A Successful Failure

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A successfully positioned business sometimes doesn't win a new client. And that, my friend, is the point. Let me illustrate with an anecdote.

Recently I was making a new business pitch to a Charlotte area professional services firm. The second meeting took place after I had provided a detailed proposal to the company on how I work. From the two meetings and the proposal it was made abundantly clear that I take a comprehensive, strategic approach to communications.

One of the partners asked me if there was a "PR light" alternative. This meant that he wanted a tactical program that required very little involvement or input from him and the other partners. I assured him there was, but that was not my approach.

I guess I could have taken the company's money every month just to perform a few tactical activities, but it would have been wrong for both of us. I wouldn't feel right taking their money, nor would I be happy implementing a program that a PR intern could accomplish easily.

Needless to say, the firm selected another communications agency. To understand why this new business loss was a success, we need to look at a definition of positioning.

Positioning Defined

An organization's brand identity must be a reflection of three things: market perceptions, the organization's acumen, as well as its aspirations. Positioning is where these three elements overlap.

The point of positioning is to develop a platform from which all communications emanate. Positioning defines who we are, the kinds of customers we want, how we will compete, and how we are different.

So, before you can hone your brand identity, and before you develop and implement a communications plan, you must approve a positioning statement. From a communications standpoint, it is the heart of your brand.

Let's look at the elements of positioning:

Market. The kinds of clients we want to do business with. Hoover ink's market definition is: For organizations that are serious about their success and that understand the need for focused communications,

Competitive Offering. The products/services and/or type of service we will provide. Hoover ink's competitive offering is: we are the PR and marketing firm that carefully defines its clients' audiences and develops market-based positioning,

Differentiation. The benefit that makes us special. Hoover ink's differentiation is: so that we can help our clients communicate to all of its constituencies clear, concise messages that have a bottom line impact.

When the prospect called to say they had selected another agency to handle its PR program, I was told that my approach was too strategic and comprehensive. I'll take that as a compliment any day, and as an indicator that my positioning is on track.

Harry Hoover is managing principal of Hoover ink PR. He has 26 years of experience in crafting and delivering bottom line messages that ensure success for serious businesses like Brent Dees Financial Planning, Levolor, New World Mortgage, North Carolina Tourism, TeamHeidi, Ty Boyd Executive Learning Systems, VELUX, Verbatim and Youth Link USA.

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