Strategy & Planning

BSMS 15: How do you position yourself within a niche?

Continuation of Ep. 14. How do you stake a claim to your niche once you've found it? Strong positioning sometimes requires you to make a promise or guarantee that only you can uphold because of your company's unique attributes.


 

To further nail down your niche, think of your positioning. Can you proclaim a unique value proposition you're confident only you can deliver on? If not, it might be worth revisiting your SOM filters. In cases where your offering is similar to that of competitors, positioning on a couple of vectors you're better at can help you arrive at that unique value proposition. A guarantee based on speed and safety if you can't compete on price and completeness, for example.

Episode transcript

Mike:

Welcome to Episode 15. This is a continuation of the conversation from Episode 14 about finding your niche. So if you haven't listened to that one, go check that out and then come back here. This one is all about taking it one step further to talk about how you can approach the niche once you've decided on the right market segment to go after, you need to show up with the right positioning and messaging. And in some cases, you need to stake a claim to a guarantee that only you can fulfill because of your unique value proposition within that market segment. Let's jump in.

In our last episode, we talked about finding your niche and understanding how big or small it should be, and then picking the smallest viable market and focusing on them. And I think some of the questions that that brings up is once you've found that market that you say, "This is my ideal customer, and these are the people that I know are the right personas that we should be talking to," how do you get to the point where you understand the right ways to position your company for them? When you talk to them, what are the things that you bring up first? And how do you actually get to the point where you say, "We're the only company that does this for these kinds of people?" Thinking about it in the grand scheme is just very daunting. There's so many places to start. So I'm wondering if you have any easy ways to get to that point. And if you have any frameworks around how to separate yourself in a crowded market and strategies for positioning your company.

Stijn:

Yeah, great question. I think there are a couple of things you can test for. One I always like to use is as a litmus test, if you claim that you're the only one who can do something for your given market segment that you're targeting, right? So if you have said, "Hey, this is the niche segment that I want to nail. This is the part of the market where I feel my value prop is unique," then you should be able to stake that claim in a very concrete way. You should be able to, for example, provide a guarantee of some sort, right? Some service level guarantee or guarantee for certain outcomes that is very hard to match for anybody else, right? Or you can make a promise, whether that's ranging from money back guarantees to "we promise you to be up and running within a certain amount of time" that make it really clear that you feel so confident about your value proposition and the relevance of the value proposition for the market you're servicing that nobody else can match that.

And that your ability to deliver and to prove outcomes is good enough so you can put your money where your mouth is. Guarantee promises are a good way to do that. You're basically setting the bar for others, and that's not easy, right? But it forces you to really also make your niche so small that you do have a unique value proposition that allows you to do that. And if you're not, maybe you need to make your target market smaller. If you're not able to do something better than everybody else and make that concrete with a promise or a guarantee, then maybe you should add another filter to the market that you're trying to service. Maybe you pick a certain very specific problem that nobody else is focused on solely. And because you focus on just solving that problem, you can do that better than anybody else.

Mike:

Would you feel comfortable sharing some examples of promises? And maybe what do you see Kalungi's promise as being?

Stijn:

Yeah. Yeah. I think what we do, it took a while to get here, right? It took about 10 years of leading and helping B2B SaaS companies do their marketing to get to where we are now, where we say, "Hey, if you are part of our ideal customer profile, if you're not larger than let's say nine, $10 million in ARR, and if you don't have an existing, large marketing team and you have not really invested a lot in marketing before, then we believe that our playbook and our team of people who've done this before and our best practices can match anything else," right? Whether it's you hiring your own team or hiring an agency who may not be focused as specifically on small B2B SaaS ventures like we are, then we think we can just have better outcomes. And if those are just words, they're not very meaningful, right?

So basically because we believe that, we will allow you to pay us for performance, to put part of our retainer, part of what you pay Kalungi to make it subject to us achieving actual marketing outcomes. And that means we have to really make our market segment that we focus on really small. It basically means we don't include customers who just want us to run part of their marketing, because if we don't control all the variables, if we cannot run the complete marketing function and own, for example, the content quality and the fact that there's good solid marketing positioning, and the fact that the website is managed correctly and the SEO is really well executed, then of course we will not sign up for results.

