Freelancers and Agencies Benefit From Clearly Identifying Their Ideal Clients and Their Problems

How to Spur Client Curiosity With a Unique Positioning Statement

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Curious girl with a magnifying glass.

More and more people make the decision to be freelancers. The allure to be your own boss and set your own hours is strong. But to succeed in this game and get clients you need to stand out. It all starts with figuring out your position and writing a positioning statement that piques a buyer’s interest and makes them want to learn more.

Throughout my conversations with freelancers, there’s one thing I keep hearing. It is that many obsess about their craft without thinking about the person to whom they’re marketing their services. In other words, they don’t know who their ideal client is.

Without an interesting positioning statement with a hook (more on that later), you will appear to be just another <insert your role here>.

As most will eventually realize, being passionate about what you do isn’t enough to survive, or even succeed, as a freelancer. To make it as a freelancer (or an agency for that matter), you need to think beyond that. You need to be fanatic about your work and your clients. That starts with defining your position and writing a positioning statement.

What Is Positioning in the Context of Marketing?

Positioning is quite an old idea that has gained more and more attention since it was popularized in 1981. A common definition of “positioning” in marketing is:

“Positioning refers to the place that a brand occupies in the minds of the customers and how it is distinguished from the products of the competitors.”

That said, there’s no real standard definition of the term. Most marketers understand “position” and “positioning” to mean what buyers associate with you and your brand.

Advertising legend David Ogilvy noted that some products are positioned for what they’re used for and said: “I could have positioned Dove as a detergent bar for men with dirty hands, but chose instead to position it as a toilet bar for women with dry skin. This is still working 25 years later.”

Positioning Is About What People Associate With You

But positioning is about more than what your products or services are used for. I think it’s better thought of as how buyers view you in relation to your competitors and what the buyer needs.

So-called perceptual maps are sometimes used to identify suitable positions for company or brand positioning strategies. To draw these maps, researchers interview buyers and may also use statistical methods to calculate the results. Perceptual maps are effective but not necessary for a freelancer or small agency trying to find their niche to stand out.

An example of a perceptual map, from Wikipedia's article on positioning and positioning statements.
An example of a perceptual map, from Wikipedia’s article on positioning and positioning statements.

Make a Conscious Decision to Position Yourself by Writing a Positioning Statement

Merely making a conscious decision about your position will put you ahead of most other small companies.

The easiest way to define your position is to write a positioning statement. It explains what you’re doing, for whom, how and why it’s relevant. It answers:

  • Who is your target market?
  • What problems do you solve for them?
  • What makes you different from everyone else who offers the same services?

Your positioning statement is a natural answer to “So what do you do?”. You can think of it as a one-sentence elevator pitch.

The Misleading Attraction of Vagueness in Marketing

It's important to have a sharp and clear idea about who your ideal customers are. Writing a positioning statement helps!
It’s important to have a sharp and clear idea about who your ideal customers are. Writing a positioning statement helps!

When I talk to freelancers and small business owners, many of them have no well-defined ideas regarding customers, market or the problems they solve. Being just somewhat specific or selective seems scary to many. It appears that they fear that being specific will result in turning down a lot of potential work.

But that’s an unfounded fear. You can easily verify that vagueness is not beneficial to your chances of winning clients. Just imagine you’re taking your car in for repairs. Will you go to the brand-specialized repair shop or the generic “garage?” Unless you know the garage’s mechanics well, chances are you go to the Ford, Volvo or Citroën dealer that knows your exact brand of car. Generally speaking, choosing the brand specialist seems like the less risky option.

Your clients think just like this! A client will look for a freelancer that will most likely do a good job. In other words, the person who presents the lowest risk. A freelancer that seems to specialize on the buyer’s industry or set of problems will have an immediate head start compared to the “generalist.”

The Best Positioning Statement Is About Who You Are

As a freelancer or small agency, the best positions are based on your unique competence, background, skills, and interests. They’re based on who you genuinely are. These are the positions that are easiest to maintain and stay competitive in since they’re essentially you.

Choosing a niche and understanding how to serve the needs of its buyers aren’t easily done. For large companies, poor positioning can have dire consequences. Luckily, as a small company or sole proprietor, you have more freedom to choose. It’s also easier for you to change your position later. That’s why I don’t see any good reason not to choose a position.

