This series springs out of an extended interview that CED's Jason H. Parker conducted with Chapin, and will cover topics on positioning your business to stand out as unique, crafting a successful go-to-market strategy, building a content-marketing strategy that works, and how to develop a working strategy with only 1-2 hours of dedicated time per week. We start with this week's contribution, "How Does an Entrepreneur Position Their Business to Be Unique?"
How Does an Entrepreneur Position Their Business to Be Unique?
Positioning is one of the most important things you can do for an early-stage business. Positioning helps you stand out as being unique – “a universe of one.” What most entrepreneurs don’t realize, however, is that if they position their organization properly, the core focus of the business will be narrow – they can’t be a “universe of one” and still be “all things to all people.” While a narrow focus means that competition will be reduced, it also means that they should not be soliciting any opportunities outside that focus, and eventually will say no to all opportunities that are not a match.
Saying ‘no’ is hard for entrepreneurs, as is limiting the scope of sales possibilities, but at some point in the growth of every company, a decision has to be made, e.g., “THIS is what we will focus on, and nothing else.”
Positioning is difficult in part because it requires seemingly disparate characteristics from the organization and from its leaders. When organizations are researching and choosing a position, wisdom and courage are required to define exactly which opportunities the organization will pursue (and which they will decline). Once a position is chosen, discipline is required to adhere to the path forward. Jim Collins, the author of Good to Great, talks about the “culture of discipline” required to say no to opportunities outside a company’s core focus.
Another reason that positioning is one of the most difficult marketing tasks to accomplish well is because it is difficult to “read the label from inside the jar.” So you need perspective, as well as wisdom, courage and discipline.
Without a clear position, however, marketing efforts will be ineffective. Each and every marketing activity you undertake communicates your position to your audiences. Lack of clarity in your position leads to lack of clarity in your messages, which leads to lack of clarity in the minds of the audience. It’s all connected.
If it was easy, everyone would do it
There’s an old adage, “If it was easy, everyone would do it,” which is definitely true when it comes to figuring out a clear positioning. Here are a few tips to ease your efforts.
1. Take the time to clarify your position. Write it down. (Need a template? Download Forma's)
2. Try to condense your position into a short phrase: “Oh we’re the ones that ________________.”
- The point of this exercise is not the shortness of the phrase, it’s that condensing your language forces the discipline to think clearly about your position, and to define this position unequivocally.
3. Test your position against our 7 criteria for effective positioning:
a. Clear – that is, understandable by your target audiences
b. Unique – different from your competitor’s statement
c. Authentic – aligned with who you are (or who you are committed to becoming)
d. Sustainable – oriented towards the long term.
e. Important – valuable to your target audiences
f. Believable – verifiable before purchase (or at least credible)
g. Compelling – capable of motivating changes in attitudes, beliefs or behaviors.
4. Articulate your position clearly in your messages and your brand/story.
5. Research the position and the messages to ensure that is it Important, Believable and Compelling to your most important audiences.
Spreading the Message to Your Team
1. Make sure everyone in your organization understands your position. If you ask them, they should be able to tell you, “Oh we’re the ones that ___________.”
2. Once your position is defined, seek ways to continuously reinforce it in the minds of your internal and external audiences. Consistency is key at this stage.
3. Get help, if you need it. As you can imagine, creating a clear definition of your position is often challenging. Don’t be afraid to engage someone who can help you “read your label,” or better, help get you out of the jar! There are three areas in which firms commonly seek help:
a. Facilitation – guiding your team through the process.
b. Articulation – creating elements of your brand/story (your trademark, your tagline, your name, your messages, your ‘look and feel’) to clearly articulate your position.
c. Research – gathering data from potential customers to inform your decisions.
Guest Post is authored by David Chapin, CEO of Forma, a CED Member. David Chapin has a Bachelor’s degree in Physics from Swarthmore College and a Master’s degree in Design from NC State University. He is the CEO of Forma, which provides strategic and tactical marketing services to life science companies (formalifesciencemarketing.com)as well as medical device development services (formamedicaldevicedevelopment.com). David is author of the forthcoming book “The Marketing of Science: Making the Complex Compelling.”