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(Because I have this discussion with multiple owners multiple times every week, I thought it would be helpful to collapse my thinking here in a shareable format.)

By now, we all understand the importance of narrowing one’s positioning.

But how to narrow is where most owners get it wrong.

Perhaps you’ve heard yourself say something like this:

“We’re guilty of telling the world ‘We do it all!’ but obviously we can’t be great at everything. Let’s narrow our positioning to tell the world the ONE thing we are truly great at.”

So one firm changes their message to say, “We only do character animation.”

Another says, “We just do promos.”

Yet another says, “We serve non-profits.”

But these approaches are more harrowing than narrowing. Because for me, I would be terrified to put out a message that turns away opportunities.

So how does one narrow? There are only four ways:

  1. What industry do you serve? That’s your vertical. Examples: entertainment, advertising, automotive.
  2. What service do you offer? That’s your discipline. Examples: vfx, live action production, character animation.
  3. What output do you produce? That’s your deliverable. Examples: commercials, promos, film/tv titles.
  4. What common need do you meet? That is your horizontal. Examples: attention, community, humor, delight.

In my experience, great creative firms narrowly position based on a horizontal. That’s it. This is why I recommend you eschew the first three ways and emphasize the fourth approach.

(Narrowing the first three ways inevitably leads to hyper competitiveness, commoditization, and under-appreciation.)

Think horizontal. Carve out a message that narrowly expresses your firm’s point of view, strong opinions, mission, or the like.

This is how you can powerfully connect with every prospective client on the planet who believes what you believe.

That’s a huge, untapped market overflowing with opportunity.

And after all, who else would you want to do business with?

Cheers,

Joel

P.S. You Jumpstart alumni know this positioning process (known as The Three P’s) was, by far, the most challenging in the 9-week accelerator. But so worth it. To hear one firm’s success story, listen to my podcast with motion studio First Fight.