Positioning Yourself Effectively for Personal Branding

Now that you have a good and firm grasp on branding and the reasons why you should jump into some personal branding activities is where to go next.

The next step is simple: Define your “position” or what you stand for. Specifically you want to make sure that you provide something unique, fresh, and highly valuable to your readers, clients, and customers.

This is one of the most important steps as well since it helps you clarify your value and how you are different than your competitors. It helps you understand and your customers understand why they need you and whatever you’re bringing to the table – it helps you and them make sense of the many different options that are available.

And most importantly it begins to speak for you, keeps you on the tip of their mind as your customers continue on in life and will help establish a long-lasting memory imprint. It’s you, your brand – make it memorable.

This is what positioning is all about and the more effective you are the more successful you’ll become.

You, Unique:

The next thing to do is simply begin to list out all that make you and your services, your blog, your site, your business unique. There is a very relevant post that you should also read about “Focus and Expertise” that I wrote that can help give you some ideas as well. I also included, at the end, some examples of unique qualifiers that I’ve used for myself.

But that’s not enough – positioning is also both practical and strategic besides being personal and unique. You’re going to want to consider the following:

  • Work – Your work and history of work is one of your unique ways of positioning yourself. You’ve worked in some of the best businesses in the world – that’s brandable! Let people know about it.
  • Content – One of the biggest things to online branding is your content that you’re creating daily. You’re going to want to make sure that you’re listing out the content (sites, blogs, social networks) that are available for review. The most important question is whether or not they are consistent with the overall brand you’re trying to convey. Is all the content directly related to your overall positioning? If not you have some pruning to do.
  • Attitude – I’m always surprised at how off-color people’s comments, tweets, and general attitude is when I compare what they are trying to promote and what they are actually saying off-handedly. The two, for some, never completely compute and I think the underlying value is their attitude and overall awareness of what they’re doing day-in and day-out. The point is this: You’re always branding yourself, constantly re-affirming or contradicting your positioning. Are you strengthening it or diluting it?

These are some of the top level considerations that you’ll want to promote, share, and express both explicitly and implicitly.

Are You a Generalist or Specialist?

One of the larger questions that you’ll ultimately have to answer for yourself is whether or not you’re going to position yourself as a generalist or a specialist.

There are advantages and disadvantages of both – for example, being a generalist will put you in a larger pool of competition but also help you gain more traction with a bigger and wider audience. This could be good for you in the long run. A specialist is someone who has less competition and is strategically targeting a smaller market, segment, business, or niche and will have less customers as a result.

The generalist will also most likely have a larger portfolio of clients but may have a smaller billable rate or conversion value than a specialist. Of course, on the flip-side, a specialist will be able to “charge more” for their time, services, content, etc. but will not have as many clients. It’s up to you.

Most people’s gut reaction is that the specialist is going to prove to be more advantageous since we all want to consider ourselves “unique” but there are a few truths that most people have an extremely hard time swallowing:

  • The simple fact is that a true specialist is extremely hard to find and is extremely difficult to become. Most people have diluted the pool and general understanding of a specialist resulting in huge pool of specialists. To be clear, there are only a very select few who are truly specialists in their craft.
  • This means that most people, when they are truly honest with themselves, are generalists, especially when it comes to marketable and profitable skills and skill sets.
  • But you don’t sell yourself short – you don’t need to be a specialist to be valuable, unique, and highly marketable. Most people think it’s a requirement but this is completely false. An honest assessment and your existing track record will tell you otherwise and plainly show the truth.

These are hard pills to swallow but very important if you’re going to be effective at what you do and make your positioning the most compelling possible.

Here’s a personal and very honest example:

  • I am not a specialist when it comes to blogging which means that I’m admitting to my audience and my customer base that I’m not the top of the line, top shelf, the very very best, uber genious at this. In fact, I’m very comfortable with admitting that my work as a blogger is mediocre. I could claim very easily a generalist position when it comes to blogging!
  • Why would I do this? It’s because it’s not what makes me, me. One of my goals is ultimately to provide valuable content to my readers in an easy to understand and consistent fashion. Am I original at this? No. Am I the best at this? Absolutely not.
  • But my other goals are to provide and be an effective marketing channel for my startup businesses and experimental developments that I pursue. With that in mind I can peacefully resign myself to positioning myself as a generalist blogger!

