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Winning a chess game is all about positioning.
Winning a mixed martial arts fight is about positioning.
Winning a pool match is all about positioning.
Gaining marketshare in business is all about positioning as well.
If there is one business strategy that has guided my creative career and helped me make a steady 6-figure income as a creative is “positioning”.
Creating a well-defined position that has current commercial appeal is the single most important thing that a creative has to do (after creating a solid product in your chosen art that has value to the target market).
It is much harder than it sounds and while many know that this is important, very few know how to go about it or fail quite badly. Studying the books of Jack Trout and Al Ries who pioneered the concept is the first step. (More recently the same concept was presented as The Blue Ocean Strategy by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne.) After reading the literature, comes the seemingly insurmountable tasks of applying and executing the concept to your craft and business.
Knowing what you want your position to be and actually owning that position are two completely different things. Firstly, you cannot go about creating your position and expect the market to accept it. The position you own has to be given or accepted by the marketplace. All you can do is to do your best to make a strong case of why you should own a particular position.
For example, if you are a photographer and you want to own the position of a photographer who is on the cutting edge of camera technology which in turn results in photos that look superior than anyone else; you will need evidence for the market to accept this.
This could be in the form of a special arrangement that you have with top camera manufacturers to beta test their latest equipment, or being a contributing writer to top photography equipment magazines or maybe you regularly lecture or conduct workshops on the subject on behalf of top camera manufacturers.
These are just some examples that help you make a case for the position. At the end of the day, it is the one who makes the best case who will ultimately win the position he sets out to own.
Of course, some think that positioning is a marketing gimmick. Well, chances are, these are individuals who make a fair living off their craft but aren’t the most successful in their field. Or if by chance they are, it is not because they don’t own a position but rather they never consciously tried to create and own a position. Circumstances or good fortune led them to own a great position by default.
Positioning is a marketing strategy that determines your marketing tactics. You plan your marketing battles based on your position. Each position determines how one fights in the war of business. A market leader, the 2nd position, 3rd position or one of the rest vying for one of the top 3 places all employ different tactics to reach their business objectives.
There are two things that are fundamental to positioning. Without either, positioning cannot be achieved.
1) Knowing the Competition & Market
Knowing the Competition & Market
The very concept of positioning is all about creating a position AGAINST what is already established in the consumer’s mind or AGAINST who is already in the marketplace or AGAINST competition.
Thus, the very essence of positioning dictates that a superior knowledge base is essential. Domain knowledge of your craft is not enough. You need to know everything that happens in your industry, know who the players are, their strength & weaknesses and be aware of any external events, regulations or policies that may affect your industry.
This is the information age and if you are not informed, you will be completely ill-equipped to be commercially successful as a creative. In business, ignorance is not bliss.
One technique for helping craft a unique position that you can convincely own against your competition is to map out a strategy canvas. This gives an objective overview of your strengths and weakness in the marketplace as compared to your competitors. But, once again you will need to have extensive knowledge of your competitors and industry in order to map out the canvas in the first place.
Positioning requires focus which also means sacrifice. You can only own one position at any one time in the minds of consumers. It is impossible to be successful if you do not focus.
For example, actors who embark on a music career can only be taken seriously or be successful when they focus on either craft at a time. Usually, the position you own will be the one which you spend more time on or did first. That is why when you think of Jackie Chan, you think of comedy action martial arts actor and not singer. Or when you think of Britney Spears, you think singer and not actress, same with Mariah Carey.
With so much cross over between acting and singing, it is now easier for these artists to be successful at different crafts at different times. There is a mainstream acceptance between the close relationship between both arts. However, if you are trying to own two positions in two completely different fields, it is an impossible fruitless task.
For example, if would be impossible for you to own a position of being a top engineer and painter at the same time, or pastry chef and juggler or photographer and fashion designer. Every craft requires time, effort and dedication. And if you are looking to be commercially successful in any given field, it will require your 100% focus; and even that does not guarantee success.
There is an exception, if there is zero competition in one field you select, then it is possible. But if you have strong competition that is focused and competent – tough luck.
Besides having focus in the your craft, you need to be focused in your marketing tactics. With so much “noise” in today’s marketplace, it is impossible to cut through the clutter without focused marketing. As a creative, you are also likely to have limited resources and time. So, you need to stick with what works and stay on course.
Too many creatives lose focus on their marketing tactics. One common example is their blog or website. They launch it with much fanfare but within a month or two, they lose focus and stop updating the site. The website or blog does not get updated frequently and soon becomes a useless marketing tool. Or, in many cases, damaging since a website that has not been updated in a year suggests to potential clients that you are not in business.
Focus requires discipline but so does the perfection of technical skills of a creative’s art. If you are a commercial creative or creative entrepreneur, you need to put equal effort in both.