Not *another* course…

I think it’s high time I explain WHY I’m building a course on positioning.

There’s a group of freelancers who need more than The Positioning Manual offers. More structure (do THIS now, do THAT later) and more support (“Philip, tell me exactly what to do in my unique situation”, “Philip this is hard work, help me stay motivated.”). But… they need this structure and support at a lower price than the $700/mo I charge for my Positioning Accelerator Program.

If that’s you, this course is my effort to better serve your need for more structure, more support, and still-affordable price.

That’s “Why #1” for this course.

I hinted at this in an earlier email, but “Why #2” is that I’m trying to scale myself but not replace myself.

There’s only so much I can do to help TPM readers through email support. The Positioning Course takes everything I’ve learned about accelerating your progress and bakes it into a simple process that you can implement mostly on your own.

I know that access to me (my experience with positioning, my ability to make good judgement calls, etc.) is important, and that’s why the course includes lightning coaching slots for all participants.

I didn’t really realize it until recently, but I’ve spent over a year getting better at providing useful on-the-spot advice for people with positioning questions. I did this through being lazy…

Every time I got an email from a TPM reader that was dense, complicated, or wordy, rather than ignore the email or respond with an equally wordy email, I responded with an offer to get on the phone for 30 minutes and answer the question that way, completely pro-bono. A lot of people took me up on this.

I know some people thought I was crazy for doing this, but it built up a “muscle” that I’m now happy to use to help you if you buy The Positioning Course. I’ve learned how to give actually useful, actually helpful information on positioning questions in a short, realtime call.

So this course is a good way to scale up my impact and ability to help a larger number of people in a high quality, meaningful way.

That’s “Why #2”.

If you’re ready to buy now, head over to The course is $150 during this pre-sale and will never be cheaper. As with everything I do it’s backed up with my My Insta-Refund Guarantee: If you are less than 100% satisfied with your purchase and email me saying so, I will immediately click the Refund button and return 100% of your money, no questions asked.

If you have any questions at all about whether this course will be a good fit for you, please hit REPLY and let me know.

Talk to you soon,

If your dev shop got fewer than 10 leads last week, you need to take this free email course –>

Building it up, one layer at a time

One of my all time favorite albums is The Trinity Session, by Cowboy Junkies.

I know the usual music geek factoids about this album, like that it was recorded direct to digital tape in a historic church using a single Calrec ambisonic microphone. But recently I was perusing the Wikipedia article for it when I learned two things that remind me of your journey from generalist to specialist.

First, they did a bit of “social engineering” to convince the church to rent the space to the band for the recording. From Wikipedia:

To better persuade the officials of the historic church, the band claimed to be The Timmins Family Singers and said they were recording a Christmas special for radio.

This makes me think of the situation many of you are in when you’re moving into a new, more narrow market position.

What if you don’t have any proof elements that are directly related to your new focus?

Sometimes you have to get creative. Again, I don’t mean fabricating anything or distorting the truth, I just mean to think creatively about whether you could adapt existing proof elements, or find unexpected ways to use those existing proof elements to support a seemingly unrelated market position.

The second interesting thing I learned about the recording of that album is they structured the recording session to move from simple to complex. In that way, it was like a software project. It’s also like how I suggest you approach developing a marketing program.

From Wikipedia (bold is my added emphasis):

The session began on the morning of 27 November 1987. The group first recorded the songs with the fewest instruments and then the songs with gradually more complex arrangements. In this way Moore and the band were able to solve acoustic problems one by one. To better balance Margo Timmins’s vocals against the electric guitars and drums, she was recorded through a PA system that had been left behind by a previous group. By making subtle changes in volume and placement relative to the microphone over six hours, Moore and the band had finally reached the distinctive sound of the album by the time the last of the guest musicians arrived at the church.

On a recent Freelancers’ Show episode I found myself saying to co-panelist Jonathan Stark that nobody starts out at awesome. Everybody builds, iterates, and generally fails their way forward from a much less awesome starting place to where they are today.

If you don’t believe me, take any hero of yours and look at an older version of their website using the Internet Archive Wayback Machine. It’s endlessly fascinating to me to do that with my personal marketing or business heros.

If you want to improve your marketing, start small. Don’t feel like you have to implement ninja-level stuff from day 1. Add things in layers, just like Cowboy Junkies did when recording that landmark album.

If your dev shop got fewer than 10 leads last week, you need to take this free email course –>

Isha’s “Positioning Eureka Moment”

List member Isha wrote in with her “Positioning Eureka Moment” story:

My Eureka moment came when I was doing outreach to validate my expensive problem. I was able to land a call with someone who is responsible for business development for a multibillion dollar clothing company. And most recently had a business development person of a 52 year old multibillion dollar fast food legacy brand reach out to me on LinkedIn. 

