Positioning your consulting practice is perhaps the most critical sales and marketing decision you can make, but it’s also hard, so a lot of consultants don’t really do a great job with it. This leads them to struggle unnecessarily.
Why Is Positioning So Important
There’s plenty of supply in the world (for the most part). There’s someone else who can help your clients, probably many, many people, some of whom will charge a lot less money. There’s not a lot of attention. People can’t sort through the gazillion options available.
When you search the web, do you go through a long process of picking the best search engine for that particular query, while looking to see if any new search engines have come on the scene lately? Most of just go to Google. For a bigger decision like buying a car, we may evaluate several options, but we don’t have time to check out every possible vehicle that could meet our needs. The same thing applies to your clients.
If you try to appeal to everyone, you end up appealing to no one.
Why It’s Hard to Niche Down on Your Positioning
“Picking a niche”, or being very specific about your positioning, feels like you’re limiting yourself. You’re turning away people you could help. It always feels bad.
Here’s a different way to think of it. Instead of “saying no” to people you might be able to help, you can “say yes” and focus on the people you help best. You don’t want a heart surgeon doing your should surgery.
When your positioning is strong, it attracts the right people to you, and makes sales easy. It’s like turning to Google.
Here’s how I learned to think about niching in terms of focus rather than limits, and how to know if your niche is too narrow.
You can expand your niche if sales are so easy that you’re bored.
If that’s not the case, and sales seem harder than you’d like, focus your positioning.
4 Techniques to Help You Nail Your Consulting Positioning
Check out these 4 techniques to help you nail your positioning and apply them in the free “Mad Libs” style positioning generator below.
- Pick a fight. Not an actual fight, just in case you were wondering. But have an opinion that people will agree with (“finally, someone gets it!”) or hate (“this guy is crazy”). There were times when “a computer on every desktop and in every home” was crazy to most people. The notion that people would access business tools over the web was crazy for most people for quite a while. What are those issues you can’t help but rant over? (“Oh, there goes Reuben again, blathering on about doing sales with selling…”) Picking a fight should involve the few against the many. You’re a small company, you don’t need a $10B market, you need a few more clients each year. This is a great way to subsegment a larger market into people who are just fine with the default way of doing things, and the people who really need your approach.
- Pick your favorite client. Make that your buyer persona. You know the client you loved working with, that you helped so profoundly, who paid bills on time and took your advice? The one who makes your face light up when you talk about them? Try to find more clients exactly like that, to do that work with. (Conversely, think of the clients you hated– why does your positioning still cover them?)
- Pick the prospect you’d most hate to lose. What new client are you most hoping to work with, that you’d hate the most to tell you, “we’ve decided to go in another direction”? What were you looking forward to about this project? The money (nothing wrong with being honest about that)? The way you were going to work together? What you were going to learn? What you were hoping to teach? This isn’t quite as powerful as a past client (unless it also happens to line up with the past client from the previous item), but you can often find some good clarity here.
- Pick up the phone and call your past clients. Ask what they were looking for, what led them to choose you, and what they got from the experience. Their words will be the words that your current prospects and next clients will use do describe their problems and their ideal solutions.
Of course, you can use whatever combination of these techniques you like, but get your consulting positioning dialed in so that it’s easy for people to think of you and refer to you, it’s easy for your ideal prospects to know they’re in the right place, and it’s easy enough for them to buy that you don’t even feel like you’re selling.
As a consultant who is a business owner, not a subcontractor, your super power is that you get to pick your market so you are the 800 pound gorilla. The Nike, Coca-Cola, Apple, etc, of your niche. So unless sales and marketing seems to easy, focus your consulting positioning wisely.