Positioning: The Easiest Way to "Be What's Next"

04/17/2013 07:52 am ET | Updated Jun 16, 2013

Last week I talked about the importance of figuring out your customer's pain points and positioning your offer as the solver of their future problems. I asked you to do some serious research to identify potential market gaps.

I think it goes even a step further, though. The best of the best are creating gaps in their customer's eyes and positioning them in a way that only their specific offer can fulfill. Rather than positioning themselves within the market, they are proactively moving the market to accomplish their needs. They eliminate their competition by creating a problem space that is theirs and theirs alone. The key is to play the what-if game: What if X was possible? The reality that it isn't currently an option suddenly leaves the consumer disgruntled and feeling deficient. Fortunate for them they have you at the ready to assuage them.

Tech startups are especially proficient at this. Consider, for instance, the explosive success of something like Dropbox. Beforehand, we had all of our files on our computers and zip drives, and we didn't think much more of it. We encountered Dropbox and an accompanying what if...what if you could store all of your files in a safe place on the internet and could access and share them at any given moment? Suddenly having to manually save files to a zip-drive seems like a major hassle.

It is incredible how effective this method can be. Take for instance a couple more up and coming start-ups that are either still in beta-mode or just emerging from it.

  1. Branch. What if the internet wasn't so dominated by monologues? What if you could actually connect with people, having a dialogue online that had the intimacy of a dinner table conversation with the powerful information sharing capabilities of the Internet?
  2. Flowh. What if there was one single space where you could easily create, share, follow, and discover all of the events and schedules important to you, from board meetings to baseball games? And for businesses, what if your calendars could be instantly transformed into effective marketing channels to keep your customers informed and engaged in real time?

Write your what if and see what market need you can create and, ultimately, fill. Solve the problems people didn't even realize they had. I dare you to be aspirational.

Then, watch the video below to learn some additional technique designed for the ambitious market movers as well as for those struggling to demonstrate their offer's relevance. They are, more specifically: offer it, force it, seed it, name it, brand it, spread it, uncover it, and event it.

There is only so much you can do to alter your offer, and sometimes what it really takes is an ability to influence people's perceived needs. Of the strategies discussed in the video, I would like you to pick 3 which you believe will add some impetus to your positioning efforts. Even if you don't need to move the market, you could gain real benefit from using some of these strategies.

Spend some time planning how you might execute it, and then do so with focus and persistence. Best of luck!

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and Peter Sheahan on the topic of Making It Happen in Small Business, focused on turning those with the ideas into those with the influence. To see all of the posts in the series, click here.