One of the first marketing concepts I learned about in business school is called positioning.
This concept is particularly important when it comes to selling your own product or service.
I was taught about positioning in the context of competition. You position what you sell in relation to what other people currently sell. It’s the ‘position in the market’ you take that defines you in the mind of potential customers.
The point of positioning is to ensure that a certain group of customers come to the decision that your offer is the right fit to solve the problem they have, and hence they choose to buy from you rather than the competition.
You might even sell exactly the same thing as competitors, but how you position it using various forms of marketing, advertising — even something as basic as what name you give your product — determines the position your offer takes in the market.
What Kind Of Soap Are You?
A simple example of positioning at play is how soap is sold.
Most soaps contain roughly the same ingredients and solve the same problem (to make things clean), yet they can be marketed for a specific purpose – better for dry skin, special for babies, better for the environment, and so on.
For the past fifteen years I have spent a lot of time repeating the same advice to my coaching clients –
In order to stand out you have to zero-in and present yourself as a specialist.
Often after I give this advice, in response people tell me they don’t like it because they don’t want to focus on only one thing.
In reply I tell people that you only have to specialize and narrow-in with your positioning on your first offer or your initial marketing campaign, then you can expand with other offers to the customers you attract.
Go narrow with your public marketing, then go deeper with your paying customers.
Give Me Your Best Pick-Up Line
To illustrate what I mean, I always refer to the great example Eben Pagan gave me many years ago when I was first studying online marketing.
He explained that in his dating advice business for men, guys would always ask for the best pick-up lines to say to women.
Eben knew that pick-up lines were not really the solution to the problem guys had with relationships with women, but he also knew that for many men, having something to say to the lady at the bar or club was compelling.
In reality, dating advice was a gateway to the bigger idea of personal development for men, which was the topic Eben was really teaching. Yet to ‘catch a fish’ as he explained it, he had to use the right bait to begin with (in this case, give them pick-up lines first).
In his marketing, Eben offered a simple free resource — a handout full of his best opening lines to talk to women — exactly what guys went searching for online at the time. By doing this, he grabbed initial interest with a very specific offer, a solution to a very specific problem.
After he got the name and email address of guys who wanted his free resource, he followed up with emails and additional offers that expanded into broader topics of dating advice (for example, how to ask for a date, what to say on that date, how to initiate a first kiss, and so on).
This however was just the start…
Eben’s followup training and product offers went from dating advice to personal development, helping men realize that to really be attractive to women, they needed to develop themselves on multiple layers, including their self-esteem, physical health, sense of style, and even their purpose and what gives their life meaning.
From the narrow topic of pick-up lines to the biggest question of them all – what is the purpose of your life, Eben’s marketing and products took guys across this entire journey of discovery.
This example shows how it might seem you are restricting yourself by narrowing in on a very specific problem, but in reality you are just attracting your customer with what appeals to them now. You can then use more content and sell products or services to expand their mind and appeal to other, deeper needs.
To Learn How To Sell, Study What Drives Decision Making
Over time I came to see that positioning is a starting point, a first step toward what we are ultimately trying to do, to understand our fellow human beings better and learn what drives their decision making.
The more we know about who we serve, what motivates them, how they think about their problems and the emotions they experience — the better you can position your offer and thus sell your version of a solution to their needs.
When you understand who you serve on a deeper level it becomes easier to define what you sell. Your products and services can be built to cater to this unique group of people and do an amazing job of solving their specific problems.
Finally, with clarity about who you serve and what you sell, it becomes easier to determine how you will reach them.
It’s hard to sell something when you don’t really understand who you are trying to reach or why they make decisions.
During the start-up phase of a new business you will spend a lot of time figuring out the Who, What and the How of your audience.
You will test different products and services, different marketing campaigns to sell to them, different pricing points, say different things on videos, try different copy on your sales pages and so on.
All of these tests will give you feedback from the real world and thus guide how you make changes and progress to the point where you have product market fit — something people want, will pay money for and get value from.
