Positioning is probably the most important thing you'll do in your consulting business life. People come to you because of their perceptions, and perceptions are created through positioning stories. The right positioning and focus will attract prospects and customers to your door, and keep them coming back.
Positioning tells a story that resonates with your audience.
To be effective in our noisy world - you consulting position must capture all of your value in a clear, succinct story. Most importantly, your story must focus on things that are of interest and important to your customers, with evidence to back it up.
I use three key areas to create positioning - for myself and for my clients. Here's an overview:
1. Gather Compelling Evidence. This is probably the most important part of positioning. Prospects want to see that you've done this kind of work for others - successfully. So collecting all the evidence of your expertise is critical to consulting success. Evidence is also the key to a great story. I talk more about how to find evidence in the next section of this post.
2. Define Your Pivot Points. Compelling, concise message statements create the Pivot Points for your story. I usually have one statement for each area. For a Consultant, these Pivot Points are:
- Your Clients - who you can help
- Your Expertise - the value you bring
- Your Practice Focus - what you have to offer
I'll discuss Pivot Points in detail in Part II of this positioning series.
3. Weave Everything Into a Story. This is where your positioning transforms from concept to real-world. Spin a logical story that features your strengths, your skills and the value you bring - with the evidence to back everything up. I'll discuss how to spin great stories in Part III of this series.
Positioning is an art. The art of positioning spins together the diverse facets that make up who ‘you' are, into personalized stories that resonate with your audience and create interest and credibility - which is the first step toward a trusted relationship.
Gathering Your Evidence
The first step to positioning yourself is to define the core area where you can add the most value as a consultant. You already know what your strongest areas are, so focus on them. Don't try to be something you're not, you can always evolve and expand as you gather more experience and credibility in your practice. But don't define your focus too tightly either. You want room to be flexible as you progress. For example, I started out knowing that I would focus on high technology clients in the marketing and sales arena, my strongest area. I then expanded over time to include corporate and product strategy, then startups and then finally turnaround specialties. As I added clients and was exposed to diverse situations - I learned and my business expanded.
Once you define a focus area - start to collect the evidence that proves your value. I know, most people say to define your position and then evidence against it. But you'd be amazed at the opportunities people miss by ‘closing the door' on new ideas when they immediately position themselves with one or two statements. So I go gather my evidence first. You'd be amazed the thing you unearth that can really work for you!
So where do you go look for evidence? The people around you.
- Start with your current and past customers, or if you're a new consultant, look to your former employers and their customers (if you were customer facing).
- Look at partners and others who you've worked with outside of your company. You can also look to any volunteer work you've done for organizations - from your kid's school to your church to any clubs or organizations that you may have worked with.
- Include your friends and associates who've worked with you - their perceptions are often eye openers since they see you objectively.
Once you gather your sources of evidence - here are some question to ask them, or yourself, about your expertise, your capabilities, your strengths AND your weaknesses. The key is to remember that you're exploring. So as you ask these and other questions, dive deeper and keep exploring. You never know where you'll find that diamond in the rough.
- What do you think are my top 3 strengths - and why?
- What are the top reasons you'd recommend me to a potential consulting client?
- Can you give me some examples of my expertise in action? Can you tell me what value I provided and the results that mattered to you?
- What are the 3 biggest things I CAN'T do well that's part of my focus area? (They'll tell you what to stay away from!)
Ultimately what you're looking for is the proof that you understand their business and how to help them in the areas you chose - demonstrated by real world examples.
Gather your evidence and create a list of all of it, then group it together in clusters of subject matter or execution expertise. Once you have your evidence, you're ready to move on to creating your positioning Pivot Points.
If you'd like to read more in depth on positioning strategies, Rebel Brown is offering her new eBook, It's Not About You Anymore, for FREE download on her website. In this eBook, you'll learn:
- How to create dynamic positioning from the 3 Pivot Points of Positioning.
- The best questions to ask your customers to create compelling messages.
- How to spin the threads of a dynamic story for each and every occasion.