Including Addressability in Your Positioning

If your positioning doesn’t have an obvious addressability component, it’s going to be a challenge to implement.

Here’s the usual forcing function for better positioning:

  1. We need work.
  2. I guess that means we need a marketing plan.
  3. Shoot. I can’t really envision a marketing plan for our current positioning. It’s all over the place. Please help!

That launches a tedious, painful search for the right answer. That whole journey is described in the first 30 pages of The Business of Expertise, and I stopped counting after helping 1,000+ firms find their specific answer. (It’s probably my favorite thing to do, though.)

Here’s how that journey plays out, typically. The firm has a choice between horizontal or vertical positioning. They default to a horizontal positioning because that offers more variety in that they won’t be tied to a particular vertical. So let’s say it’s something like “Rebranding Fortune 5,000 Enterprise.” Sounds pretty good, right? Big, long-lasting projects from clients with money.

There’s an addressable element in this positioning because we can certainly target F5000 entities. There are lists everywhere, and we can find the CMO or whoever we need. But what it’s missing is the element of timing. We have no idea when they’ll need to do a rebrand, and by the time we hear about it, some other firm will already have been hired.

Here’s another example: cosmetic dentists. Dentists as a group are typically a bad lot to target because they haven’t used a firm like yours before and they’re spending their own money, but they are also more entrepreneurial…and richer…than their counterparts, so there is a market there, for sure. But what if you wanted to target a smaller group of more viable dentists? While there are 135,000 dental practices in the US alone, about 7,000 of those practice cosmetic dentistry, which is even more lucrative…and requires heavy marketing since it’s largely a discretionary spend for their patients. So if we wanted to target that group, we could also easily find lists of them. But what if we layered a timing component on top, to hit them at just the right time? At this point, “just the right time” means when they place an order for very expensive and specialized equipment, which will require some time to manufacture, a big loan, and enough lead time to begin attracting the right new patients. Bam. It all comes together.

There are some of these timing triggers that require an insider, like mergers and acquisitions, a new CEO, an internal shakeup in the in-house department, etc. But other timing triggers are easily identified, and they coincide with a greater interest in what you do: app dev, website presence, UX research, etc.

That trigger is VC funding, though you’ll have to determine where it is relevant: seed, A, B, etc. But if you know WHEN and WHERE to find WHO, you not only have a positioning, but an addressable positioning. Yes, there are “signal” categories in the big sales databases, but I’ve never found them all that useful.

If you’re one of the firms who’s already on this path, ask yourself how addressable your positioning is, and what sort of moat there might be around it to give you some competitive advantage. I had one client who was in the “Patent Recognition” space, and he paid someone who worked at the USPTO $50/week to give him a download of everyone who had recently been granted a patent. It was public information and perfectly legal, but he was smart enough to get his hands on the data before other people scraped it off the public register two weeks later. That was enough of an advantage.

The less addressable your positioning, the more broadly you have to broadcast all that you do, holding your breath that someone will think of you when the need arises. That right there is called “unaccountable spend”…and it’s painful.

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