Saturday, December 8, 2007

Positioning Your Story

When it comes to telling a story, one of the most difficult concepts for some people to grasp is positioning. To help you understand exactly what I mean, perhaps the best place to start is by making a distinction between presenting and positioning.

PRESENTING is telling your story from your point-of-view.
POSITIONING is telling your story from the customer's point-of-view.

Your customer may be a hiring manager within your current organization, a potential employer, or quite literally, a person with whom you would like to do business. Whatever the case, it is absolutely essential to know this person so well that you can speak directly to their needs, challenges, and pain.

If your goal is to make a connection with a specific person, it is in your best interest to know everything you can about what drives him or her:

- What challenges does this person face?
- What opportunities are on the horizon?
- What are his or her goals? Why?
- When do these goals need to be accomplished?
- What factors are driving these needs and goals?

Think of yourself as an investigative reporter. Learn everything you can about the person's situation. Once you know this, start by asking yourself these questions:

- What can I offer this person that will help solve a problem or capture an opportunity?
- What experiences have I had that support my ability to succeed?
- What are the REASONS TO BELIEVE my involvement is the NEXT LOGICAL STEP in my personal or professional development?
- Why does this opportunity excite me?

Interestingly enough, although a personal connection certainly helps, it isn't a requirement. You simply need to know the important similarities the person shares with other people in their same situation. For example, when I write copy targeting career-changers, I can speak to a wider group by knowing the struggles they all have in common. However, I don't write the copy as if I am addressing a large audience, I write it as if I am speaking to a single person. Starting with a question can be an effective way to accomplish this:

"Have you ever applied for a job that seemed like a perfect fit yet never received a response?"

If you have ever been in that situation, you would probably read that line and immediately relate to how disappointing and frustrating it can be. By putting myself in the customers' shoes and speaking to their pain, people reading it feel I am connecting directly with them in a one-on-one conversation. That is my goal. That is positioning.

Having captured a person's attention, I would continue to tell the story from THEIR point-of-view thereby giving them a REASON TO BELIEVE I have something valuable to offer.

Presenting, on the other hand, would be telling my story from my point-of-view. In this case, the communication might look more like this:

- "Over the past 15 years, I have worked with career-changers at all levels in a variety of fields ranging from finance and engineering to advertising and manufacturing."

Even if you happened to be in one of the fields I mentioned, I haven't communicated anything that would get you to believe I truly understand what you are currently experiencing. Unfortunately, that is what happens when people don't take the time to position their experiences. They attempt to speak to everyone and, in effect, speak to no one.

The next time you need to gain the interest and attention of a prospective customer or employer, take the time to tell your story from THEIR point-of-view. If you want to truly connect with a customer or hiring manager, positioning is always worth the effort.