Heather Suttie, another Canadian Lawyer columnist and recognized industry thought leader on global legal markets and trends, started the conversation last month on the business value of proper positioning. I will continue the conversation this month with practical help on how anyone can jump right in and try it.
Positioning: the what and why
Think of ‘positioning’ as mapping your exact place on the globe as an extremely lush or profitable island that no other competitor can replicate, that all your clients want to visit and don’t care what they have to pay to stay there. I often call this exercise: "lasering in on your green space," finding a differentiated, sustainable and profitable value offering to select clients.
Competition is fierce and being able to articulate your unique and profitable strengths that a well-defined set of clients value and are willing to pay for, takes a little bit of research and thinking. Part of the trick is tightly defining the type of client that you are targeting and not being so broad that your message gets diluted. Great Jakes Marketing Company, a legal website builder, has had some good recent articles on the what and why of positioning.
But how do you actually go about discovering your positioning?
So many writers, consultants, agencies, marketers talk about the value of positioning, but few break down the process to discovering a position in a way that you can just jump right in and start. The hardest part is starting. Once you’ve started though – you can edit and evolve it over time.
The traditional method to figuring out your personal/practice or firm positioning is to work from a fill-in-the-blank type of template. It usually looks something like this:
Your name: ______________________________
who? describe/define the clients you want to have
in the: __________________________________________
top industries/sectors/wants to serve
As the: ___________________________
features/ evidence of above benefit.
So – most of us would be tempted to write something like: Simone serves business clients in North America in all industries as the professional that finds solutions to client challenges because of her five rankings in the top legal directories.
While this is a positioning, it is not a strong positioning since it lacks real client definition and insight into what clients value in your uniqueness and are willing to pay profitably for.
This is why I find the above difficult and limiting to work with and not at all innovative. For years I have coached using the below four-step method for determining your best market position:
- Create a list of your features
It is easy to start by creating a list of potentially differentiating features. You can start by thinking of some of your successful competitors, reading their biographies and profiles and picking out some of the things that they say about themselves. Create a list of these features. Add in your own features. Search online for what clients say they want in your particular area of practice, in your industry and in your geography. Ask your clients what they look for in a lawyer with your practice.
- Turn your list of lawyer features into client benefits
Every one of your legal features can be turned into a client “benefit.” For example, if you say that your office hours are 24/7/365, that fact, or feature, can be turned into a client benefit. The benefit to clients in this case would be; anytime accessibility. Features are like key facts while their benefits are what clients really value in each feature.
- Plot your and your competitor’s position for each client benefit
You can create a quick diagram that helps you assess which benefit(s) will profitably position you uniquely against the competition. Each client benefit can be framed in polar ends and then used to plot where you and your competitors lie on each of these benefits. For example, accessibility can be 100 per cent accessible at one end and 0 per cent accessible at the other end. Determine the polar opposite of each of the client benefits and then plot your position and the position of each of your competitors on each client benefit.
- Rank each client benefit’s value
For each client benefit, rank the value to clients and the value to you in terms of making it profitable. Look at your results and see which benefits are unique to you that clients value on which you can make a profit.
In the above example, if you have figured out that clients value and will pay for aligning legal advice with their own goals, and no one else is doing that – you now have your positioning strategy. You can wordsmith your positioning statement and then use it to evolve your brand, marketing and communications.
One final note is that you may have more than one positioning statement if you have more than one practice and your clients differ from practice to practice. It is important to define and describe your clients well for each position in their market you want to own.