The third edition of The Positioning Manual is coming Fall 2020
New name, more relevant and expanded content, new packaging and pricing.
Sign up to get notified when it’s available:
Below is the description of the old version of this book; no longer for sale.
If you worry about competition from cheaper developers, then this book may rescue your business.
Positioning is the foundation of effective business development for self-employed software developers.It is a force multiplier that makes your marketing more effective and justifies higher rates. But, it involves risk. The Positioning Manual for Technical Firms is the only step-by-step manual to help you move from struggling generalist to in-demand specialist with minimum risk and maximum speed.
CHAPTER 1: WHY POSITION YOUR COMPANY?
- The situation you’re probably in:
- You’re playing “catchup” because you started working for yourself with little or no preparation.
- Landing new business is an afterthought, a struggle, or both.
- You operate from a position of weakness in rate/fee negotiations.
- Your business is treading water with no growth or meager 10 or 20%/year “cost of living” rate increases.
- You almost never say no to work
- Why you need a “product”, even if you’re 100% a services business. (p8)
- How positioning accelerates your business development.
- Why saying yes to clients is killing you (p13)
- The 5 reasons you’re suffering a feast/famine cycle in your business
- How positioning helps move your business out of “water-treading mode” (p12)
- How positioning helps you avoid nightmare clients (p13)
CHAPTER 2: WHO IS THIS MANUAL FOR?
- This book is for owners of technical services firms like programming consultancies, web or digital agencies, independent consultants or freelancers, people considering make the leap to self-employment, and self-employed people who need to be making more money within 12 months and can invest 6 months of effort to lay the foundation.
- Why this book will give you a world-class ROI on the time you spend reading it (2 hours cover to cover or less)
CHAPTER 3: UNDERSTANDING POSITIONING
- What it means to “own a word in the mind” and how this relates to positioning your business. (p20)
- What Volvo has to do with your business. (p20)
- The three things positioning does from your perspective and the two hugely important things it does from your client’s perspective.
- The Positioning Rule of Thumb: the one rule that simplifies any question about how to position your business.
- How to use the specificity-value curve in your business.
- The 5 ways to justify higher fees or increase demand for your services. (p24)
- How to develop expertise more rapidly than your competition. (p26)
- The problem with focusing only on firms located in Nevada. (p28)
- Why your positioning must change over time.
- The best time to position your business.
CHAPTER 4: IT’S GONNA HURT
- The 4 fears that can shut down your efforts to benefit from positioning.
- Why your personal brand can cause problems with positioning. (p37)
- Why your creativity is actually a threat to increasing your profitability through positioning.
- Why expanding your skill set to the bleeding edge, networking, simply demanding higher rates or fees, a fancy new web site will fail to make your business better over the long term.
- The 4 approaches that will help you get better clients and higher fees without positioning.
- What happens when you start saying no to good, profitable clients.
- The self-reinforcing feedback loop that helps you overcome imposter syndrome.
- What TED Talk speakers can teach you about positioning.
- The terrible “shrinking brain syndrome” and how that affects you.
- Why you’ll have to give up “on the job learning” and what you’ll do instead.
- How to prepare yourself for the episodes of loss aversion and analysis paralysis that you’ll face when positioning your business.
CHAPTER 5: THE NARROW FOCUS STRATEGY
- The one change you need to make to implement the Narrow Focus strategy.
- The situations where word of mouth will help you and the much more common situation where it won’t.
- What happens when a small manufacturer, a dentist, an attorney, and a delivery truck driver go bowling together.
- What a beachhead market is and why you want to find one pronto.
- The difference between sales-driven company and a market-driven company.
- The number one source of information that high-tech buyers reference.
- Why pragmatist buyers are your best ally, and how they will try to help you if you position yourself correctly.
- Why some clients like to be “owned” and how you can make that happen.
- How the Narrow Focus strategy helps you gain “insider status” and how that gives you an edge over your competition.
- How to gain a trust advantage that helps you increase rates and win more desireable projects.
- How to use the “nobody got fired for hiring IBM” effect to your advantage.
- The similarities and differences between audiences and market segments. (p61)
- Market segmentation criteria that matter, and ones that don’t. (p62)
- What Fortune 500 CEOs and cancer support group participants have in common (p63)
- An easy hack to help you figure out how specific to go in your positioning and how to avoid going too specific. (p69)
- An implementation checklist with:
- A list of who should and who should not use this strategy
- Research TODO items to help you verify that you’re on the right path
- Checklist items to help you choose the appropriate level of risk for your business
- A dead-simple formula to jump-start your positioning statement
- Validation techniques to further reduce risk before you make any changes to your marketing
- Specific TODO items to help you update and re-orient your marketing to match your new position
- Case studies showing you how other self-employed developers have executed the Narrow Focus positioning strategy:
- Web design services for a tiny audience: creative female entrepreneurs who are using their web presence to build and sell to their own audience.
