Levels of positioning for expert service providers

Are you presenting your business in the best light possible?

Most professional service providers find it challenging to describe the value of their offering publicly – both in real life and in the digital world.

Yet this is a very important thing to get right once you have staked a claim of expertise.

Questions like ‘how should I position myself?' and ‘does my offering have to be unique?’ are topics that frequently come up in my conversations with people that make a living selling expert services.

So let’s dive in and answer them.


Firstly, what is positioning exactly?

Positioning is a branding concept that can be broken down into two key questions:

  1. Where does your offering sit in the marketplace relative to the competition?
  2. How do people (specifically your target audience) categorise your offering in their minds?

These points are really two sides of the same coin, but the distinction is important when it comes to approaching the task of positioning your business.

So it really comes down to context. We must consider the businesses we are competing against so we can play to our strengths, and also satisfy a market need.

The ultimate goal of positioning is to demonstrate that your offering is more relevant to the target audience than your competitors. Which in turn should encourage them to choose your offering instead of theirs.


Levels of positioning

In my mind, positioning an expert service business can be broken down into two stages:

Level 1 – Clarity around your offering

At this stage you are clear about the specific service(s) you provide and the key problem your offering solves for people.

You have nailed your messaging and framed your offering around an end result that clients can expect to gain if they work with you.

At level one, you don’t necessarily need to worry about being ‘unique’ or targeting a specific type of client. It is more about being able to describe the value of your offering clearly to potential clients in your interactions and marketing materials.


Level 2 – The go-to expert

When you reach level two, you will have built a reputation as one of the go-to experts in your domain and your expertise is less interchangeable with that of your peers.

As a go-to expert, you are likely to have an even tighter positioning where you’ve refined (and potentially even productised) your service offering, and know exactly which specific types of clients you can help the most.

You have also learned to spot the patterns and recurring themes in your client work, which reinforces your expertise even further.

Finally, you can clearly describe the unique aspects of your offering relative to the competition and have probably developed some forms of intellectual property (eg written a book).


Now these levels are by no means exact and there is likely to be some crossover between each of them in the real world. It's merely a model to evaluate where you are out of the two levels and break down the process of positioning your offering into more manageable chunks.

To be completely honest, nailing level one will put you above the majority of your competitors because most businesses have unclear, wishy-washy, me-focused messaging that serves no benefit when it comes to attracting potential clients.

Conclusion and action point

To conclude, strong positioning is really at the core of any successful business and a very important aspect to get right to make the most out of your marketing efforts.

When you are well-positioned and can clearly describe the value of your offering, not only will your marketing be much more effective, it enables you to charge higher fees as people can clearly see what there is to gain by working with you.

Another side benefit is that it also becomes easier for people to refer others to you as they can better explain the service you provide and who you can help specifically.

Your action point for today is to block out some time in your calendar to assess the strength of your positioning and messaging. Review your marketing materials and consider if the way you describe your services puts them in the best light possible and would be appealing to a potential client.