What is brand positioning and do you need to even think about it as a consultant? Well here’s the deal. What you are known for or known as is going to shape everything in your business. From the referrals you get to the kind of clients that you work with and all of the ways that you communicate yourself. So let’s hear more about what positioning is and what you can do to take care of it. To make sure that you are positioned exactly as you choose to be in the market. That’s what I’m talking about today. Check it out.
Hey, it’s Samantha Hartley of the Profitable Joyful Consulting Podcast. This season we have been talking about the 10 drivers of success in a consulting business and today’s driver falls in the category of brand and message.
When we are talking about brand positioning, what do we really mean? Well before I talk about that specifically, I want to go back to the origin of the term, like way back in history.
A lot of marketing terms, I’m sorry to say, are taken from the military and from war. So you have a target audience, who you’re aiming at and you launch these marketing campaigns, just like in the Napoleonic wars.
Then of course we have positioning so where is positioning from? Well I was watching one of my favorite movies one time which is “Master and Commander” starring an extremely dreamy young Russell Crowe.
It’s a movie about a lot of things but in it these ships go all over the world and sometimes they end up in battle with each other. There’ll be a ship and pirate ship or there’ll be 2 ships from different countries who are wanting to colonize something and in order for them to fight each other they have to get close enough that their cannonballs will hit the other one.
So positioning is about being able to strike accurately and in marketing terms nowadays, positioning is how you want to be thought of relative to the other options in the marketplace.
I like to think of positioning as if our mind was a filing cabinet then which folder do you want people to put you in? What do you want to be known for or known as? All of us have file folders in our minds and in our heads. There will be one for work people and then one for home and family.
So like a tagging system we have all of these different folders and tags and we want the people who need to know you, and can be helped by you, to figure out which one that you fit in.
If you’ve ever had that thing happen where you see somebody in a new place and you can’t remember if you know them from work or school, or if there somebody’s parents, or if they’re from your dog agility group or something. Well I’ve had that happen and that just means that they hopped out of their folder and we’re not sure which folder that they fit in.
In our work as marketers one of the best things that we can do for potential clients or referral partners (and our audience) is to help them understand how to think of us.
I very often will give advice to avoid labels. You don’t want to be labeled as a marketing consultant or whatever because it’s limiting, it doesn’t really have meaning for people.
However, your identity needs to be crisp and clear enough that when others think about you, it’s easy for them to know they need you or can refer you to someone who does. A clear identity tells others who you help and what you do for them.
For example, I had somebody that I met a couple of years ago on Linkedin and I haven’t really had any more interaction with her. Her name is Tori and she does something like customer retention or user retention for software companies.
I remember that mostly because I kept seeing her in my timeline and it’s in her Linkedin headline. I’ll see customer retention and user retention, however she refers to it, and then I’ll see SAS companies which are software as a service.
I’ve learned that little capsule of what she does and who she does it for. Then somebody came along recently and I was like, “Oh I actually know somebody who can help you.”
So that clarity helped me to put two things together. Her positioning helped me know who she’s for and what she does for them and what she wanted to be known for. That’s the thing that all of us need to have in our businesses.
Now here’s an interesting thing that I see happening right now. When my clients come to me very often it’s because they’re trapped in a positioning that no longer fits them. So for example, Erin whom you saw me talk about a couple of episodes of my podcast ago. You can look this one up, Erin Strazza, she went from being a copywriter to communications strategist.
So what did we have to do for her? When she came to me she was like, I’m doing freelance writing and I have a zillion clients and it’s super hard work. I don’t know what I need to do? Do I need to change the way I’m pricing my services? Do I need to change my billing or something like that?
I asked, what are you actually doing with your clients? When she explained it I was like, whoa you are doing a way larger role than freelance writing. You’re doing things like strategy and figuring things out for them. By working together on this we identified that she’s actually a communications strategist for her clients.
She began to say that. In every conversation that she had, everywhere she went, she was talking about that new thing and she got a different kind of client attracted to her. Now she’s doing different engagements working with fewer clients and working more deeply with them, which is part of the amazing result that she got from her efforts.
It is the heart of the work that I do, which is helping my clients to do deeper work with fewer clients for more money. So that repositioning, you’ll have heard that term before, that repositioning of her brand is what allowed that to happen.
She’s basically doing the same thing, just for different kinds of clients. Of course by doing basically the same thing, what I mean is the same things that she was doing before, but not being identified that way. Now she’s actually being compensated as a strategist and not as a freelance writer only.
