The Art of Positioning

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Teenagers in cinema, applauding.

Positioning, also called niching, is the art of finding the spot in your field of business where you can provide the most significant value and have the biggest impact. In its essence, it means to reduce the things you do, offer or sell to the smallest possible number and become the best in that area.

It is an art, and most businesses get that wrong. Understandably, it’s difficult to reduce everything and to run the risk that this doesn’t work. Many businesses tend to spread their offerings wide and far in the hope that this will reduce the risk, but in reality, it causes more problems and is far riskier.

Let’s take an example. Most of you know Microsoft – a software development company with a few major flagships like Windows and Office. If we’re talking about Microsoft, we all pretty much know what we’re talking about. Let’s say tomorrow Microsoft would start to sell potato chips. Would you buy it? Microsoft’s position, niche and market are clear. They rule the space, and I assume they work hard to be the best in their field. They would never get the idea to start selling potato chips.

Be clear about your niche

All successful businesses I know are very clear about the business they’re in. Even large department stores only operate in their niche. Their niche is to provide space to brands and businesses to sell their products. Their main customers are the brands, and the services they offer are targeted to that market.

Many start-ups struggle with finding their niche and position in the market. They try everything within their reach and hope for the best. If you asked them what they do, they’re very vague, and 20 minutes later you still don’t know what it is they do. They’re just hoping that you throw something in they can hook onto so they can talk about something that might interest you.

If you want to find out if a business is well-positioned and has defined its niche, ask them what they do. If it takes more, then ten words or the words they use are very vague, and without substance, they’re NOT positioned or clear about their niche. I found especially for start-ups this seems to be a real issue. There’s this underlying fear that if they decide on one spot and it doesn’t work, they’re done and they don’t want to take that risk. What most forget is that this fear shows when you talk to potential customers. If you can’t be precise in what it is you do, people can’t relate to you and therefore don’t trust you. And we all know that trust is a vital part of a business to client relationship.

Get others to give you feedback

For any business at any level, positioning is an art they must be good at to be successful. But how do you do this?

As a start-up, right at the beginning, it’s easiest to ask people you know what they think it is you’re good at. That gives you an indication that your friends, family and co-workers believe that you’re good at this. This is a perfect marker, and you should put that field on the top of your list.

If you’re a seasoned business, your sales numbers should give you a good indicator. Also, your competition should show you where you stand. If you’re ahead of your competition in a specific area, that area should be on top of your list.

The other reason why positioning is so essential is the fact that if you know your niche, you know your customer. You know who they are, where they are, and you know how to produce superior value to them. It is impossible if you spread yourself far and wide. Also, the cost of running the business in relation to the turnover should be drastically reduced as you stop spending money on all the clutter with limited result.

The fine art of positioning pays

The art of positioning is based on a process and a decision. Once you decide on your field, you know what you need to do to become top in your area. Yes, you’ll come into situations where there’s nobody interested in your products or services, but this shows you that you’re with the wrong people. If you sell products for pregnant women and you’re at a party surrounded by men you’re at the wrong party, and you know that. You can still talk about it, and if you’re clear about what it is you do, this will come over. And who knows, someone might know someone. But they will never remember you if you’re not clear about your niche and you can’t bring it over.

When I work with clients, I always start with identifying their position. Most of the time, my clients feel much better themselves once they’re clear what it is they do. Positioning is very powerful.

Have you positioned yourself in your market yet?

John Di Stefano

An entrepreneur at heart and founder of the Entrepreneur Academy in Brussels, Belgium, this site is run by John di Stefano, teaching and supporting entrepreneurs to learn the skills every entrepreneur needs to create a better life for themselves and the people around them.

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