Quick! Take your company's brand, replace it with one of your competitors’, and show it to 10 of your customers.
If they can't tell the difference, it's a telltale sign your market positioning is weak.
Positioning is all about who you say you are in the marketplace to build the types of relationships your business needs for success. Fail to attract the right customers and you fail to gain traction and scale. Left uncorrected, poor positioning reduces your ability to differentiate yourself from the competition — resulting in a “race to the bottom” by slashing prices.
Here is an analogy that everyone can understand: think back to when you were looking for a spouse or partner to spend your life with. Just like positioning for your business, attracting the right person is all about who you say you are.
It can feel a little vulnerable, so I’ll go first and share a view of myself 15 years ago. If I’d have put myself out there in the dating pool primarily as “an adopted, left-handed fellow with blood type O, moderately skilled at computer programming, who previously lived in Paris and whose family works mostly in law enforcement, looking for his perfect match,” that would have probably been a bit too narrow. Nobody is looking for that exact type of person, according to those exact qualities.
The other end of the continuum would be to announce to eligible bachelorettes that I was a “simple guy that likes movies and walks on the beach.” Yawn. That’s too broad and blasé.
For my unique positioning, I needed to share a version of myself along the lines of “a hard working, outdoor enthusiast who enjoys rock climbing, mountainscape photography, and not taking myself too seriously.”
And guess what? That unique positioning worked! I met my wife Mandy and within a few years we married on top of a remote peak in Wyoming’s mountains.
When it comes to business positioning, far too many companies error on the side of too specific or too vague. Which is why your brand needs to be known for more than just a name — it needs to mean something different.
The challenge with positioning, to continue the dating analogy, is that people in your life, solicited or not, will exert their influence on how you should present yourself in your search for that special someone. Advisors are everywhere: friends, family, Cosmopolitan magazine...not to mention all the dating coaches on social media.
No wonder it's hard to find a spouse (let alone your ideal customer). With so many perspectives on the quest for love and connection, who knows who is an expert versus who is just airing their dirty laundry at your expense?
The balance between making everyone happy and doing what is true to you is a delicate balance that requires confidence and self awareness.
Just as with any relationship and marriage, your goals and positioning are going to change as you age. When we first met, my wife and I enjoyed long epic mountain alpine adventures full of thunderstorms and close-calls. Nearly 15 years later, we both own snowmobiles and have entirely different career paths.
In the same way, the positioning your business adopts at the outset will likely change as you refine your product/market fit and learn more about the customers’ problems you solve over time. Be open to the need to redefine, even within the context of the relationship.
That's how our original business, Flood Marketing, became Only Co. just over one year ago. For more than 10 years, Flood Marketing had provided social media marketing solutions to all types of businesses. We learned what made businesses tick, started to see patterns that moved the needle, and experienced what fell short. In addition, we started a handful of our own businesses, including Go Fast Don't Die, and learned how to launch and grow companies.
We realized that we had changed fairly significantly, so we invested in crafting new positioning. Using the Only Exercise, we realigned our messaging and value propositions to match the problems we were solving for clients and customers.
Over a few months, we updated our positioning and rebranded ourselves as Only Co: a business building company that uniquely positions entrepreneurial-minded businesses to win.
At the end of the day, we all need to cultivate the right relationships for our businesses (and marriages) to flourish. While that requires a strong initial definition, it also relies on the ability to accurately redefine yourself as you evolve, to better serve your customer (and partner).
Remember that periodically — often every 3-5 years — most companies will need to spend intentional time re-examining and updating their positioning. Just like investing in your marriage, it isn’t an effortless process, but the outcomes pay dividends down the road.