do everything, you do nothing.”
The most successful firms are clear on what they do very well and what they don’t do at all. They have a unique positioning statement that clearly defines their narrow focus, and they stick to it.
It’s time to get clear about who you are and what you do—both for your own sake and for your clients’.
What is a positioning statement?
A positioning statement explains what you do, who you help (and who you don’t), and how you do what you do. It defines which clients, services, and industries you specialize in, firmly attaching you to a specific niche and removing you from all others. It’s a blueprint that will help you stop blindly pandering to the masses and start attracting the clients you actually want.
An effective positioning statement will lead to better business decisions and smarter marketing strategies. It will lay out a clear plan to reduce competition, increase your win rate, and bring in more sophisticated clients that fit your firm’s ethos.
How do you write a good one?
Creating your firm’s positioning statement isn’t just another marketing exercise to dash out on a slow afternoon. If you do it right, it will completely transform the way you do business.
Before you can write your positioning statement, you need to evaluate your existing business strategy. Figure out what you do best, so you can build upon those strengths and separate from the weaknesses.
Your business strategy is rooted in Three Pillars:
Once you get these three areas cemented, you can carve out a niche in the industry to call your own.
(Does this sound completely terrifying? If so, you’re on the right track.)
Step 1. Identify your Deep Expertise
Your Deep Expertise is your core competency: what your firm does really, really well, and what your firm enjoys doing. (Usually there’s a direct corellation.)
When firms excel in a specific area, they can charge a premium for their unique expertise and more easily instill trust in their clients.
This isn’t about what makes you the most money or what you can easily contract out to the lowest bidder. You want to find the strengths that define your firm. Usually, they already exist—you just need to recognize and embrace them.
Try this: have everyone on your senior team answer the following questions separately.
- What problems do we most enjoy solving?
- What projects are we most passionate about?
- What are our most outstanding capabilities?
- What specialized expertise do we have that nobody else has?
- What could we create that no one else offers?
Analyze the responses, looking for overlap. You might be surprised by how focused your firm’s strengths already are.
Once you’ve identified your Deep Expertise, you’ll know exactly which services you should be offering, and which ones you’re wasting your time on.
Step 2. Identify your Proven Experience
Your ultimate goal is to find a market that is ripe for disruption—an underserved market. These markets bring in high margin projects, with few competitors, and hopefully fit within the experience you already have.
As you’ve been building up clients and experience, you may have had some big wins. Proven Experience will be the sum of those case studies you can point to to show your authority in an industry, market or niche.
When considering where your proven experience lies, think about your ideal client. If you could fire all your bad clients (you know, the ones that create friction with every project and working with them is like pulling teeth) who would be left standing? Go through your client base and highlight firms you love working with – not just those that are most lucrative. Which projects take the least time for the best payoff? Which clients respect your firm’s guidance and give you the least pushback?
If nothing fits with the underserved market you have your eyes on, that’s okay. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go after that market – it just means that you need to build expertise in that market as fast as you can. Filling in gaps in your Proven Experience is a great strategy to cementing your positioning.
Step 3. Consider your Unique Perspective
Your Unique Perspective is the secret sauce that makes you, you. It’s everything from the values and perspectives you bring to the table, to the creative processes that make you stand out from everyone else. This defines the passion only you can bring to a project. In order for a positioning statement to be genuine, it needs to embrace your Unique Perspective or the “how” you work. If not, you’ll feel like you’re wearing someone else’s clothes.
To find your Unique Perspective, ask yourself the following:
- What unique approaches do we have that distinguish us from our competitors?
- What methods and approaches do we bring to the table that nobody else offers?
- What are our core beliefs regarding organization, work environment, and structure?
- What is one core value that our firm will never budge on?
- What do we stand for?
Step 4. Find where the Three Pillars intersect
Once you’ve decided on your three pillars, you’ll need to find the sweet spot where they intersect. This happy place is where you’ll succeed above all the other players in the game. Think – Michael Jordan as a basketball superstar, not Michael Jordan as a baseball player (or frankly, an actor…).
Take all the best attributes you have written down on paper from the first three steps and combine them into a crystal clear positioning statement. Your positioning language needs to do three things:
- Explain what you do
- State who you help
- Define your why us?
“Madtown Agency provides positioning strategies and strategic web experiences for professional service firms, because we’re passionate about great design and problem solving.”
Step 5. Evaluate the strength of your positioning statement
Your positioning statement will be the foundation for every decision going forward – you don’t just want to one and done it. Once you’ve got your first draft written down, start evaluating how well it will serve you.
Stress test it against your top competitors. Look at what they are saying, and honestly ask yourself what differentiates you from them. If the answer is nothing, you haven’t created a winning position statement yet – and it’s back to the drawing board.
Ultimately, you should be accomplishing the main goal we set out in the beginning. Is your positioning statement reducing competition, increasing your win rate, and attracting better, more sophisticated clients? Well-positioned firms will continue to outsell competitors, even while charging more for the same services. This is the joy of working in your sweet spot.
- Does our positioning differentiate us from our competitors, and successfully embody our deep expertise, proven experience, and unique perspective?
- Does our positioning clearly reflect our passions and our area of expertise?
- Do we clearly understand who our best clients are? Do we know how to appeal to them?
- Do we avoid descriptors like “full service,” and market our core strengths instead?
- With this positioning strategy, do we stand for something?
Most of the people who read this blog post will shy away from making any of the changes we suggest. They will share the post to their networks but continue broadcasting their full service agency to the world, appealing to the lowest common denominator. It’s terrifying to seriously evaluate your business and create a no-nonsense positioning statement that will change the way you market yourself. But defining what your firm stands for in the featureless world of full service clones will make you stand out for being uniquely you. Creating a positioning statement means winning business on your own terms. And that’s worth putting in some work for.