Will your marketing work?

Your marketing position is a core part of the structure of your strategy, and of your business. In short, it’s the answer to these five questions:

Your marketing position is a core part of the structure of your strategy, and of your business.

In short, it’s the answer to these five questions:

  1. Who is your ideal customer?
  2. What problem are you solving in their lives, or what state of being are you helping them reach?
  3. How are you uniquely able to do that for them in a way they’ll especially appreciate and value?
  4. What obstacles are standing in their way, impeding their progress toward that state or solution?
  5. When do they realize in their life, business, or relationships that they need outside support to help them solve their problem?

Those answers constrain your actions and keep you from expanding unnecessarily, targeting the wrong customers, or trying to solve the wrong job in your clients’ lives.

And they provide the scaffolding on which you can hang creative and effective marketing tactics, with the confidence that you’re staying focused on what matters.

But how can you know for certain that your position will work, before putting it out in the market?

You can’t.

No more than you can know for certain ahead of time that someone will laugh at your joke. You can make an informed guess—you know what people have found funny before, and you know the elements of a joke—but at a certain point, you’ve just got to try it out on an audience.

We’re not completely in the dark, though. We have tools we can use to determine if our marketing position can work, and if it’s likely to.

These are my Four Tests of a Marketing Position:

1) Do you believe in it?

We’ve got to start here because if you don’t believe in it, it won’t work for very long, even if the market responds positively at first.

People only like doing the things they like doing, and we’re not going to put our full heart and energy into our marketing if we don’t like it or don’t believe in it.

We’ve got to believe that what we’re selling is worth buying, and we need to like doing our marketing or we won’t do enough of it—well enough—for it to work.

2) Can you be the very best at this?

This isn’t a question of whether you’re good at what you do. The question is: Is your marketing position so broad that you have too much competition?

If you’re thinking, “I can’t be the very best in the world at what I do, my field is littered with talent,” then you’ve drawn too large a circle around “what you do” and have allowed for too many competitors to share your space.

We’ve got to focus until we’re combining our unique set of experiences, skills, and interests in a way that allows us to be the very best at our chosen speciality.

And we’ve got to focus until we’re only offering what our best clients genuinely need most, and we can get so good at providing it in our unique way that clients are happy to pay our full value.

This test applies even if you’re not a solo consultant—you might be a product manufacturer, a service provider, or a large tech enterprise. Combine your organization’s unique history, its founding principles, and its institutional knowledge into an offering that only you can can be the very best at, because nobody else has the same background or experience.

Nobody can do what you do, as long as you stick to what only you can do.

3) Is there a real customer?

Customer and market research can tell us whether there is a real challenge or struggle in the lives of our ideal customers that we can help them overcome.

Testing out our new position on existing clients or beginning to offer it to new prospects before fully committing can also help us determine whether there’s a paying audience for what we want to provide.

Because if we’re not helping someone overcome a real obstacle in their lives—one we can prove exists—we might just be offering a small improvement on an existing solution, and that’s not enough to get people to quit their current habits.

4) Does it present a choice?

People need to make choices. We won’t be told what to do, especially by marketing.

That means our marketing position can’t just be that we’re “better,” “honest,” or “reliable” because nobody would choose “worse,” “dishonest,” or “unreliable.” We’re not presenting a real choice.

Reactance, or spite, is the most powerful force in human nature. If somebody says they’re “the best” at anything, we instinctively disbelieve.

But if somebody says they’re a great option for a specific customer for a specific reason, we’re happy to take them at their word. Because they’ve given us a choice to make.

And when we give our potential customers a choice to make, they’ll often choose us.

But when we tell them we’re the only option anybody should ever choose, they’re happy to call our bluff.

The Final Test

The ultimate test of our marketing position happens in the market, when we make it public.

But running your position through these tests will make you more confident that you’re on the right track, and it’ll help you act with boldness and creativity—necessary elements for marketing success.

We can never predict the future, we can only make reasoned decisions based on what’s likely to work, and give it our full energy.

And like any performer, we’ve got to adjust, refine, and improve until we get the results we’re looking for.

While you might not get a laugh with every joke you tell, it certainly helps to know what makes something funny.

So make your position.

Test it out.

Adjust it as needed.

And announce it to the world, boldly.


And with the confidence that it will work, because you know it can work.