- Marketing education & consulting for handmade soapmakers.
- Interaction design for independent, stable, bootstrapped businesses that need great software.
- Interior design for boutique medical practices (surprise! This case study shows that not only software developers can use positioning!)
- WordPress sites for membership businesses.
- Maritime emergency response (you’ve got to see this one. It shows a fantastic example of a powerful, clear, and focused “visual hammer”/”verbal nail” combination.)
CHAPTER 6: ABOUT CATEGORIES
- How categories are used to organize and subdivide markets.
- Why you need to move past 1-dimensional categories.
- Why you need a “verbal handle” to go with your category. (p103)
CHAPTER 7: THE CATEGORY LEADERSHIP STRATEGY
- The one thing you have to do to implement the Category Leadership strategy.
- A simple tool to help you estimate market size. (p109)
- What percentage of a market segment you need to own to claim a leadership position.
- The things that will change and the things that won’t change when you become a market leader.
- A formula for estimating the addressable size of a market segment. (p111)
- Why what seems like a small market segment to you is probably too large. (p112)
- The 5 benefits that market leaders enjoy. These benefits work to reinforce their leadership position while also making it easier and cheaper for them to acquire the best clients.
- The kind of free stuff that market leaders routinely get.
- Who should use the Category Leadership strategy and who should not.
- The 4 tactics that help you move into a market leadership position.
- The 5 “unbillable” activities that market leaders tend to engage in. (p116)
- An implementation checklist with:
- Research TODOs, including 4 strategy questions to help you identify new leadership opportunities.
- Validation techniques to further reduce risk before you make any changes to your marketing
- Case studies showing you what the Category Leadership strategy looks like in practice:
- A pricing strategy consultancy that has a client list with a phenomenal number of Fortune 500 clients on it.
- A conversion-focused copywriting business focused on startups.
- An agile development shop that has achieved a clear leadership position.
CHAPTER 8: THE CATEGORY PIONEER STRATEGY
- What to do if the category you want to become a leader in is already “owned” by an incumbent leader.
- What large companies do all the time to circumvent competition and how you can adapt this approach to your business.
- What you can learn from agile vs. waterfall development to help you position your business. (p131)
- The 5 evergreen patterns for creating new value or pioneering a new category. (p132)
- Understanding how service bundling or unbundling can help you pioneer a new category.
- Understanding how positioning as an insider or “localizing” your services can pioneer a new category. (p133)
- How the changing technology landscape and the emergence of overseas talent markets can help you pioneer a new category.
- Understand how much time and effort you’ll need to pioneer a new or divergent category.
- What kind of business the Category Pioneer strategy is ideal for.
- An implementation checklist with:
- Detailed descriptions of how service bundling or unbundling works. (p139)
- How altering your service presentation can help you create a new category.
- How the emergence of new technology, new social forces, or new financial forces may create a new functionality segment for you to move into.
- How you can differentiate from the existing leader in an existing category to pioneer your own category.
- Case studies showing you what the Category Pioneer strategy looks like in practice:
- A fast, limited scope service that focuses on fixing conversion rate problems rather than creating an entirely new design.
- A service that borrows techniques from public relations professionals and combines those with evergreen SEO best practices to create a new category and automatic category leadership.
- A marketing agency that uses a unique approach to conversion-focused copywriting to pioneer a new category.
- An audio editing service that created a new category for their services, positioning them as the de-facto leader in that category.
- A business coach that positions himself as an audience insider to own the new category he has created for himself.
CHAPTER 9: COMBINE TWO STRATEGIES
- When it’s ideal to combine two positioning strategies.
- The most common, lowest risk way to combine multiple positioning strategies.
CHAPTER 10: SELECTING THE RIGHT STRATEGY FOR YOUR BUSINESS
- What your gut feelings can tell you about choosing the right positioning strategy. (p170)
- Why positioning strategies are necessarily provisional. (p170)
- The ideal positioning strategy for a generalist firm.
- The ideal positioning strategy for a firm already focused on a specific audience/market segment.
- The most suitable positioning strategy for a firm currently in or close to a leadership position.
- The most suitable positioning strategy for a very experienced firm in any current position.
- For common patterns for moving from least to most risky positioning strategy.
CHAPTER 11: DEVELOPING A POSITIONING STATEMENT
- The two basic positioning statement formats you can use.
- Why you need to just be simple, clear, dogmatic, and blunt when crafting a positioning statement.
- How going after the pain can help your positioning statement.
- An idea for testing multiple positioning statements with no expense and very little time investment. (p181)
CHAPTER 12: GO FORTH AND READ THE BENEFITS OF CORRECT POSITIONING
Wherein I wish you well and invite you to contact me if you get stuck at any point. 🙂
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.
