I’m pretty in love with the idea of content-strategy-positioning which I touched on yesterday. You are what you talk about. But also what you eat – as in research.
In fact, there are several other ways to exhibit your positioning. Here they are, in order of importance:
- What clients you choose to work with. Or seen another way, what clients you choose not to work with 
- How you design and deliver your content strategy
- Among prior clients, what successes you choose to publicly post mortem. IOW, what case studies you do (this is sort of a subset of #2)
- What you choose to research
- What you choose to learn/read about with respect to your work (sort of a subset of #4)
- How you present your products and services
- How you write your profile positioning (your online profiles, your website, your email signature, your slogan, etc). Advertising falls into this category, too.
Now you can see why I call “profile positioning” (#7) a hack – looks a little flimsy against the others, doesn’t it? To be fair, it’s a crucial and sometimes very powerful hack. But a hack it is – at least for expressing your positioning.
I like profile positioning though, as a method for making a positioning decision. Everyone should try this (if positioning is an issue for you – for many of you, it’s not; your positioning naturally evolves over the years).
There are many more complete ways to make the positioning decision, however.
I’ll explore them in another post because I have a bone to pick with some of the consultative wisdom on this that I’ve run into. One piece of advice I see out there that doesn’t sit well with me is to pick an “industry code” – from NAICS .
Viewing your clients through the lens of NAICS is an interesting ideation exercise that can give you all sorts of interesting data (total number of prospects nationwide, median headcount, etc). But the problem is that it’s a highly theoretical framework developed by economists that doesn’t map well to … reality. For example, it can’t grok this trend: the de facto blurred lines between B2B and B2C business, lifestyle, marketing. Each individual person is a business now. 
A better evaluation framework is: is there a conference about where your clients convene? At conferences where your clients convene, is there a pattern of a certain kind of popular conference session? Could you add to or improve on it?
But here’s an even better evaluation framework: can you design a two-year content strategy, for a given positioning, that speaks to your prospective customers and their friends?
Kind of a trick question, because you kind of don’t know until you start creating the content unless you’ve done something like this before.
But the point is that one of the deepest ways to express your positioning – designing a content strategy – is also one of the best ways to help you make a positioning decision.
Footnotes & Errata
- If I show you a list of 100 potential leads, can you choose just 3 you want to work with
- The NAICS stands for North American Industry Classification System and is a joint project between Canada, the US, and Mexico. The US Census Bureau publishes it here
- A somewhat Dada-ist yet valid example comes from LinkedIn status update maestro Anthony English, who refined his positioning from, “I help IT professionals become less awkward in business” to, “I help Rachels in business”. Yes, he means any person whose name is Rachel. Because why the hell not? 🙂