So by making that promise and claiming that we have that value proposition that nobody else can match, we also force ourselves to now limit the amount of customers that are a good fit for what we have to offer, right? It means that customers who don't want that full outsource marketing service, who are not maybe a typical B2B SaaS venture, who are too big maybe for what we do, they of course don't fit that niche. And then we cannot service them with that value proposition. But if they do fit it, then we can basically make the promise and we can guarantee them that we are going to deliver on those outcomes if we follow our playbook.

Mike:

Got it. That's super helpful, because I think oftentimes when we talk about making a guarantee or staking a claim, making a promise to your prospects, to your customers, a lot of people go to this idea that it needs to be we can improve your process by X percent guaranteed, or it has to be tied to a specific number, which can be challenging in a lot of cases, especially when you are dealing with customers in scenarios that just have too many variables to account for, right? So I think understanding that guarantee can also just be being better than the alternative options can be enough. If your promise is just that you are going to solve their problem better than the incumbent, whether the incumbent is a tool like Excel, like a manual process, or it's an existing service or one of your competitors, if your guarantee is just that you can do a better job at solving their need than the existing way that they do it, that's enough to be a promise, to be a claim or a guarantee. Would you agree with that? Or am I off base there?

Stijn:

No, it's a good point. I believe that to get to that really specific guarantee or promise, you may just have to make the segment a little smaller, right? Let's use an example. Let's say you're a company that sells a software solution to manage the relationship and the logistics with delivery companies, right? You sell something, you sell a product and you need that to be delivered, you need a logistic function in your business. And so there's a software company that sells software that does that for you, that manages all the digital relationship with FedEx or UPS, et cetera, to be basically your outsourced delivery department. And so this software company does that. They could make a promise and even guarantee that they can shave off, let's say, 10% of the cost that you pay to external delivery vendors.

If you are in a certain market segment that might be defined by, you don't have software today to manage your relationship with FedEx or UPS, et cetera. And I think that if I'm that software company and I have data, I have enough data that out of the hundred customers that we service, 90% of them have achieved, let's say, 20% in savings, then I might be very comfortable to making a promise or a guarantee that you'll save at least 10%. even if that's not going to be true a hundred percent of the cases, in those few instances, you'll be able to maybe give a money back guarantee or make up for that in other ways. But it still probably allows you to make that promise from a value proposition perspective. But only if you can make your segments precise enough, that only includes customers who don't have a solution like that today.

Mike:

Right, that makes sense. And so for customers where let's say you have a solution and it's... I don't want to say commoditized, but the service offering is very, very similar to the other products on the market. Let's say, again, you're a software company that handles the logistics for shipments, and there's a ton of other companies that do that and they all do it really well, it's all so optimized, one additional way to maybe slice the market down would be to say you see some patterns of customers that need their shipments to be delivered in under a certain amount of time and to be delivered with a certain amount of accuracy, or a certain percentage of those deliveries are guaranteed to get there securely without any issues of being stolen or something.

So if you can make a promise that your service delivers securely and on time under a certain threshold for time better than any of the other companies, then you can stake a claim to being the one solution that's looked to for security and speed over the rest of the market. The offering is still the same, but if you want to get your package there securely and quickly, then you look to us. That's maybe another way to think about slicing things down.

Stijn:

Absolutely. And I think there's a great example of making that promise or that guarantee even more explicit is to then make it part of how you let your customers pay you, right? If you have a pay for performance part of the way you price, that's real value based pricing. We talk a lot about going from cost-based pricing to market-based pricing to value-based pricing, this is how you do that. And if you're not comfortable that you're not able to provide that unique differentiator, a guarantee, a promise, that might be just an indicator that the market segment you're focused on is a little too large, where you don't really understand that you're not able to articulate your value proposition correctly, and you're definitely not capable of turning that into measurable value that you are delivering, because if you can, then you should be able to do some form of value-based pricing, pay for performance, or a promise or a guarantee.

So it's a great litmus test. Is your niche small enough? Is your value prop concrete enough and real for the niche that you're trying to win? And how do you then turn that into the right messaging and marketing execution?


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