Guest post by Mallie Rydzik, CEO mindset and strategy coach for creative entrepreneurs
Weirded out by the word “positioning”?
There’s no need to be! It’s a pretty simple concept, and you’re already positioned—whether you want to be or not.
Let’s break it down:
At its most basic level, positioning is how people view you, your business, and your offers relative to other people, businesses, and offers in your industry.
To middle school me’s chagrin, people want to label others.
Yes, we’re in the online business world that is quite often about unicorns and being unique and separating ourselves from the crowd.
But when everyone is trying so hard to stand out, you end up in a sea of similarity anyway.
That’s why we’re seeing so many pink, fluffy coaching sites that ironically scream “be different!” right now.
Is there something to be said for industry standards, best practices, and expectations in websites?
As Nat, Website Superhero will tell you, your website should make it as easy as possible for people to buy from you.
But that doesn’t mean you, your business, and your offers have to mimic everyone else.
Proper positioning is the difference between, “Oh yes, I need what you’re offering!” and, “How is that different from what [X] is offering?”
It’s the difference between, “I don’t need another course right now, thanks” and, “How can I be part of your program?!”
And, perhaps most importantly, it’s the difference between, “Wow, she really knows who she is and what she stands for” and, “Man, she’s always changing her story to what she thinks will sell this week.”
Let’s talk about ways to properly position yourself online.
Positioning yourself and your story
Even if your business isn’t your personal brand, your personal brand is still part of your business brand. The world is trending that way for both online and offline companies. That’s why businesses like Domino’s Pizza and Oreos hire cheeky 20-something social media managers to tweet back funny things to customers.
Business has always been personal, but the internet is ensuring that increasingly becomes the case.
The best way to stand out as a person is with your story. While your branding and business model will likely make someone say “Oh, she’s kind of like [other entrepreneur],” (again, because people love labeling each other) your story is uniquely your own.
Most people heavily overthink their personal brands. Yes, your personal brand’s color palette matters, but not as much as its story, its message, its Why.
Your Simon Sinek-style Why should be on nearly every page of your website. Why do you do what you do? That’s what people buy. Before the how, the what, or any of that other garbage, they buy into your story and your message.
It’s another way to make prospective customers trust you right off the bat.
My story includes being diagnosed with three mental illnesses during the third year of my PhD program in atmospheric science. It led me to look at my life completely differently, and turned me from a tornado scientist to a serial online entrepreneur.
I know or have worked with almost all the important tornado scientists in the field today, and I know that none of them are now doing the type of work I do. That tidbit is memorable, authentic, and helps me stand out from the crowd of other coaches online.
So open up to your audience as much as you feel comfortable doing…then open up a little more.
Positioning your business and your offers
These two go hand-in-hand, although the offers require a secondary consideration that I’ll tack on here at the end.
To succeed in business out of the gate, 9 out of 10 entrepreneurs need to follow some type of proven business model.
Within any industry, there are often many business models. In the online industry, that includes:
- 1-on-1 work
- Ongoing hourly work
- 1-off projects/services
- Project launches
- Group programs
- Membership sites
And other things I’ve forgotten, and various combinations of the above.
So perhaps you stand out from the crowd by only offering courses, or only offering 1-on-1 work.
Or maybe you’re the only person who does retainer work that also includes a retreat for all your retainer clients.
These are certainly things you should highlight as differentiators on your site.
Other business differentiators that will position you properly include:
- Your ideal client (personality type)
- Your target market (demographics)
- Your marketing
- Your business Why
- Your pricing
That’s right, pricing alone is a major positioning component. Quality, construction, and marketing aside, it’s what separates a Walmart purse from a Coach purse from a Prada purse. It tells your prospective customers about the value you’re delivering, and assures them that this is for them.
I was having a conversation the other week with a new entrepreneur in a Facebook group who didn’t understand why people weren’t buying from her. On her sales calls, the prospects told her that her prices were very reasonable.
That raised a flag for me, so I asked what her prices were.
In addition to talking to her about how unsustainable that is for freelancing (she was estimating her rate from her corporate salary), I talked to her about how pricing that low makes prospects lose confidence in her ability to deliver.
She asked me what she should do.
Since she was just getting started, I recommended that she move to project-based pricing wherever possible, because it makes it easier for people to buy with confidence. If she did have situations in which she needed to charge hourly (we’ve all been there, despite our best attempts at packaging, right?), she should charge at least twice her current rate.
I’m not a “premium pricing or bust” kind of person. I strongly believe that not everyone should be charging sky-high rates, particularly this woman who was just getting her feet wet on her own. But, as I learned from our brief conversation, she was targeting companies that are used to paying much more for her services. When they got her quote at $28/hour at the same time as they received four other quotes as packages or at the $50/hour+ rate, they lost confidence in her expertise.
It’s part of “playing the game,” if you will. Sure, you can underprice the market, and that will attract a certain type of client, but positioning includes pricing within the market you want to serve, whether that’s an average consumer or a premium one.
Beyond all of the above are your offers and services themselves.
Your packages can really stand out from the sea of other coaching/design/copywriting packages with their positioning.
Let’s say everyone else in your industry offers courses, but you know that your audience is burnt out on courses. Well it would certainly be silly for your next offer to be a course, wouldn’t it?
People may be burnt out on courses, but they’re not burnt out on learning. Entrepreneurs are naturally thirsty for knowledge, so it’s a matter of how you could position that course to your market.
Perhaps you deliver it as a 3-day virtual workshop. Maybe it becomes a live, in-person event. Or maybe it’s just a group program with some 1-on-1 support that your audience is looking for.
I have a couple of clients who have experimented with offering in-person workshops with mixed results. The unofficial feedback they got was that workshops are old-school and not as in style for their targets anymore.
So one client offered a half-day “event” and the other started a Meetup group that fed into an online group coaching program…and they both got more traction with the same material.
Positioning is your friend, and I consider it the first of three legs in the Power Triangle of any successful business: positioning, packaging, and promotion. If one leg falters, the other two legs are less effective. You can learn more about that by grabbing the Creative CEO Strategy Workbook here >>> grab it!
Utilize your story and your business differentiators to position yourself as a real stand-out expert in your crowded industry. Get really clear on who you’re serving, how you want to serve them, and why you’re doing it all to create a coherent message on each of your key website pages.
Mallie Rydzik is a tornado scientist turned serial online entrepreneur, speaker, and author-in-progress. She left her PhD program after diagnoses of OCD, depression, and binge eating disorder led her to reimagine how life and work intersect.
Now, using her unique background in marketing, systems, project management, and consulting, she helps creative entrepreneurs step into a bigger role in their small businesses, transforming them into balanced and successful creative CEOs.
Grab the Creative CEO Strategy Workbook, join the Facebook community, or apply for a free discovery call with Mallie here: mallierydzik.com/welcome.