How 3 Consultants Might Evaluate Your Positioning Instinctively

Inevitably a new client will ask, “So how do we compare with the other firms you’ve worked with?” It’s a natural question because there are 16,000 active subscribers to this email and I advise 50+ new firms every year. But it’s a tough question because there are many elements to consider. Some of my clients make astounding amounts of money and I’d never want to work there. Others are brilliant but struggle with the killer instinct that puts space between their performance and a peer. Others do remarkable work with good people but nobody has heard of them.

But the most interesting aspect of that question is around their positioning. I’ll tell you how I answer that, and then I’m going to tell you how my two primary competitors answer it.

Here’s how I look at it. “Okay, assume two things: assume that I know a fair bit about marketing and assume that I’m generally intelligent. Am I learning things about the marketplace you serve? Do I have aha moments, discovering nuances that you have learned from your focused work in a vertical or around a service offering or in reaching a particular demographic and so on?” About two-thirds of the time I learn tons, and because I enjoy learning it’s a lot of fun to work with them. Here’s how two other experts make that evaluation.

Blair Enns of Win Without Pitching asks himself two questions: “Would I want to own a piece of this firm?” and “Would I want to sell what this firm does in the marketplace?” I really like both of those perspectives because it forces me to think about the culture, the mission, and their impact on society, too.

Tim Williams of Ignition Consulting looks at it this way: “One litmus test I use in assessing an agency’s focus is to review their social media footprint (Twitter and LinkedIn in particular) to see if I can detect the firm’s positioning strategy in their tweets, posts, and the way the firm is described on these platforms. It the agency’s social media presence is unfocused, it’s like the firm is unfocused as well.” I like that because not only does it tell me about their positioning, but it tells me if they are being bold and disciplined about spreading it.

If you are the kind of firm with deep subject matter expertise, you can “drop and give me twenty” at a moment’s notice. By that I mean that without any preparation you can jot down twenty things you know that I don’t know, just because I haven’t been in your shoes. That’s why your clients are going to pay you the big bucks. There is no such thing as an expert in branding…only an expert in branding as applied to [fill in the blank].

As you get older and wiser, it won’t be the money that keeps you going. It’ll be the ease that comes from knowing what the hell you’re talking about.

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