Totally bizarre! And blew my mind! Never knew I could catch the interest of such large brands. On my linkedin profile I lead with the expensive problem instead of my title, and it seems to be totally working! 🙂  Thank you Philip!

Isha started seeing results like that when she stopped focusing on inputs (design, branding) and started focusing on problems. Problems that she can use her current skills and experience to solve.

If your dev shop got fewer than 10 leads last week, you need to take this free email course –>

Martin’s “Positioning Eureka Moment”

List member Martin wrote to tell me about his “Positioning Eureka Moment”:

i knew that i wanted to specialize ever since i was introduced to the
concept through the freelancers show. i picked up your template and started building my own, but for
about half a year i was unable to fill it with content. i had a rough
idea of what i wanted to “sell”, but i could not express it.

and then it hit me. i realized what i wanted to say. and within a week,
i not only had content for the site, but also for a 4 day email-course.

now of course comes the hard part, to validate that this actually makes
sense to anyone. it doesn’t help that i still haven’t picked a market
vertical. (i don’t necessarily want to focus on foreigners in china,
but for the moment that is the only group that seems even remotely

anyways, i guess that’s my eureka moment. now i have at least something
that i can talk about that is not just technobabble, and a way to show
that i have the others business needs in mind. (at least some of them)

I couldn’t say it better myself.

49% of marketing difficulties are caused by lack of focus. The other 49% are caused by not having something sufficiently interesting or compelling to offer (interesting to your target market, that is). The remaining 2% of marketing difficulties are caused by lack of knowledge about: copywriting, conversion rate optimization, advanced email marketing, how to run Facebook ads, fancy multi-step marketing funnels, the flavor of the month growth hack, etc. 

Yes, I’m kidding about those percentages. But I’m only 2% kidding. It’s amazing how intractable marketing problems melt away when you find the right thing to offer to the right audience.

Choosing the right focus solves your two biggest marketing problems with one move. You’ll still have to apply time and effort to get results, but like Martin found, you don’t wonder what to talk about in your website.

If your dev shop got fewer than 10 leads last week, you need to take this free email course –>

Acid in the vaseline

I have worked some pretty bad jobs in my life.

One was a temp job in Allentown, PA the summer after I graduated college.

Nobody told me what the real purpose of going to an expensive private college is (I went to Davidson College). I thought it was to get an expensive education, but much much later I realized the real purpose is to starting building a professional network.

Today I’m in touch with exactly 1 person from college, and all we do is recommend music to each other on Facebook. So yeah, I kind of missed the point of college and when I graduated I didn’t really have much of a plan for starting my career and I had no network to rely on. So I moved in with my parents for a summer and worked some temp jobs.

At one of those temp jobs (cleaning the shelving and displays from a Rite Aid drug store that had gone out of business), this guy told me about his worst job.

He’d gotten a temp gig cleaning out a huge industrial chemical electroplating machine that was big enough that he had to climb inside of it. The electrodes were caked with some kind of acidic crust that he needed to scrape off.

The proper safety equipment for a job like that is probably a full body hazmat suit.

All they gave this poor guy were some dishwashing gloves and a jar of vaseline. The gloves were to protect his hands, and they suggested he use the vaseline to completely seal off his nostrils to prevent getting chemical burns there. I’m not sure if they gave him anything to protect his eyes.

If you’re going to be happily and successfully self-employed for the long term, you need some “safety equipment” too.

If your dev shop got fewer than 10 leads last week, you need to take this free email course –>

Your Positioning Eureka Moment

A member of this hallowed list wrote me a few days ago with an update on their progress of narrowing down their focus.

Somewhere in their email they said they were still waiting for their “Positioning Eureka Moment”. That got me thinking…

Does everybody who narrows their business focus have a Positioning Eureka Moment? Some sudden flash of realization that… YES!!!… this is the market vertical you should focus on, or that is the problem domain you should specialize in?

This does happen. Some people–either on their own or with the help of my book–have this sudden realization of how all the pieces of their previous experience fit together into a clear and obvious way to specialize in the future.

For some, it’s obvious that a certain segment of their previous client experience is the best one to focus on. It’s the most profitable, the most enjoyable to work with, the easiest to find more of, or somehow the clear best choice.

But a lot more frequently, the choice is not so obvious. Maybe you have had 10 different types of clients in 10 different market verticals. Or you’ve had 10 clients in one or two market verticals (yay!) but you hate them all (doh!).

If your dev shop got fewer than 10 leads last week, you need to take this free email course –>

I’ll make a marketer out of you yet!

I spent way too long today trying to remember this one sentence from the television advertisements The United States Marine Corps used to run when I was younger. It went something like this:

Give us a few months and we’ll make you into a real man.

I’m pretty sure that’s not the exact quote, but either way I was reminded of this commercial when Positioning Accelerator Program participant Leo recently said:

Thank you so much for everything, you bootstrapped a marketer in me.