Make a SWOT Analysis to Find Your Position

One way to start thinking about your position is to perform a SWOT analysis. SWOT stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. These four are usually visualized as quadrants.

In our series on agency blogging, we used SWOT analysis to create a blogging plan as a way to remind ourselves of why we blog. Here’s a suggestion on how you can use a SWOT chart to write a positioning statement:

SWOT analyses are super useful for figuring out your positioning and writing your positioning statement.
SWOT analyses are super useful for figuring out your positioning and writing your positioning statement.

Using Positionize.me to Write Your Own Positioning Statement

There are multiple ways to write a positioning statement. In fact, they’re so many that I decided to create a free tool for writing a positioning statement. You can find it at positionize.me:

Using positionize.me, you can write the first version of your positioning statement in just a few minutes.
Using positionize.me, you can write the first version of your positioning statement in just a few minutes.

Using positionize.me is easy. All you need to do is to type in your customer, product/service, benefits, etc on the left side. The app will generate positioning statements on the right-hand side based on what you write. It generates statements based on six different templates. The tool cannot conjugate words or add conjunctions so you will need to edit the text yourself to make it work.

If you have suggestions on how to improve the tool, don’t hesitate to let me know.

Positionize.me is intended as a starting point. You will have to massage and work these statements a bit more before they’re ready to be delivered smoothly by you to a prospective client. Even so, I hope it will make positioning statement writing a little bit less daunting.

Examples of Positioning Statements by Freelancers and Consultants

Let’s make it concrete by looking at some fictional examples of positioning statements.

If you’re a conversion specialist with skills in UX and a deep interested in behavioral economics and “nudging:”

“I help owners of e-commerce stores increase sales by providing expertise in nudging, behavior design and interaction design.”

If you specialize in digital marketing and have a talent for photography and video:

“I help small business find new clients by improving their digital marketing with emotionally engaging photos, videos and graphics.”

It’s Important That Your Positioning Statement Has a Hook

To stand out and not being bland, it’s important that your statement has an interesting hook. The hook should either relate to your background or what you do differently. Good hooks are the things that make people say “Hey wait, what you said there sounded interesting! Tell me more.”

Hooks work because most people are inherently curious about new things. In the examples above, chances are that the people you talk with will latch on to “behavior design” or “videos” for an opportunity to learn more.

Using Your Positioning Statement to Create a Marketing Strategy by Making Better Decisions

Writing a positioning statement will help you make better decisions regarding your sales and marketing activities.

Once you’ve written a statement you’re happy with it, you can use it as the foundation of your marketing. Your statement will answer questions regarding whom you’re marketing to, and what you’re selling to them. This, in turn, will help you answer questions such as:

  • Should I spend time on LinkedIn or Facebook? Where are the buyers in your target market most likely to spend their time and where do they find the kind of content that influences them? LinkedIn works differently than Facebook.
  • Videos or blog posts for content marketing? What do buyers in your target market prefer when it comes to learning? Now that you know who they are, you can research their preferences by talking to them, reading the same news they do and follow them on social media.
  • What should my next blog post be about? You can write about the kinds of problems you help solve for your target buyers if you haven’t already.
  • How do I sell my services? Once again, by knowing whom you’re selling to you can adapt your sales strategy based on how they prefer to buy.

Conclusion: Positioning Is Relevant to All Businesses, Whether They’re One Man/Woman Shop or a Full-Service Agency

I hope that, after reading this, positioning seems a lot less abstract and more relevant to you and your company. Perhaps you’ve already written your positioning statement. If so, why not share it in the comments below?

If you’re curious to learn more there are many books. Positioning is a big topic and for a full introduction I recommend starting with the classic book “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind” (paid link).

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Author: Jakob Persson

Jakob is the founder and CEO of Zingsight, the company behind Bondsai. He's been involved with the web for over twenty years and has previously co-founded and grown a web agency from 4 to 70 people. Jakob holds degrees in media technology and cognitive science. He consults in product design and management, and business development. Jakob is an experienced skier and a learning scuba diver.