How Can I Improve the Positioning of My Business?

Michelle Hunter by Michelle Hunter

Positioning is telling the story of your business to people who both understand your value and need what you provide.

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If you’re asking this question, you know something is wrong. No matter how hard you try to market your business, you just aren’t getting results. We’ve all been there… myself included. The problem is positioning.

It’s frustrating when no one seems to respond to your message. Sure, people visit your website from time to time, but they don’t stay long. Your list isn’t growing. Your offers aren’t converting. People visit, but they don’t take action.

Or, maybe you get inquiries from the wrong kinds of people. The projects offered don’t fit your skills.  The budget isn’t there to really invest in your services. Potential clients ask a lot of questions but don’t seem clear about what you do or the value you provide. You feel defeated and unable to differentiate yourself in the market.

Something’s not right and you don’t know what it is… but I do. The problem is positioning.

What is positioning, anyway?

According to Wikipedia, positioning is a marketing strategy that aims to make a brand occupy a distinct position, relative to competing brands, in the mind of a customer. Not sure what that means? You’re not alone. There are several competing theories about positioning… and lots of experts contributing to the noise.

Let’s make this simple, okay?

Positioning is telling the story of your business (your products and services) to people who both understand your value and need what you provide.

Positioning is about creating attraction between you and the right people- the ones who will eagerly work with you. It’s about grabbing their attention and giving them exactly what they need right when they need it… and delivering it in the way they prefer.

Those ideal client exercises we all try a time or two? Those are actually about positioning. They are designed to help you narrow your marketing focus and get clear on the motivations and preferences of the people who are the best fit for your expertise and ability. Why narrowing the field? Because marketing to everyone is actually marketing to no one.

If your positioning isn’t right, things will feel wrong in your business. Potential clients won’t seem to understand what you do no matter how well you explain. Why? Because you will attract people who need a slight variant on your expertise. Not the best fit.

Your packages and offers will feel misaligned or improperly priced. People will question your process. They will want services you could provide but typically don’t offer. They will ask if you can do your best work faster or with a smaller budget or in a different context. Pinchy… like borrowing shoes from a close friend.

Positioning issues make us doubt ourselves. We consider adjusting our services or adapting our offers. We might even consider a corporate job or a big retainer that will put an end to our entrepreneurial freedom. Here’s the thing… you aren’t the problem. The problem is positioning.

Why is positioning so difficult?

Positioning is like buying a wedding dress. You have an image of perfection in your mind; one you created by pouring over bridal magazines in your teen years or watching weddings in your favorite movies. (Stick with me guys…) The point is you know exactly what you want.

At least until you start to shop. Then things get pretty confusing. So many options, but nothing exactly like your dreams.

Moments like this get discouraging pretty quickly. (Especially when they don’t have anything in your size so they use those clamp things to hold you together. You feel fat and ugly… and the mascara starts to run. Oh, I digress…)

The discouraging moments are actually why we bring our friends on the dress hunt. Because we need encouragement and objective opinions. We need reassurance. We need permission to be who we really are and wear the dress we love. Positioning is just like this. Trust me.

You have a vision for your business. You’ve cherished it and thought about it. Over time you’ve refined your vision, maybe even created a business plan and gotten serious about investments and funding. Branding might have happened in there somewhere, along with creating marketing material and offers and packages.

But when the time came to put your best foot forward, maybe things got a bit confusing. You started to question… and you started to hesitate.

Because…

  • There’s a formula everyone follows, so maybe you should too…
  • No one else is doing what you’re super good at… so maybe it won’t work…
  • You might not be able to actually provide real value after all…
  • Um, well… you’re starting to feel a little quirky or nerdy or odd…

So you settle. You look at the competition and panic a bit. Rather than tell the story of your business, you tell a general story… and sprinkle a little of yourself in there just for fun. You position your business like many others out there and it just doesn’t work. Because it’s not you. It’s like wearing someone else’s dress.

Want to fix your positioning? Get some perspective.

Positioning is about knowing who you are and how you’re different and then determining how those differences add value to the marketplace. Once you are crystal clear on this, you can adjust your marketing approach and messaging to position yourself in alignment with what you’ve discovered.

Seems simple, but it’s pretty difficult to figure out on your own. Why? You’re simply too close to be objective. We all need perspective in order to figure this stuff out correctly.  Here are some ways you can get it:

  • Get a little help from your friends. Select a few people who know you pretty well and are willing to be honest and candid. Get them to read your website content and messaging, then ask questions. Ask people who know you well if they can hear your voice in their heads when they read. If they can’t, you might be trying too hard to be someone you’re not.
  • Find your Fascination Advantage. If you haven’t heard of Sally Hogshead and Fascinate, you need to visit www.howtofascinate.com (nope, I’m not an affiliate – just a true believer.) Take the free brand assessment. This isn’t just another personality test. Your fascination advantage is the secret sauce that attracts people to you and your business. It’s YOU from your customer’s perspective and it’s marketing gold.
  • Grab your journal. Yep, it’s time to get real with yourself. What is your vision? How do you REALLY want to show up in the marketplace? Write it all down, then read it over. Ask yourself why you’re holding back.

Time to look in the mirror and take a real, objective look. There are patterns in what you know in your heart and what your friends tell you. There’s truth in your Fascination Advantage. And most importantly, there are ways to overcome the challenges that hold you back and make you hesitate.

Are you a leader in a larger organization or a business owner with a trusted core team by your side? Don’t skip these steps because you think they only apply to entrepreneurs. Adjusting your positioning requires a similar deep dive of introspection if you want to get it right. I recommend you…

  • Evaluate customer/client feedback. What do your clients value most about the way you serve them? What results do you create? What elements of your work together are essential for achieving those results? Notice where the value lives for your customers. Are you positioned with this at the center of your brand promise?
  • Evaluate how your brand attracts customers. The Fascinate Brand Assessment is a good tool for this, but there are others as well. They key here is to stop thinking about what you want to convey to the market and instead consider what your best customers and clients find appealing about you. This subtle shift can make your positioning more nuanced and impactful.
  • Gather your key people together and reflect. What is the mission of this organization? What is your vision for the future? Explore the factors that inspire the people on your team to do their best work. Bring your offers into alignment with these factors.

Positioning is telling the story of your business in a way that is simple, authentic, and compelling.

Step out boldly to align your business with the work you do best. Discover the core strengths you bring to the market- the essential element of your brand. Then tell your story in a way that is simple, clear, and unapologetic. When you are brave enough to stand in that position, you will draw the right people to your business.

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