If you are well positioned in business, you will be able to charge more; reduce your cost of sale; let go of those low profit, poor-fit clients; better articulate who you are and what you stand for; be clearer about who you need to recruit; attract more profitable, good-fit customers; get more referrals for the right sort of work… The list goes on.
So how do you position your business?
- First, you choose a focus and a niche for your business
- Then you articulate that focus clearly – and back it up consistently with real and valid claims of expertise
- Then you work hard to support and grow that focus – take on the right clients, recruit the right people, develop and train them in the right areas, learn about the relevant industries, make connections in the right places.
Simply put, positioning is your business strategy – it’s just a slightly different way of thinking about it.
12 questions to find out if your business is well positioned
One easy way to assess your positioning is to ask yourself the 12 questions below. If you answer YES to all or most of them, then you’re doing very well. You know why you exist, your clients know what value you bring and everyone involved is clear on what differentiates you from the competition.
If the answers to most or all of them are NO, then maybe now’s the time to think about making some changes.
(By the way, these questions are most relevant for firms selling higher value professional services in a B2B environment. But tweak a few words and it works for consumer businesses too….)
- Pricing is a factor that correlates directly with the availability of alternatives. Can you charge a price premium compared to your competitors?
- Do you find it easy to build a list of your prospects?
- Is this prospect list small enough to feel manageable from a new business perspective?
- Do you have clear and defined criteria which describe your ideal prospects?
- Look at the alternatives one of your prospects could use – your competitors. Now change their logos, locations, images and some of the supporting words on their websites. Are you still sure you are different from them?
- Do you feel comfortable turning down work or clients that don’t fit?
- Do you know clearly who those clients that don’t fit are?
- Can everyone in your business easily articulate exactly who you can help? And how and why you can help them?
- Can your clients easily explain to others who should buy from you and why? (You can always ask them this question directly in a customer survey).
- If you ran a breakfast briefing for your clients and prospects, is it really easy to know what you would talk about?
- And could you use in-house expertise to present that talk?
- Do you know who you really need to recruit next? And why?
Imagine yourself answering YES to all of those questions – and then set yourself the challenge of structuring your business, improving one area at a time, so that you can.
Where to start with positioning yourself?
Assuming you’ve been trading for a few years at least, first look at your history. What were your success stories? Who were your best clients and where did you add the most value? Your most profitable clients? Why was that? What did you enjoy doing the most? What sectors have these good stories typically come from? What do your ‘good’ clients have in common
These sorts of questions – and there’s plenty more – will lead you to answers that you can begin to stitch together to see where your real story, your real expertise and value, lies. You may find unexpected depth in a vertical market, a rich seam of work connected by a certain nature of client. You may have to dig deep to find the common ground, and it may not be as obvious as you’d like it to be.
Helping you find your niche
You can kick-start your thinking by looking at these three areas.
- Sectors and verticals
- Do you have experience in a particular vertical market or sector? This may feel narrow to begin with but it’s important to recognise the potential depth and breadth within a vertical. For example, if your expertise is in the health and care sector, this could include working with businesses who sell into the NHS, or private hospitals, or care homes. Your healthcare industry knowledge and understanding may be highly valuable and prized by this group – but they may not describe themselves as being part of the healthcare sector.
- Products and services
- The gold standard here is in providing a product or service which no-one else provides, nor can easily imitate. But this is rare, and typically translates into a first-mover advantage as competitors start to appear. By keeping up with technology, trends and innovations; you can stay ahead of the pack and maintain differentiation. Look at what you do best, and work out ways to stay best.
- Size, nature, values
- Do you give the best value to corporates, SMEs, the third sector or sole traders? Are you a truly good fit with the global FTSE 500 blue-chips, UK based charities, or regional firms? Do your values clash or compliment a particular type or size of client?
And your niche is….
Now draw a Venn diagram of these three areas. If you can be confident you are the only firm – or one of a very few firms – offering your services to a specific type of organisation in a particular sector – then you have your niche. You have your focus. Your have your positioning. But before you get out and start shouting from the rooftops …
Now comes the hardest bit: a definite commitment to your positioning and focus.
Whether your story is already strong or just starting to build, you commit to support it. You train your people in it, you network in and around it, you learn from it, you live it and breathe it, you recruit in order to grow it. You articulate the strengths you do have, and find that particular group of clients – your narrowly defined, easy to identify list of clients and prospects – that will very definitely benefit from what you have to offer.
It will suddenly become a whole lot easier to make a list of prospects; easier to articulate who and how you can help them; easier to price more profitably; easier to find the right people; easier to ask for the right referrals; easier to turn down work….
It should, all in all, become easier to develop and grow your business.
Now go and shout it from the rooftops 🙂