Positioning other than verticals?

I got an email from Frank that you’ve got to check out (shared with his permission of course). It’s about positioning…


I’m working through the latest version of the ebook and have been a fan since you first released. Our current positioning has worked pretty well over the years, but there is always room for improvement.

One thing that is really tough for me though is picking a vertical. We’re so niched that I almost think going down to a certain industry is a bit like only servicing clients in Nebraska. We’re positioned as Ruby on Rails Security Experts.  

If someone has a web app built in Rails and cares about security, we’re the obvious choice. I’ve had consulting engagements that literally went “Googled for Rails Security Expert, Watched your Video, want to book your flight to office to consult ASAP!”. Other engagements have gone along the lines that would be familiar to any Rails shop.

Anyway, I hope that you’re having a great day. I’ve applied many positioning techniques and am always looking for more. I just wonder if we’re in a place where our technicals are so specific that going industry specific would be limiting more than helpful.

And I never say AND in our mission statement 🙂

Here’s my response to Frank:


Thanks for your note, Frank. You have what I am starting to call a Horizontal Expert position, and it is–as you’ve indicated–perfectly viable. 

You’ve focused on a problem that is real. It’s very common for technical wizards to over-value a problem they personally care about and then find that no clients really prioritize solving that problem. Congrats on avoiding that common pitfall!

As you’ve also pointed out, travel is sometimes more common with a Horizontal Expert market position than with a vertically-focused position. Plusses and minuses there, huh?

The other big issue that can bedevil a Horizontal Expert market is actually finding clients. Your ideal clients don’t exactly telegraph that they have Rails security concerns, do they 🙂 Horizontal Experts tend to rely on inbound marketing and clients finding you, which can be a slow difficult game to play. Or, as you’re seeing, it can work amazingly well.

> I just wonder if we’re in a place where our technicals are so specific that going industry specific would be limiting more than helpful.

Probably. If you’re looking to get your rate or project size up I’d suggest either developing some proprietary (but not necessarily secret) intellectual property or starting a focused outbound marketing campaign to clients with deeper pockets. If you’re looking to increase profitability I’d suggest looking for ways to distill digital products from your experience, productize your services, or both.

Finally if you’re looking to get more leads (doesn’t sound like it from your email but just in case…) you could pick a temporary beachhead market vertical to focus on as a way to accelerate getting more leads.

I think I’ve managed to talk Frank into giving a future Dev Shop Marketing Briefing on how he’s approached content marketing. It’s really working for him, and I suspect there’s something that you can learn from that.


If your dev shop got fewer than 10 leads last week, you need to take this free email course –> http://positioningcrashcourse.com

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