Who are you and what do you do?

A client, who is a consultant, recently commented that the positioning statement on his letterhead (similar to a tag line, the phrase that describes what you are all about) seemed to be too narrow. He was getting more work in other non-core fields. He told me that he was even getting comments from potential clients to that effect. He worried that it was limiting him to the detriment of his business. The question he posed was: should he change the positioning statement to reflect the broader scope of his offerings?

While this question was posed by a self-employed consultant, it is a question that will face every business, nonprofit and charity – who are we and what do we really do?

Every organization will evolve over time. In fact, it is a positive sign that it is changing to keep pace with their market. At the same time, it challenges the very identity of the business or organization and the competencies it offers.

The short answer to my client’s question is that, if it is misrepresenting you, then it should be changed.

The long-form answer is that it’s not that simple, it’s a balancing act. You need to consider whether you really want to increase business in the new, non-core field. If the original area of competence is where you want to stay focused, then stick with it in your marketing. Stay focused, competent and confident with what you do. Don’t let opportunities in these other areas distract you from your goals. Any work you land outside that core competence should be considered gravy. Don’t lose sleep worrying about lost business in areas that are not part of your core competence.

However, if you want to grow in these other areas, embrace it completely. In other words, make it a strategic decision.

That means you must change your marketing appropriately. Your marketing should always be designed to attract the kind of clients you want to have – the ones that make you profitable and fire the passion that keeps you going every day – not necessarily the kind of clients you actually have. See the difference?

If you do decide to branch out, you might not be able to just tack the new offering on to your list of services or products. People want to be clear about what you do or sell so they know when to call. If your marketing is too vague, complicated or conflicting, they no longer know. A long laundry list of what you do is also not good, since it makes the prospect have to work too hard to figure out if your business is a good fit. Think of what common threads there are with everything you offer. That may be the terminology you adopt. But, be careful, go for a description that everybody clearly understands. Poetic phrasing or jargon will add to the confusion, not clear it up.

What do you think? Do you have a personal experience to share? Join the conversation and leave a comment.

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