I love a good healthy marketing debate over a Cobb salad lunch! Last week, I went a few “rounds” during a discussion about the optimal positioning of a mid-sized professional services firm. On one side of the ring was me – the experienced and competitive B2B marketer. On the other side was a people-oriented Partner with over 30 years under his belt. On the ropes – a business development professional who was new to the firm and to the professional services industry. In the middle of the ring was the referee disguised as the firm’s Managing Partner. We hadn’t even ordered our salads as the first round began!
Round One: Should Positioning be Free of Passion?
The experienced Partner started the match with the statement that positioning should be something that evokes emotion and what makes his firm different is the passion that each professional brings to every client engagement. The firm, after all, has been around a long time and the client relationships run deep. In his mind, “professionals who care passionately about delivering solutions” was the right positioning strategy to set the firm apart.
I love to get different perspectives and actually like to be proven wrong, but I couldn’t get a nagging question out of my head and had to deliver a counter punch: With all things being equal, would you select a marketer who is “passionate” or a marketer who has “sector experience?” In B2B marketing, I argued, sector experience wins any day of the week. When positioning a professional services firm, a firm should consider what is important to their clients as opposed to what feels meaningful to them. In an ideal world, you might have both but that is not always the case. Positioning is not a “mission statement.”
Round Two: Positioning is about Preferences!!!
I was out of my corner now and I think everyone at the table knew that I was going for all the points in round two. When the Marketri team works on positioning projects, we consider the following:
- Firm strengths
- Competitors’ positioning strategies
- Client preferences
The sweet spot is when a positioning strategy is based on a firm strength; a client preference; and is something not used by direct competitors. We always ensure that the positioning is based on something that matters to the clients. The process is very much a science – there is no guess work involved!
The Final Round: Relationships Support but don’t Drive Positioning
With two full battle rounds and our salads almost finished, the business development professional bounced off the ropes to share his view that positioning is about one-on-one relationships. This time I had to go for the knock-out. Positioning is about the how a firm would like clients, prospective clients, referral sources and the community to perceive its brand. It’s very much a firm-wide thing as opposed to an individual thing. But, relationships can absolutely support or undermine a firm’s positioning strategy.
B2B marketing is much more of a science than most folks think! We are very passionate about what we do and have some great relationships with business leaders but I know that is not why our clients hire Marketri. We are full-service, sector specialists with the proactive, results-driven approach! That’s our TKO!