Look, I get it. We all fall into the daily routine and none of us have the time to go through those marketing exercises you learned back in undergrad.
We’re all way too busy for a little Marketing 101 - Especially since sales grew 10% last year, you got promoted, and the boss is on vacation this week. Whatever we’re doing, it’s working. Let’s not poke the sleeping bear, right?
Except everyone needs a little dose of the fundamentals once in a while. Here's a quick stat for you:
75% of the $1M - $50M businesses we work with have never bothered to define their company’s niche market position.
They can’t answer these simple questions without falling back on bland clichés:
• Who do you want your clients to be?
• Who DON'T you want your clients to be?
• Exactly what solutions do you offer?
• How do your provide those solutions?
• Why do you exist?
Sounds pretty simple right? Believe me, most companies don’t bother with this stuff. Most end up cutting corners by using canned responses like “we focus on customer service” or “we provide the best value in the industry”. Garbage. Nobody cares!
Properly defining a company’s niche market position doesn’t involve vague, meaningless crap.
It’s about coming up with helpful, specific, and precise information that customers want to know. A good strategy review session, with a little bit of focus, will set you apart from the pack immediately. I'm sure of it.
This article goes into the 5 areas leading up to creating your company’s positioning statement. Along the way, you’re guaranteed to think about some stuff that you hadn’t considered in a long time…if ever.
Start with Some Basic Directions
For each of the 5 steps, use the listed questions to help you wrangle up some great ideas in each category. These questions are just guidelines. Nothing is off limits, so let the ideas flow like Donald Trump’s comb-over.
Rule #1: Answer with as much real detail as possible. No copping out with generic language that nobody cares to read.
Rule #2: Dig deep. Be honest with yourself, your company, and areas where you have (or don’t have) opportunity to succeed. Collaborate with your teams.
Rule #3: Set yourself apart. Find areas that make your group unique and really hit them hard. Differentiate like crazy.
Got it? Okay, let’s get started.
1. Evaluate Your Current State of Differentiation
Let’s take a look at just how differentiated you are sitting here today. The goal is to separate yourself from the herd. Avoid the idea of being all things to all people and drill down into some targeted cracks that haven’t been explored.
For example, making the first page of Google for the search term “Car Insurance” isn’t going to be easy. Alternatively, you could quickly rise to #1 for the term “Classic Italian Sports Car Insurance in Scottsdale”. Granted, there aren’t as many searches, but you’ll be the top dog and everyone that comes to your site will be interested in what you’re selling. Here's a link to our SEO Guide ebook if you want more on keyword research, using long-tail keywordsand achieving search engine rankings.
Consider where you stand today with some questions like:
Who are your biggest competitors?
Who is the market leader?
What makes your company unique?
What are your selling points against each main competitor?
Give me 1 -3 sentences about what you stand for and how you differentiate your company currently.
2. What is Your Purpose?
This is the “Why” part of your business model. This area is usually the most important for your customers, but the most neglected by marketers. There’s a whole universe of possible reasons why someone should buy your goods or services…many that aren’t so obvious.
At the end of the day, this is all your prospects ever really care about. Why you?
For example, let’s say you’re a golf pro giving lessons. There are a ton of reasons why people should learn golf…most have nothing to do with golf itself. Most golf pros would assume people take lessons to learn how to hit the ball, cure a slice, or improve their putting. Nope. I've surveyed golf students. They take lessons for bigger reasons than that:
• To meet new people
• To impress colleagues or my boss
• For exercise
• To get outside more often
• To avoid embarrassment at the next charity tournament
• To set an example for my kids
• Because it's FUN!
Here are some good “Why” questions you should take some time answering:
Besides profits, why does your organization exist?
What would people miss if you weren’t around tomorrow?
Why to you go to work every day and why do clients want to work with you?
What value are you delivering specifically?
What specific problems do you solve?
That last one is the big one. Things beyond the nuts and bolts you sell. What do your customers really care about…what are they searching for? That’s the secret to creating content that is music to their ears.
3. Who are Your Best (and Worst) Clients?
This is the “Who” part of the program. Defining who you want as customers is the starting point for marketing altogether. Maybe your model has evolved over time and your target market has shifted a bit. Ours has, many times.
If you haven’t already, check out our template for developing your buyer personas. Buyer personas are fictional representations of the people you are selling to - right down to their age, location and movies they like. Not really, but the more detail the better if you’re trying to create content they’ll fall in love with.
Equally as important is to create negative buyer personas. Figure out who you DON’T want as your customers so that you can cast them aside sooner in the process. Save your time for the best fit customers - whether that’s got to do with finances, attitude or just working with people you like.
Ask yourself these questions to solve for “Who”:
What audience are you hoping to attract?
What types of clients have been most successful in the past?
What traits do they have in common?
Which industries, categories or market segments do they occupy?
What types of clients are the most fun to work with?
What types of clients do you NOT want to work with?
4. Core Competency
Now it’s time for the “What”. Unfortunately, this is the part where most companies begin (and end) their analysis. Focusing on what YOU do and how great YOU are is not only boring as hell for your prospects, but also incredibly ineffective from a marketing standpoint.
Think about your personal relationships (real ones outside of the internet). Everyone knows a guy (let’s call him Steve) who just likes to talk about himself. You’ve heard all the stories about his glory days playing football or how all the girls loved him in high school. He brags all day long, never asks about you, and it wears you out. Don’t be the online version of Steve.
While it’s important to convey your expertise, do it in a way that doesn’t suck (like Steve). Where possible, have others demonstrate your expertise rather than bragging about it yourself. Case studies and testimonials are great for this.
I’m getting ahead of myself - before you start worrying about delivery, ask yourself some good questions:
What goods or services do you offer and what are you expert in?
What do you do better than your competitors?
Which of your goods and services provide the most value to your clients?
If you could only provide one thing, what would it be?
What would your top clients miss the most if your company went away?
5. What's Your Company Culture Like?
Culture is all about the set of beliefs you live by at your company. It’s the “How” you operate as a group fundamentally. Depending on your industry and the nature of your clients, this just might be the most important aspect of your company.
For example, there are lots of people who would never buy cosmetics from a company known for conducting animal testing.
What are the philosophies and methods you follow to service your clients?
Do you have a unique way of thinking or any special work processes?
What is the one thing you would never change about your company?
Will you say “NO” to a prospective client based on your values? For what reasons?
What does it take for someone to succeed as an employee at your company?
Create your Positioning Statement
Using all the brainstorming and notes from the previous 5 steps, now it’s time to summarize what you’re all about. Your positioning statement can serve as your elevator speech, and should serve as a guiding beacon for your marketing and sales decisions.
Fill in the blanks:
We (provide this good/service/value/outcome) for (this type of customer/company/industry/market) by (using this kind of approach) because (why).
Here’s the Web Design Phoenix positioning statement:
“We provide value driven website design for sales oriented companies that are managed by good people - because we believe that a successful online presence requires continual improvement over time, and we don’t want to spend that time with grumpy people.”