The relationship between positioning and specialization

Sent by Jonathan Stark on April 11th, 2018

Two terms that come up a lot when I’m advising people on how to increase their fees are positioning and specialization.

They are often confused, so I’d like to try to clarify:

Specialization is the process of concentrating on and becoming expert in a particular subject or skill.

Positioning is a marketing tactic meant to make you more memorable to your ideal buyers.

Broadly speaking, your speciality is what you do and your positioning is how you talk about what you do to strangers.

So...

You could be a specialist in the same subject or skill (i.e., the thing that you think of when you think of what you do) for the rest of your professional life.

During that time, your positioning (i.e., how you present your expertise in the marketplace) could change a dozen or more times.

Think of it like this:

If your specialty is running an Irish pub, your positioning is the sign outside on the sidewalk.

A sandwich board that says “Guinness On Tap” might pull people in during the cold months. In the summer, a sign like “Ice Cold Stella” might be more effective. But changing the sign doesn’t change the way you operate the pub.

Positioning gets people in the door. Once they’re inside, they’ll experience your specialization.

Note that although specialization and the positioning aren’t the same thing, they are related and do inform each other. In other words, you can’t just put ANY sign outside the pub.

For example, it wouldn’t make sense to put a sign outside the pub that said “Prescription lenses in 60 minutes or less!” or “Get your bike ready for spring!” because those have nothing to do with your specialty (i.e., running a cozy pub).

Hopefully this has been helpful. As always, please hit reply if you have questions :-)

(For the record, the pub sign metaphor is not perfect, but I think it’s useful for the educational purpose of making the distinction between specialization and positioning.)

Yours,

—J


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