“Best Business Book I’ve Read in Years”
“The Positioning Manual is the best business book I’ve read in years. It’s #1 on my ‘must read’ list ahead of classics like Value-Based Fees by Alan Weiss, The Trusted Advisor by David Maister, E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber, and others.
I use it with all of my coaching students to help solidify their positioning; which is the foundation of my entire coaching engagement. I strongly recommend that any freelancer, solo consultant, or boutique firm owner read and re-read this book.”
—Jonathan Stark | Author of “Hourly Billing is Nuts”
“Helped Us Feel Ownership of Our Company Again”
“The fear is real. Our business was struggling with almost everything Philip mentions in the book—we felt like we were treading water and operating from a position of weakness with fees… and we needed to make a change.
We felt a lot of hesitation about choosing a niche, but since we read The Positioning Manual,we see our strengths more clearly and we now have a MUCH better plan for growth. We can’t recommend this enough. Frankly, it helped us feel ownership of our company again.”
Media and Production | Presence Agency
“Quit Fearing the Niche”
“The Positioning Manual has changed my life. Philip shows you how to quit fearing the ‘niche’, and attract a better client at a better rate.”
Agency Management Consultant | MarcusBlankenship.com
“My Year Over Year Income is Up $70,000+ (120%+)”
“Since I started focusing on positioning, my year over year income is up $70,000+ (120%+) and my month over month income in January 2015, was up 250% and in May 2015, up 400%+!
When I first heard of The Positioning Manual, I thought “my business is doing fine as-is — why would I want to change my positioning?” Reading this book forced me to challenge my assumptions about the audience I wanted to work with and focus on a specific audience of best buyers for my services.
Since reading The Positioning Manual, the quality of clients I work with has increased, clients have started to seek my out, and I’ve established a foothold as an authority in my space.
I cannot recommend TPM highly enough to any consultant who wants to make more money, work with better clients, or build a reputation for themselves in their space.”
Coaching for Consultants | kaidavis.com
“We Now Know Who to Talk To in Our Marketing”
“Philip’s advice on positioning has helped us go from flailing and not having a direction in our business to having a very defined target audience. We now know who to talk to in our marketing and what projects to take on (and which to decline!), and as a result get more and better referrals than ever before.”
Online Business Strategist | The Bright Agency
“I Wish I’d Had This When I Started Out 13 Yrs Ago”
I just read Philip Morgan’s The Positioning Manual for Technical Firms. I wish I’d had this when I started out 13 yrs ago.
Web Geek and Founder of Siftware.com
“Reassured Me it Was OK to Say No to The Wrong Kind of Clients”
“Yes, I had quite a bit of anxiety about my positioning. But… I was committed and there was a deeper part of me that was happy to say no to the wrong kind of clients. Reading The Positioning Manual (and working with Philip) reassured me I was doing the right thing. Now, I couldn’t be happier.”
Healthcare Interior Designer | CherylJanisDesigns.com
“I Was Feeling Lost And Scared About My Business”
“Before discovering Philip’s The Positioning Manual, I was kind of haphazardly offering whatever services I could to whatever potential clients came my way. Because of this, I was feeling lost and scared about my business and future. Reading The Positioning Manual has helped me focus my offerings and now I feel much more confident about my business and the clients I work with. It has revitalized my business. Thank you, Philip!”
Mobile App Developer, ZackGilbert.com
What makes you qualified to tell me how to position my business?
I’ve worked with hundreds of self-employed software developers (and a quite a few designer-types too) to help them navigate the process of specializing their marketing and business. Through this experience I’ve seen the common patterns, the common pitfalls, and the tactics that contribute most strongly to success.
That experience informs The Positioning Manual, which will teach you how to apply the timeless, proven positioning concept to your business while minimizing risk. That means I’ll help you understand how positioning works on a conceptual level, how to use the right positioning strategy for your business, what mistakes to avoid, and I’ll provide examples of how others have used these same strategies.
I know it looks like I’m cherry-picking the testimonials/reviews I’ve published on this page, but the thing is… nobody has ever complained publicly about this book or given it a negative review! I did find one 2-star review of the book over on goodreads.com (the average there is 4.09 out of 5), but that’s the only lukewarm or slightly negative thing I’ve ever been able to find online about the book. And nobody has emailed me directly to say anything bad about it. So yes, in a sense I am cherry-picking testimonials because there are literally too many of them (all positive) to publish here. Including all of them would make the page too long, so I’m just publishing the most helpful and impressive reviews and testimonials here.
Out of more than 1,000 sales of this book, I’ve only ever had four refund requests. One person said the book was too advanced for where they were in their career (they were just starting freelancing), two were dissatisfied with the content for reasons they didn’t elaborate on, and one was a dingaling who initiated a chargeback instead of taking advantage of my no-questions-asked refund policy (he would have gotten his money back 3 weeks faster if he’d asked for a refund). One guy asked for a refund for the $49 package because the book didn’t offer him enough value and then about 6 months later he re-bought the $99 package because he realized that he had easily gotten more than $49 of value from the book, he just needed some time to integrate the ideas into his thinking (he wrote me a really nice email explaining all of this).
