Choosing which niche your consultancy serves may be the most impactful business decision you can make - and I wrote about some common mistakes when niching down before. But when we adopt a demand-first approach, the way your audience sees you is what really matters.
Your positioning refers to how you, your firm, and your offerings are perceived by your target market. It's not about how you look at yourself, but how they see you. And understanding this distinction is key to improve your positioning.
Nothing exists in isolation. We can only perceive light because its absence is dark. When we judge something as pretty, fast, efficient, or complicated, we are unconsciously making a comparison with things that are not.
The same happens with your brand and business. People will compare you with other consultants and boutique consulting firms. And to do this they will draw from each action, message, and material associated with your name.
Their first impression of you is very instinctive and emotion-driven, and much more important than you think due to how our brains work. But you can always change it over time, by putting yourself and your brand in front of the audience and highlighting or reinforcing specific characteristics.
From my experience working with consulting firms, the number one mistake I see is the belief that their market will only judge them based on what they say, and how they say it. What they forget is that what you don't communicate says as much about you as what you explicitly put out.
Examples are many:
- When you don't specify which industries or verticals you work with, companies will see you as a less credible generalist;
- When you don't include testimonials and case studies in your website or sales collateral, companies will doubt your ability to deliver consistent results;
- When you choose to run marketing initiatives such as email marketing or posting on social media and fail to do this consistently, companies will see question your reliability;
- When you don't share unique insights, specialize, or share part of your methodology, companies will struggle to see you as an expert;
- When you don't prepare properly for sales calls and fail to nurture relationships, companies will see you as an amateur.
Needless to say, all of this directly impact your revenue.
Who decides what "better" is are your clients and prospects, not you. It's subjective - they can only judge your services once you create a comparison. If that comparison is too similar, then the only way to differentiate is price.
Having a strong positioning strategy - and implementing that plan - is the only chance you have to influence how people will compare you to others. Do it right, and you will make competition irrelevant. Neglect it, and all your sales conversations will be reduced to price and negotiation.