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Product Positioning vs. Services Positioning

If you’d really like to understand the idea of positioning, it’s useful to compare positioning in the world of products to positioning in the world of services. They’re both based on the same fundamental idea, which is moving into a position from which you can take advantage of some marketplace feature, need, or desire. We could shorten this to: moving into a position from which you can act on an opportunity in the market. Once you get past that similarity, though, they become different. Product positioning is based on the inherent objective observability of a product, and the ability of advertising to amplify a message about those observable features. The superior build quality of Apple’s first generation unibody aluminum MacBooks was easily observable when compared to Windows PCs of the same generation. Almost anybody paying any level of attention would notice the sturdy yet smooth movement of the hinge that supported the MacBook screen. That person could pick up the computer and try to flex or twist it and see how strong it was. They could bang on the keyboard and feel how little give there was. And side by side with a same-generation Windows PC, they would notice a distinct difference in build quality. This is what I mean when I say products have an inherent objective observability. You can see, feel, smell, taste, and measure the differences between products. This lends a sense of objectivity to how we compare products. Products also tend to have fixed, known prices,...

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Evaluating the Strategic Value of Prospective Work

Businesses are often money-making enterprises. This generally encourages a short-term orientation in our decision making. Strategy, however, is the relationship between decisions you make now and possibilities those decision bring within reach later. There is a real–but often unclear–relationship between the decisions about now and the future possibilities those now-focused decisions unlock. In other words, if you’re only focused on the short term, your decisions may not be very strategic. They may not unlock the most desirable future possibilities for your business. I’d like to explore this tension a bit, with a focus on the non-monetary value that some work can have for you. If your current situation is such that you truly cannot afford to think about anything other than the short term, this paper is not for you. And you have my sympathy. I spent years in that very same situation. But if you’re starting to think about how you might build some short-term success you’re current realizing into something more valuable over the long term, this paper is definitely for you. Strategic Value If you decide to do something because doing that thing might create value in the future or give you better options in the future, you have done two things. First, you have taken a risk. Your decision might not work out the way you thought! That future value might not materialize. Those future better options might not become available to you. Or they might! That is the nature of risk-taking. You are less than...

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A Framework for Deciding How to Specialize

If you’d prefer, download a PDF of this article (// or listen to me read it: A strong market position comes from a decision to specialize followed by a few years of disciplined followthrough. There are 5 kinds of market positions professional services firms can cultivate, and 5 corresponding ways of specializing. But how to decide where to specialize in the first place? Some of you will land on a good specialized focus. Your intuition or naturally assertive decision making style will take you there—perhaps with some iteration along the way—without any outside help. This article is for the rest of you. Those that benefit from process and structure or at least an idea of how to approach a high-stakes decision you’ve never made before. I have a framework I use when I advise clients on this process. I’ll share that framework with you here. It’s simple enough to tackle on your own, but if you want expert, empathetic guidance applying it you might consider one of my group workshops or a private coaching engagement. First you’ll need to understand the 3 ways in which you could decide, the missionary-mercenary spectrum, and risk profile. I elaborate on this in my books (The Positioning Manual for Technical Firms and Specializing Without Failure), but this article should help you understand this framework enough to use it for your own business. The 3 Decision Approaches When deciding how to specialize, you are looking for an advantage of some kind. These advantages break down...

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Specializing With Little or No Relevant Proof

Dear generalist self-employed software developer who would like to specialize, You face multiple struggles. Deciding how to specialize is one of them. But after that decision is made, you may face an uphill battle when it comes to your credibility. What if you would like to specialize in a way that is not backed up by a lengthy track record of successful projects? In other words, what if you want to specialize in something that you have limited direct experience with? There will be a part of your mind that says to you: “You’re out of luck, buddy. Stick with the generalist thing. At least it works, and you won’t have prospects turning you down due to lack of experience.” To that part of your mind, I say: “Not so fast! There is a way, if you’ll hear me out.” (more…)

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