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Language or Strategy?


February 5, 2009 at 7:30 am by Blair

Without naming names I'm going to re-post here some text from an email exchange with a client on the subject of positioning. At some point he asks the question, "Am I just a graphic designer?" 

My slightly edited response: 

"If you are, that's not good enough anymore. I can get good design in India or anywhere else for cheap via 99designs.com and other places. My point is changing your positioning isn't about changing the language you use to explain what you do, it's about growing - rapidly evolving what you do. 

"There are no magic words. It's a strategy decision, not a linguistic one. It's hard work. Your design skills are just a starting point.  

"It's a race and you should always be running forward, getting smarter, smarter... You can decide to go in this new direction, but then you have to map out what you need to support it: what skills, capabilities and processes. Then you train, hire and partner with outsiders to add this 'product.'" 

In my last point above I refer to Product as I use the term in the Four P's of business development success. The first P is Positioning - crafting a claim of expertise. The second is Product - that collection of skills, capabilities and processes that support (prove) your claim of expertise.  

As soon as you arrive at a new positioning, the very next thing you do is ask yourself The Product Question: 'What skills, capabilities and processes do I need to add to support this claim of expertise?'  Positioning without Product is just words - air. You need to step outside of yourself and your firm as best you can when asking this question. Read the language of your positioning like it's not yours, like you're hearing it for the first time. Then ask yourself, 'What skills, capabilities or defined processes would I expect a firm that specializes in this area to possess?' 

Make a list. Then sort through it, identify the missing elements and determine what you can train for or develop internally, what you'll have to look for in future hires, and what you may be able to acquire through partnership with outside entities. Then attach timelines. 

The language of positioning is just the beginning - the very beginning. It's the difficult decision (if it's not difficult, then you're not doing it right) but it's after the difficult decision that the hard work begins.

Think of it this way: positioning is the act of claiming territory - putting your flag in the ground. But, you do not claim territory without a plan to defend it. The minute the flag goes into the ground, you invite attack. Now the war (or race, to get back to my initial metaphor) begins.


Tagspositioning (15) strategy (3) product (2) 

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