Some reading I was doing last month got me wondering what my clients value in me and our consulting practice. So I did a quick survey and found out. Very revealing. That got me thinking about all the circumstances in which it's important to know how one is positioned, and how that might differ from how one wants to be positioned. That's often important to know. As it turns out it's quite easy to find out. I suggest you give it a try.
|Positioning My Business
After reading about the notion in a little book ("It Sure Beats Working", Michael J. Katz, Blue Penguin Development), I decided to test the perceptions of my former clients and associates about me and my business. I had never done this in any structured way in over 18 years of consulting practice, and it suddenly seemed like a very good (and obvious) idea. So I did it last month by means of an email message to 90 individuals. I simply asked each of them to "spend two minutes answering the following question by return email: What are the first 3 words or phrases that come to your mind when you think of me or my business?" The response was immediate and substantial: 25 of 90 responded within one day; overall I got a 31% response rate -- pretty good in the survey business.
You can find my results
. The findings from this little exercise were revealing and an important learning experience. While I generally agreed with my clients' positioning of my business, I found that they left out some of the services I offer, namely competitive assessment, devising new-product concepts, team-building, partnering and M&A, and business and technical writing. But their recognition of my areas of specialization was right on, and I was flattered by their characterization of my knowledge, skills, attitudes, approach, responsiveness and value. The bottom line for me:
This was a valuable exercise
. It told me that many of my clients valued my work, understood what I can do, and appreciated how I do it. It also highlighted some homework I need to do to broaden their perceptions of how I can help them.
|Positioning Your Business or Corporate Role
Enough about me! This information is worth sharing with you because, in my view, it's useful and easy to test others' perceptions. Those others can include clients, customers, business associates, bosses, subordinates, etc. And, you can do this in a very non-threatening, efficient way. I recommend it for your consideration -- with a few caveats:
- You're very unlikely to hear much in the way of negative feedback, human beings being what they are. If you're really fortunate, a few people will bust your balloon and give you some helpful insight into your shortcomings, but don't bet on it. (I had one extremely helpful response from an experienced serial entrepreneur for whom I had done a little work. He said, "Alas, I think of you as a bright, poised leader of a small but undifferentiated consultancy". Now, that's constructive criticism!)
- Unless you're polling your subordinates, you won't get anywhere near a 100% response rate. And, you will never know why some responses were not forthcoming. Did they not want to share bad news, could they not care less, did they not see what was in it for themselves, were they just too busy, or what?
- All you are asking for, and really all you want, is a few snapshot words and phrases. You don't want your respondents to think or analyze too much. Therefore, you cannot derive much in the way of nuance or explanation from the responses you get. This is just top-of-mind stuff.
- I created five categories of response in my experiment. These categories may work for you, or you may prefer a different way to characterize your findings.
Caveats aside, I believe this can be a very important, strategic exercise. I wish I had done it sooner, and I thank Michael Katz for the idea.
|So why is positioning so important anyway?
Let's step back to examine why positioning is important in a wide range of circumstances and why
simply asking some basic questions of the right persons can make a great difference. Here are just a few examples to convince you.
- Perhaps the most obvious example comes from Marketing-101: Positioning your product or service among competitive methods and specific competitive offerings within a target market. If you don't position accurately and favorably, your offering will enjoy at best limited success. There's no substitute for just asking your customers what they want, why they want it, and how your offering stacks up.
- Let's say you work in a corporate structure and you represent a particular functional discipline -- sales, operations, R&D, customer service, etc. Your function has certain obligations to other stakeholders in the company. Do you really understand what each of those obligations is at any point in time? Are the perceptions of other groups consistent with your own views and with your function's actual performance and behaviors? It wouldn't hurt to ask.
- You and your boss seem to be getting along pretty well. But are your boss's expectations of an adequate performance (beyond your written objectives) really consistent with your own? You think you're doing a good job, but does s/he? Are you working on the right stuff? Perhaps you can come up with a clever way to find out.
- You're pitching your new venture to a prospective investor. You don't just need a good team, product concept and plan; you are competing with other, totally different ventures for the investor's attention. Do you know his requirements, comfort zone, typical terms, past successes and failures, and advisors? How would he define a success? Do you have a shot at providing it? Just ask; he may be surprised and pleased that you care.
- Let's say you are competing in a race to become the Leader of the Free World. You need one position to win the primary election, another to win the general election. How are you going to do that without seeming to lack core principles? Beats me! I guess this approach doesn't always work.
Thoughts to share? Contact me.
|What does Trilogy do?
Trilogy Associates facilitates business growth and renewal through commercialization of new products, providing the following services:
- Opportunity assessment
- Business planning and enterprise growth strategies
- New-product conceptualization, commercialization and marketing
- Market research and competitive assessment
- Business development and partnering
- Market and technological due diligence
- Assessment of the therapeutic and diagnostic potential of novel technologies
- Design of efficient and effective development strategies for early-stage biomedical products
- Business and technical writing/publishing
Inquiries to establish whether and how we might support your business initiatives are always welcome. Contact us.