That said, if you buy the book and for any reason decide it’s not for you, I’ll refund 100% of your purchase price. All you have to do is email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll get you refunded right away.
Is positioning effective? Does it work 100% of the time?
Yes to the first question (it is effective) and no to the second (it doesn’t work 100% of the time). Why?
It is effective because it makes things simpler and easier rather than more complex and risky. In other words, it’s hard to screw up narrowing down your business. In fact, your main obstacles are not correct execution, they are your own bad habits and fears. Don’t worry, I deal with all of that in the book.
Positioning does not work 100% of the time. If you are new to self-employment or you have limited experience working with clients, I would recommend that you wait to narrow your marketing and business focus. A year or two “in the trenches” as a generalist can actually be extremely beneficial because it will help guide your decision to narrow down your business.
Positioning also requires a level of discipline that not everybody will have. Finally, positioning requires that you spend some time working on your business instead of spending 100% of your time working in the business, and not everybody has that working on the business time available or the discipline to carve it out. People in this situation will not benefit from positioning.
And finally, positioning requires courage and faith. It requires less of these emotional assets than getting married does, and more of them than sitting down in a chair without checking the structural integrity of the chair first.
How long does it take?
80% of you will be able to choose an improved market position and begin seeing results within 3 to 6 months. 20% of you will need more time.
Is it a magic bullet? Will my business be transfigured?
Sorry, it’s not. But it is powerful.
Business owners who have used this advice most effectively and profitably share the following characteristics:
Willingness to endure some productive discomfort
Willingness to listen to clients very closely and find new ways to better serve their needs
As mentioned elsewhere, transitioning to a more profitable specialist or expert position takes time. You need to market yourself in a way that supports your new position (the Complete Bundle version of the book has some supporting material to help with this). And you need to be willing to try things that are uncomfortable at first.
So positioning is powerful. It is transformative. And when it starts working, it does feel like magic. But it is not magic because it requires work.
Who is this not right for?
Positioning is a foundational part of building a profitable services business. As such, it is good for any self-employed services professional to know about. That said, I’d recommend you not buy this book if:
Making any changes at all to your business would be super-risky. If you are living month-to-month and “the wolf is at the door”, I’d recommend not buying this book. Instead, work on shoring up the fundamentals of your business now.
You have no work experience. If this is you, it’s going to be very difficult to think in terms of what creates value for clients and what you do and don’t actually enjoy doing. Every decision I’ll ask you to make in this book will be way harder than it needs to be. Get a year or two of experience under your belt and come back. The book will still be here.
You have a bunch of other e-books in a folder on your computer and you’ve never taken action on any of them. Yes, my book may be better than those others and may be the outlier that spurs you to action, but you may also be a chronic information hoarder who doesn’t actually prioritize taking action. If that’s you, I don’t judge you, but also don’t waste your money on this book. You can probably satisfy your curiosity about positioning in other ways, like checking out the free /articles page on my site, for example.
Wow, $49/$99 for a book! That’s highway robbery!
The book is definitely expensive… except for people who implement the advice in this book and see results like the following:
Same number of clients/month, but 50% reduction in delivery time with no change in per-project cost, resulting in doubled effective hourly rate. Fully booked months in advance. (Connie)
Narrowed focus to regulated industries which led to speaking opportunities, which led to higher-value consulting opportunities, which have led to him building a software product MVP that is already pre-validated and will soon be ready to ship to customer who are ready to implement it like yesterday. Grew from solo developer to business owner with 5 employees and multiple revenue streams without finding the marketing to be a struggle. (Elliot)
These people have made back the price of the book hundreds or thousands of times over. For them, it wasn’t an expense; it was an amazing investment. And they’re just two out of over a thousand people who have bought this book. If you’re an action-taker, I’d bet that you will also join those who have gotten a world-class ROI on this book.
This book is only 20,000 words. Most business books are more like 80,000. Why is this so short?
Because I’d hate to waste a single minute of your time, and 20k words is about all it takes to give you a complete understanding of what positioning is and how to successfully apply it to your software development business. Of course, the Complete Bundle version of the book has supplementary content to help you troubleshoot, solve difficult positioning challenges, and market yourself more effectively. This necessarily adds length and time while it also adds significant value.
Most business books are bloated. They are one simple idea or insight padded out with stories or irrelevant content in order to make publishers who have somehow decided that 80k words is the “magic length” for a business book happy. This book is “just the facts” and enough supporting detail to help you use positioning to improve your business. It’s lean, mean, and very high ROI in terms of reading time.