Positioning 3 of 5: My business cheat code

In the last article, we covered the core principle behind Positioning: Desirable Contrast.

In this article, I'll translate “Desirable” into something more tangible. We’ll show you how to start piecing together the positioning puzzle. To do that, I’ll share with you my business cheat code.

It’s something so simple that most people tend to overlook it.

Yet, it’s often a powerful way to solve business problems.

Let’s dive in.

The 3Ws Framework

To solve the positioning puzzle, we’ll have to put on our detective hats and explore the 3Ws:

  • Who (they are)
  • What (they want)
  • When (context)

Get these right, and you’ll have everything you need to create your unique positioning.

But to accomplish that, you’ll have to do what most people don’t:

Talk to your ideal clients on the phone.

I know, I know…

Calling clients might get you out of your comfort zone, and it’s much easier just to use a survey tool.

But trust me. There’s no better way to find insights than calling your clients. That’s why I call it my business cheat code.

Plus you’re not only looking for their answers. You also want to hear how they answer you. The frustration in their voice. The joy. The excitement. The skepticism.

The devil is in the details.

Now to make it super practical for you, Liam and I are going to dive into each “W” with examples to help you see it in action.

The two examples we’ll focus on are:

Liam's example and Gianni's example

Let’s start with the simplest:

Who (they are)

Imagine this scenario:

The tool Canva has just been launched and they are targeting designers.

But after a few months, they are struggling to grow:

Designers keep asking for more features, but as soon as they hear the word “price”, they run away.

Then someone at Canva decides to call their most active users. And when asked about their job title, a surprising trend emerges: most of them were Social Media Managers.

The benefit of Canva was ease and simplicity. They thought this was what designers wanted. But it turned out that Social Media Managers were the ones who craved it.

You see how something as basic as a “job title” can make or break a business in this case?

But “job title” is just one part of diving into “Who” you’re marketing to.

During the client interview, you should also ask:

  • Their age
  • Their gender
  • Their industry
  • The age of their business
  • Business size (people and revenue)
  • Geography of them and their clients

If we consider our two examples, this is what the answers would look like:

Construction lead gen and Brand consulting firms

What (they want)

One of my clients is growing so fast right now that he’s hiring 30+ employees every month.

That means he needs to hire fast without compromising on quality.

Because of this, he’s willing to invest a decent amount of money in a hiring service that not only gets him good employees but also guarantees that it happens fast.

Speed of delivery is an example of a “What” component in positioning. Other examples are:

  • Emotions: Privacy-focused to keep your information safe.
  • Volume X Quality: 10,000 generic leads or 100 qualified leads.
  • Wide X Narrow: Cover all social media channels or only Twitter.
  • Customisation X One-size fits all: Strategy-oriented or method-oriented.
  • Customer service: Account manager for each client or chat support.
  • Payment options: Fixed fee, Pay based on performance, or hybrid.

The way to uncover these, again, is to ask the right questions:

  • What do you use our product for?
  • What were your expectations when you started using it?
  • How would you convince a friend to use our product?

For our two examples, we’d expect to collect the following insights:

Construction lead gen and Brand consulting firms 2

When (context)

A talented software engineer gets a promotion and becomes a manager.

He has just changed from an “executioner” to a “leadership” role. The skills and traits necessary for this new phase of his career are completely different. And he’s about to experience a challenging transitional period.

If I was a business coach, targeting “new leaders” as part of my positioning would be a smart move in this case.

When you look at your clients’ context, you might discover that they’re going through a key change in their career, life, or business.

And that can make a huge difference in how you position your business.

The question then becomes: “What key changes my ideal client is going through?”

To help you figure this out, here are a few questions:

  • What’s the biggest challenge you’re currently facing?
  • Can you tell me about a recent episode where you felt frustrated?
  • If you could change one thing in your business/life/career today, what would that be?

These should shed some light on the current changes they’re going through.

We dug deeper into our examples and here’s what we found:

Construction lead gen and Brand consulting firms 3

Piecing together the positioning puzzle

Now that you’ve collected these insights for the 3Ws, it’s time to piece them together.

But to do so, remember what we discussed in the last article: Positioning is pointless without “contrast.” You don’t want to look like everybody else and end up as a commodity in a crowded market.

So in the next article we’re going to cover how to take these insights and create “contrast.”

We’re getting close to the gold.

A note: This article was a joint collaboration between Gianni Cara and myself. Gianni is a clear and masterful thinker when it comes to positioning. I highly recommend his newsletter (which you can subscribe to here).

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