My not-so-secret agenda is to help self-employed software developers become marketers.

No, not full time sleazy internet marketers. 🙂 Just more effective at marketing their own services so they can be more choosy about which clients they work with. So they can build a robust pipeline of desirable work.

Part of what I think Leo meant is I’m helping him learn to think like a marketer. I’ve certainly noticed that more and more he just knows how to tackle marketing problems, like which topics to focus on in content marketing, and how to build content that he drips out to prospects to nurture them into clients. Leo’s getting really good instincts about how to market himself online.

That’s one of two things I help my Positioning Accelerator Program participants with. Sometimes they’re looking for hands-on assistance with researching or defining a good market position. And sometimes they want help learning how to market themselves effectively. And sometimes it’s a bit of both.

I only accept applicants who have read my book on positioning, because being willing to go very narrow in your marketing efforts is the linchpin of everything I help you do in the Positioning Accelerator Program, and also because I don’t want to charge you $700/mo to do dramatic readings of chapters from my book.

If your dev shop got fewer than 10 leads last week, you need to take this free email course –>

A year of narrowing down

List member Ari told me about his year of narrowing down his business focus (and graciously OK’d sharing the following with you):

Hi Philip,

I know you love talking about niching down, and seeing niche conferences and stuff. 

It’s now December. In January you helped me write my first positioning statement, which was “I help R programmers map open data sets”, or something like that. 

Anyway, I just submitted an abstract to The American Community Survey (ACS) Data Users Conference. ACS is the main data product from the Census Bureau.

Who would’ve thought that such a niche conference existed?

And I recently learned about the Association of Public Data Users. A trade organization that – to me at least – sounds fascinating!

It’s funny. I remember on your podcast you once said something like “People are always scared that niching down will make them bored. But when you get into the weeds, stuff really gets exciting.”

I think you were right!

Of course I’m right (about this topic) :).

And of course it’s a bit paradoxical how when you narrow your focus things get more interesting. But that’s depth, for ya! 

A surface exploration of many topics is exciting for a while (and it can even provide a good background for your career if done while you’re young), but businesses that sell expertise need to go deep in order to thrive.

What Ari didn’t mention in his email is the multitude of opportunities that show up on his doorstep now that he’s a year into having a narrow focus for his business. Off the top of my rusty memory, he’s been recruited for a national-level data science advisory position, gets asked to submit articles for publication on prominent blogs, and has been asked to do paid training classes for businesses. I’ll have to persuade Ari to list out all of the opportunities that have come his way some time.

Anyway, 2017 could be your year of narrowed focus. The kind of results Ari’s seen are possible for you too.

If your dev shop got fewer than 10 leads last week, you need to take this free email course –>

“Young people are just smarter”

Apparently Mark Zuckerberg once publicly said, “I want to stress the importance of being young and technical. Young people are just smarter.”

I don’t want to go off the deep end talking about ageism in tech. Particularly because others have already done that for me!

If you’ve 10 minutes to spare, please read this:

Here are a few highlights from that article:

  • The average age of workers at a few select larger tech companies: Facebook: 28. LinkedIn: 29. Google: 30
  • The average age of all U.S. workers: 42.

The article above is geared towards employees. As a self-employed person, you have both more opportunity than the typical employee, and a few unique challenges.

Providing compelling reasons for clients to hire you instead of your (possibly younger) competition is one of those challenges. Defining a clear, narrow market position for your business is step 1 in addressing that challenge.

No pitch today. Read that article instead:

Talk to you soon,

If your dev shop got fewer than 10 leads last week, you need to take this free email course –>

The Bedouins have the longest fingers

I had this dream the other night that woke me up.

It was extremely short, and consisted of a strange voice saying “The bedouins have the longest fingers”. That’s it; just the voice and then I woke up.

I bet you didn’t know there are slightly more than 21 million Bedouins alive today speaking 4 different dialects of Arabic, practicing 3 different religions, and living in at least 20 different countries.

Not all Bedouins live in the traditional way. Many have moved into urban areas and work conventional jobs, though there are still millions who live in the desert and subsist on animal husbandry work.

The Bedouins have a saying: “I am against my brother, my brother and I are against my cousin, my cousin and I are against the stranger”.

I tried to come up with a similarly elegant saying for myself: “I am against self-employed people letting themselves become commoditized, commoditization and I are against…” and then the whole thing just kind of fell apart.

I am definitely against self-employed people letting themselves become commoditized, and I believe the best defense against the downward rate pressure of commoditization is specializing your services.

Specialization is the foundation of effective marketing, value pricing, a stronger negotiating position RE: payment terms, and being able to say “no thanks” to clients you’d rather not work with.

Specialization starts with narrowing the focus of your marketing in a way that resonates with better clients who will pay above-commodity rates for your services.

If your dev shop got fewer than 10 leads last week, you need to take this free email course –>