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Pop Quiz: How Strong Is Your Firm’s Positioning?

Post Series: Positioning

Take just a moment and think about your past projects.

Think of all the projects your firm completed in the last year — both the great projects and the ones that caused too many late nights — and mentally put them all into a pile. Now sort them, one by one, into categories by the kind of work your firm completed on each project. Be as specific as you can.

Structural engineering on this school renovation . . . municipal parking garage . . . 50,000 sq. ft. commercial retail space . . . new construction church design . . .

Look at the biggest pile. If you have positioned your firm properly in the marketplace, you won’t be surprised at the kinds of projects in the largest pile. These projects reflect your technical team’s core competencies and experience. Clients reach out to your firm for this kind of work precisely because of the level of expertise you bring to a project. Your work can be easily grouped into categories, either by market or service. That is a good thing.

However, if after this exercise you have little groups of projects all over the place without any connection to each other, your firm is suffering from poor positioning. Poorly positioned firms are easy to recognize: the business development team is run ragged chasing down any new opportunity; your win rate is much lower than it could be because you’re chasing absolutely everything — including work that isn’t a fit for your firm; and the phrase “full-service” is used to describe the generic services you offer.

Now give yourself a grade: how strong is your positioning? Anything less than a B- means you need to spend some time actively planning your firm’s positioning in the market. Poor positioning is a problem that must be solved if your firm is to grow financially and increase revenue.

Positioning: A Primer

Positioning is the practice of creating a niche within a marketplace so that potential clients can easily determine if your firm fits their need. Look, it is your responsibility to make sure clients understand your firm is not just one of the service professionals that can solve their problem — but your firm is the only one because you are the expert. Start your positioning practice by recognizing, and then communicating, where your firm outperforms the competition. Where does your expertise lie?

Properly positioned firms offer more than technical services — they deliver expertise and on-the-job performance that reinforces that expertise. You can solve more complex problems in less time than firms who don’t have your expertise. That additional layer of value-add services elevates your firm above a commodity-based provider into the space of expert consultant which should include premium service pricing. Contrast that with how poorly positioned firms are forced to offer commoditize work, often awarded to the lowest bidder, because there’s no expertise to sell. You’re leaving money on the table if you fail to position your firm with the category knowledge you have worked so hard to learn.

The work required to define your positioning will require some courage. You’ll need to make brave choices about the kind of work your firm should do more often, and even more courage to stop bidding on projects that don’t fit your team’s core competencies.

If you feel like you could have done better with this positioning pop quiz, it’s time to study up and start positioning your firm to win more. Figure out where your firm outperforms the competition and then share that message. You can do better.

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