What Headline Do You Use To Make A First Impression?
One of the simplest ways to illustrate the connection between the who, what and how with your audience, and how these connections impact your ability to make sales, is to review any first impression headlines you use in your marketing content.
For example, when you are invited to speak on a podcast as a guest, what topic do you tell people you are going to cover?
What about the title and sub-headline of a book you are going to publish, or the main headline you use on your landing page to build your email list?
Even the simplest forms of first impression content, like your YouTube thumbnails, subject lines on your email newsletter, title of your blog post, the topics you cover in your TikToks and Instagram stories — are all examples of how you position yourself when people first discover you or your content.
Meet Sally, The Health Coach
To illustrate further, let’s consider a health coach who helps women lose weight. Let’s call her Sally.
Sally is operating a business in a hugely competitive industry. She wants to promote her business by appearing as a guest expert on health and wellness podcasts. She’s working on a subject title for what she can talk about, the main headline she will approach podcast hosts with when pitching herself as a guest.
Her initial attempts start with broad phrases like this – “How women can lose weight, feel great, and learn to love themselves again.”
On first inspection, this headline might seem pretty appealing. Who doesn’t want to lose weight and feel great!
The problem is this headline sounds just like every other headline out there and says little to distinguish Sally as a specialist or speak to a specific type of person.
On a coaching call with Sally, I ask her who she has helped in the past to lose weight. I also ask for her own origin story, how did she decide to become a content creator about this topic.
Sally, like so many kind and generous people wants to help everyone she can. She knows losing weight is a journey, and for most there is no simple solution.
From living her own weight loss journey she knows that mindset, habits, food choices, sleep, stress management and so many other elements play a part. There’s a lot she can teach and she thinks every woman on the planet in some way could benefit from learning from her experience.
As an entrepreneur, Sally also wants to make a lot of money, so she figures by going out there and appealing to as many people as she can is the best way to get lots of customers.
By listening to Sally I learn that she has helped a number of clients who were new mothers. They had given birth and then struggled to lose the extra weight that came along with pregnancy.
Sally explains that these women are often trying to lose that last extra 10 pounds so they can go back to wearing their pre-pregnancy clothes again.
I suggest to Sally that she has an opportunity to focus on a specific type of person – new mothers who recently gave birth – and offer a solution to “help them fit into their pre-pregnancy clothes again“.
Sally at first doesn’t like the idea of only appealing to recent mothers as it narrows her audience and the scope of what she can talk about. I explain that this angle is just for a marketing campaign, it doesn’t define her. It’s a topic that allows her to stand out from the crowd and position her message differently from others.
This angle means more podcast hosts will say yes to having her own the show, and it also means she will resonate so much more with a specific type of person – recently pregnant women.
Although hesitant at first, Sally realizes she could corner this market and starts getting excited about creating a program specifically to sell to this sub-segment of the weight loss niche.
She now knows who she is speaking to (pregnant women/new mothers), what they want (how to lose pregnancy weight to fit into clothes again) and how to reach them (in this experiment, podcasts).
By working backwards, narrowing in, then extrapolating forward, Sally has a much better message and potentially a much better business.
Let’s Refine And Define Your Positioning
Inside the Laptop Lifestyle Academy, I lead a bootcamp to help members gain clarity on the Who, What And How of their businesses.
The bootcamp initially ran over a three month summer period, but you can now go through the bootcamp at your own pace.
The bootcamp is lead by me, with short lessons and a set of tasks for you to complete each week to help you learn about your audience and then craft the best offer based on clear positioning.
This is all about you gaining clarity about yourself, your audience and what and how you sell to them.
You can also see in the bootcamp responses from other members of the Academy as they attempt to complete the homework each week. You will see their progress, which will help with your own.
The bootcamp is just one of many training programs and coaching support tools you get access to as a member of the Laptop Lifestyle Academy.
You can see a more comprehensive explanation of the Academy and sign up here:
Once you sign up, look out for the welcome email with the link to create your account inside the Academy.
I’ll see you there.