We’ve also had this happen with Gail who owned an agency where she and her huge team that worked for her were doing all of this work for clients. That business was making like $5,000,000 a year, but Gail was not making near that, like not enough.
So it was a heavy business with too much overhead, too much cost, too much work in it, and not enough compensation for her. She was like, I really, really need a raise and I don’t know how to do this. So she got rid of that agency and repositioned herself, meaning new positioning, new brand positioning as a fractional CMO.
A lot of my clients are turning to fractional roles from different things that they were doing before, like fractional CHRO (revenue officer). Technically all those different roles – CFO is a big one because not as many clients need a full-time CFO, but boy does everybody need CFO level insights into your business. You can definitely take that positioning from a singular expert and turn that into a C-level something.
Gail is an example of taking a big agency, repositioning herself and letting go of almost all of her people, and then working as a fractional CMO.
The opposite sometimes happens. I had someone come to me as a marketing consultant saying, I can do this but I have a lot of clients who actually need more help than this, so I think I’m going to start doing some of the work for them. You can hear she went in the exact opposite direction. She started hiring people and started getting clients and doing the work for them.
She was doing that in a specific niche which again becomes that brand positioning. So she’s no longer just a marketing consultant for this audience. She is now a communications agency or strategy agency. I forget what she calls it but for a specific niche.
Now you’ve heard all of those examples, I’ll give you a quick reminder/review of my brand. I’d been in business for many years as Enlightened Marketing. Now it’s my company’s brand name. I’m incorporated as that, but I don’t necessarily have to have the brand name of my business be that and my positioning be that. I called myself Enlightened Marketing because for many years I was a marketing consultant.
I came out of marketing at the Coca-Cola Company so it made sense for me to do marketing and I was doing marketing for many years until there came a time about five years ago, I started to realize we’re doing a lot more stuff than just marketing. We’re talking about how to scale, we’re talking about teams, pricing, finance, running a business, mindset. All of this other stuff and so it really became more broadly about growth.
In general, I thought I didn’t want to be limited by the confines of being known as a marketing consultant anymore. So I repositioned myself, gave myself a new term. More like a business growth advisor or a business growth partner is what I’m known for or known as to my clients. Then I began to focus that way.
So I let go of EnlightenedMarketing.com, you might have visited that website or seen that and just put out the shingle of SamanthaHartley.com. It can seem like a smaller business but it’s actually a clearer brand for those that I’m working with.
As you’re listening I want you to be thinking: What’s my version of this? Maybe you want to transition into something different, something more fulfilling. Maybe you need a bigger brand, the bigger better version of yourself, or something that’s more expansive.
You can also do something that is honed down and more focused on what your real contribution and value is right now and that doesn’t mean it’s going to be less money. Often honing in and focusing means deeper work, fewer clients, more money, and in many cases, a more profitable business.
So how do you do this? I have 3 steps for you and it’s 3 D’s. The first D is Discern what you’re known for. What are you currently known for or known as in the market? I want you to look around and listen. It’s not always obvious so it does really take some discernment to figure out what people know me for right now.
A great thing to do is to ask your current clients. Ask past clients, referral partners, your brand constituents, and people who care about you, “When you think about what I do, how would you describe me to someone else?”
Referral partner, hey when you refer me, what do you say that I do? How do you talk about my services and what I do? You want to discern what you’re known for or known as right now.
The second thing you want to do is Decide on a new identity. What do you want to be known for or known as? Is it a C-level something? Is it a strategy role instead of a whole agency? Do you want to be known as an advisor and turn that into advisory services only?
So think about what you want that new thing to be and actually don’t just think about it but decide. You could have whatever you want, you just need to make the decision.
The third piece you want to do is to Declare your new positioning. Your communications – how you are being in the world and the marketplace – need to be with this new identity and brand positioning. For whom are you doing the thing and what are you doing for them? Be consistent when you’re creating those posts, be consistent when you’re talking about what you do.
If you need to correct others or yourself, you can say: Actually I was doing that for a really long time and now what I’m doing is really more of this kind of thing. Or if you say about yourself, Gosh I have the habit of saying this, but really what I’m doing is more of this. You can differentiate from what you were doing before and talk about what you’re doing now.
Those are the 3 steps that you need to take to rebrand or reposition your brand for your consulting business, and positioning is part of brand and message. Brand and messaging are one of my 10 drivers of a successful consulting business.
If you’d like to get my free resource on that topic and take the self-assessment, then you can go to Super and you’ll find there the 10 Drivers of Business and Consulting Success. You can download that and take the self-assessment, then let me know how you did.
With that, I am wishing you a Profitable and Joyful Consulting business.