Pick something you actually believe in

How to create a position based on value(s)

A quick note: Last week, Leah and I presented a webinar for the Halifax Chamber of Commerce on using marketing strategy to move your service business up-market. The video is here for the interested.


Business owners usually want to know how to judge their market position before they make public moves to reinforce it.

Beyond confirming it is within your current capabilities and that it has a credible opposite, how can you tell if you’ve come up with a good position?

The first thing to look for, of course, is whether there is a real customer set. We can’t sell our services to people if what we’re offering is unappealing or appeals to too small a group.

Our position exists within the minds of our potential clients, not on paper. So if there are no potential clients, there is no position.

But while simple viability is absolutely necessary, it’s entirely insufficient. It’s not enough to craft a position you think somebody might buy, it needs to be one you believe in selling.

When we focus our position exclusively on making money directly—choosing it solely based on its presumed financial viability—we risk an endless tension between our goals and our beliefs.

But who cares? Isn’t business about making money? Isn’t it just about making something we think people would buy?

No, because revenue is not something we’re owed simply because we offer a service. It’s byproduct of the value we generate, as determined by our clients.

And most of us cannot operate at our highest level when we don’t believe in what we’re doing—at least not for long, or not well.

But it’s easy—more than that, it’s motivating—to do and sell what we care about.

Believing in our position can, indeed, be performance-enhancing. As performance psychologist Michael Gervais wrote, “I can’t overstate how important a personal philosophy is.”

In his career working with athletes and Fortune 50 business executives, he’s found that, “what makes these high performers great is their clear sense of the principles that guide them.”

Running a business, marketing our services and ourselves, is difficult. But “because of their clarity” that comes from their beliefs, Gervais continues, high performers are “more willing to push themselves, learn more, and embrace discomfort.”

If we want our business to generate its greatest possible value for our clients, we need to believe it should.

So when you craft your market position, choose something you truly care about, in addition to something financially viable. I suggest aligning it with the work you’re truly best at, and which you feel you’re meant to do based on your unique skills, experiences, and interests.

None of this is to say that you can’t or shouldn’t strive for increased revenue. Simply that you’re more likely to get there if you approach it indirectly as a result of the value you create for others, based on a market position you genuinely believe in.

Because “intrinsic motivation that comes from inspirational beliefs is much more powerful than extrinsic forces,” as Stavros and Torres wrote in Conversations Worth Having.

When we believe in what we’re doing, we’re more motivated to get our marketing work done, to seize new opportunities, to recognize our good fortune when we have it, and to push ourselves to create more and more value for our clients and promote that value publicly.

We can get what we want out of our business—whatever that might be—but only if we approach it from the right angle.

Marketing and positioning efforts in single-minded pursuit of increased revenue emit a sheen of desperation, which demotivates both the buyer and the seller.

But businesses positioned on inspirational beliefs and a desire to generate value for others are far more often rewarded with long-term sustainability.

So as you create and adjust your position, it’s important to ask yourself a few questions:

Does this position focus on the work I’m uniquely able to do?

Do I believe real people actually need this service, delivered in this way?

Will it attract the clients I love to work with?

And will it operate the way I’m meant to operate it, or will it feel like acting out somebody else’s ambition?

Nothing is guaranteed, and no business is promised success.

And, as Davis Maister wrote, “You can pick whatever strategy you want.”

But, he continued, “if you’re not prepared to be strictly accountable for what you declare your strategy to be...you’re wasting time.

“Pick something you actually believe in.”


Have a question about marketing strategy you’d like addressed in an upcoming newsletter? Reply to this email to let me know, or email me directly at joel@familyknife.com