Positioning Requires a 10,000 Hour Old Dog

We agree with the other experts on marketing positioning, that positioning is the key and guiding light for targeting customers. It also governs the entire marketing execution process when set.

Unfortunately, not enough marketing “professionals” understand the concept or have the experience or discernment to help make such a momentous step. Making the wrong decisions in positioning can ruin a company.

Experience is required. When you pick your brain surgeon, do you want the one fresh out of school, or the one who has already done the procedure hundreds of times? Understanding outcomes based on previous experience is something only experience can provide. Reading about it and taking short cuts just don’t make it.

The 10,000 rule states that to truly be an expert, one needs to practice 10,000 hours before reaching expert status. Because only a few practitioners do strategy and positioning full time, it would take most people 10 or more years in the specialty to gain real experience.

Discernment is the other requirement. Understanding markets, niches, new cracks in the market and business growth is a complicated task. In small business, data can be incomplete, leaving holes in the research. While as much factual data as possible is always desired, some small industries are too small or too new to fully analyze the situation. Finally, the creative side of marketing requires the “eye” or innate understanding of non-data evidence. This requires discernment  and proper judgment.

Gaining experience and discernment is never acquired through books or the preverbal MBA school. It starts there, but it must be continuously nurtured with time, study and on-the-job training.

I do my best to explain the process of market positioning and emplacement in my book Finding your Crack in the Market, but reading it won’t solve this problem for marketers. It may actually be true that the business owner is more able to make these decisions rather than marketing people, particularly creative oriented ones.

Today in a new client meeting, an example was revealed. The clients are in the construction business. They have had an incredible run in the last six years hitting over $12 million in revenue. Now for the first time, they have decided they need to do some marketing.

Their business was created by doing very small jobs for commercial properties owned by large companies. It turns out that this is their unique niche business. They do such a good job that they stay on the bid list and eventually they get a shot at the larger jobs. We were told in the sales interview that they wanted to do the big jobs, that they were ready to grow into the next tier of business.

This is the profile that design and advertising firms just jump at. They want to upscale the company with expensive materials, a big new website, online marketing and trade advertising, which provide ongoing commissions to them.

The truth is that they can hardly handle the calls and get out the bids. Evaluating their business growth using 80/20 rule, or Prado principle, may indicate that they should get rid of the small troublesome jobs, but the owner clearly recognizes how they have been growing so fast. We will wait until we get the data, but this company many NOT need any marketing promotion at all!

The last thing we want to do is wake the sleeping giants. A slick new promotional program could do just that. If they understood this particular crack in the market, they have the money to focus on this strategy too. It may be a better approach to focus marketing dollars on internal sales training and systems for faster bidding (this is marketing too).

Positioning and emplacing this company as a competitor to larger companies would actually kill the niche where they were successful. Its common knowledge that good niches in the construction industry are few and far between.

Why would anyone recommend that they change their positioning now? Of course the reason is that most marketers would see money in the high profile program, but the focus has to be on what is right for each business if we are to truly be consultants.

Understanding these diverse situations requires discernment and experience (well, perhaps honesty and trust help too).