The point of all this? It’s to understand the tension between your positioning and your end goals as a professional.

You see, most people think that their combination of skills, experience, and perspective may dilute or limit their ability to be successful, especially if some of them don’t relate directly to one’s financial bottom line.

Here’s a very easy example:

  1. You’re a freelance designer. You know your audience is huge. You know your competition is huge. And you’re honest enough to know that you’re not a true specialist. You’re not in the top tier of designers world wide and not even close to being considered a seasoned veteran.
  2. But, you do know that you have some of these other skills and un-related experiences that are unique: You’ve lived in 10 different countries, speak three different languages, was once a concert pianist, and can run a four minute mile after eating a Big Mac from McDonalds. Even though none of these directly relate to your trade (what you make to cover your bills and expenses, how you make a living) they are highly brandable and help you create positioning!
  3. You see, being a generalist with unique qualifiers helps you position in a unique way – in fact, it’s your advantage as a generalist!

Why then do most people try to position themselves as super-epic and uber-specialists? Because they are ignorant of what that even means and are lying to themselves and their customers. Does that make you a bit upset? Yes, it should. So marinate on it for a bit.

You’re only a true specialist if these things are true:

  1. You’re the best of the best. Really.
  2. You’re the best of the best at one thing. Really. If you have more than one trade interest you’re no longer a specialist, by definition. Get over yourself. Really.
  3. You’re extremely comfortable doing one thing and one thing only, especially as your trade.
  4. You know exactly your target market, audience, and business. You know exactly what they are looking for and the services they need.

If the thought of doing one thing and one thing only feels impossible or would kill you then you’re not a specialist and be happy with that truth! Being a generalist doesn’t limit your amount of success or positioning value at all.

The Balance (That Most People Fit In):

So you’re not a specialist but you still want to position yourself uniquely. What you have to do is position yourself as a generalist with a specific specialized skill or level of expertise. The most strategic people make sure that it’s a marketable skill and that it fits comfortably with their trade.

For example, I’m not the best darn blogger out there. If you thought that then I apologize for accidentally fooling you – I’m not. But, I have a specialized skill as a WordPress developer who has a library of WordPress Themes and WordPress Plugins that I’ve helped create and produce. I’ve also been working and blogging in this environment for more years that most and those help “specialize” me and position me better.

These are both marketable and are directly related to my trade – how I make money with one of my startups, 8BIT. Makes sense, right? In addition this generalist positioning of myself helps me keep the widest audience possible. This is to my advantage since I need a large audience and market to sell and make the most profit!

Got it? Good.

Bringing It All Together:

Now that you’ve started thinking about positioning and how you’re a generalist or specialist or a combination of both to a certain degree it’s time to write it out, get it out, and make sure you can be as explicit as possible.

This is your unique position statement(s) that are memorable and help you develop your brand. People in marketing are familiar with terms like “Unique Selling Position” or USP for short – in terms of personal branding this relates to you since you are the product, service, and brand.

This USP is found in Mission Statements, Vision Statements, and more. It can be a sentence to a paragraph. The more succinct, direct, and perhaps quantifiable the better. Papa Johns, one of my favorite (and easy to deliver) pizzas has a great USP:

Better ingredients. Better pizza.

Simple, right? Their position is that we have better ingredients than our competitors which (obviously) means that you’ll have a better pizza. This means, implicitly, that you’ll have a better experience and your tummy will thank you more than if you went with one of their competitors.

Is Papa Johns a “specialist” in this regard? No – the market is saturated with pizza joints! But they’ve made their USB simple, memorable, and extremely compelling. What’s amazing is that it fills these three most important requirements:

  1. An effective USP delivers. In other words, you can make good on your USP’s promise.
  2. An effective USP is consistent with your positioning. It doesn’t contradict, simply complements. It may be your main position statement!
  3. An effective USP is desirable. In other words, your customers, readers, and those interacting with your brand want it.

Does Papa Johns’ customers want better ingredients and a better pizza? Heck yes. Do they deliver? I think so, especially when I’m hungry and don’t want to drive my wife and two crazy daughters out to get one. Is it consistent with their positioning? Yup, so far so good.

So go find your positioning statement(s) and make them rock.

[This is part of the Personal Branding Series.]