Roland Gurney: Mastering Positioning and Standing Out in a Saturated Market

In this episode of "The Business Owner's Journey," host Nick Berry talks with Roland Gurney, owner of Treacle, a marketing agency that specializes in positioning and messaging for agencies. They delve into the importance of differentiation, finding a unique value proposition, and how to craft compelling messaging to stand out in a saturated market. He shares actionable insights on how to position your agency to attract the right clients and grow your business.

Key Takeaways from Roland Gurney:

Understanding the Importance of Positioning

Roland emphasizes that many agencies struggle with positioning because they fail to differentiate themselves from competitors. It's not just about sounding cool; it's about communicating a clear, unique value proposition that resonates with target customers. He stresses the importance of rigorous market research and truly understanding what makes your agency different and valuable.

The Role of Messaging in Winning Clients

Roland discusses how precise and compelling messaging is crucial for agency success. He explains that many agencies fail to get their copy signed off because it doesn't communicate anything unique or valuable. Instead, he advocates for a process of deep introspection and market research to uncover the unique aspects of an agency that can be highlighted in their messaging.

The Canvas Method for Crafting a Powerful USP

Roland introduces the canvas method, a simple yet powerful tool he uses to help agencies define their unique selling proposition. This one-page canvas covers eight key areas: target client, service category, specific problems solved, robust and unique solutions, value created in the eyes of customers, agency credibility, competition analysis, and internal cultural fit. By filling out this canvas, agencies can clarify their positioning and messaging.

Embracing Friction and Honest Feedback

Roland and Nick discuss the necessity of embracing friction and honest feedback in the positioning process. Roland believes that healthy debate and constructive criticism are essential for refining an agency's positioning and messaging. He encourages agencies to push past their comfort zones and be willing to take risks to achieve big rewards.

Testing and Validating Positioning

Roland explains the importance of testing and validating positioning before fully rolling it out. He suggests methods such as running landing page tests with paid traffic to gauge market reaction. This iterative approach ensures that the positioning resonates with the target audience and has a higher chance of success in the market.

Resources Mentioned in This Episode:

Quotes from the Episode:

  • "You have no reason to be chosen over any other agency if your copy doesn't communicate anything unique." - Roland Gurney
  • "Healthy debate and friction are where the big decisions and breakthroughs happen." - Roland Gurney
  • "Your agency’s positioning should tip the balance in your favor, not leave client decisions up to luck." - Roland Gurney
  • "A clear and compelling value proposition is worth six or seven figures. It's the reason clients choose you over others." - Roland Gurney
  • "People will crave humanity in a world increasingly dominated by AI. Unique perspectives and genuine human elements will stand out." - Roland Gurney

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The host - Nick Berry
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Episode Transcript:

It's not really how your copy sounds. You haven't got any reason to be chosen over any of these other agencies. That's why you can't get the copy signed off or you'd know he likes the copy copy. Not because it doesn't sound cool. It just doesn't say anything. The business owners journey. I'm Nick Berry and I've got real business owners telling their real stories, sharing their real lessons and strategies. So you don't have to figure it all out on your own.

Roland Gurney owns Treacle, a marketing agency for other marketing agencies in London. And he has my absolute favorite perspective on positioning, differentiation, and messaging. They figure out what makes each agency different and valuable, and then write the precise words that will win clients. You can find his information at treacle .agency. And in our episode, we talk about...

The article that he wrote that first got my attention, which you should read. I think like that book that makes my point that this dude is different. He does things differently. we also talked about the canvas that they use their agency, their process for how they create different, and his book. All of these things are available for download for free, in the show notes, or you can get them on Nickberry .info or treacle .agency.

He is also delivering a master class on Thursday morning, June the 26th. It's like 50 bucks and you can join virtually. You can get that link in the show notes too. He didn't ask me to promote this. I went to him about it because I feel like more people need to hear the way that he talks about these things. After you listen to him talk, I think like a lot of you guys are gonna be interested in the master class. My people are gonna go.

I'm excited to see a masterclass that's actually being delivered by a master. So I hope you enjoy it. Let me know in the comments. Sharpens you up, doesn't it? Doing a workshop. Could you think, fuck, I've got to really know what I'm talking about. Two hours. I can't, I can't get away with winging it. So yeah, because yeah, and it's, it's putting you in the room with a handful of people. So you can do it firsthand. Like this is what's, what they're thinking about. This is how I'm thinking about it. I mean, it's.

fantastic market research. man, yeah, you can, you can, this is what comedians say, isn't it? You can see the jokes where everybody switches off and the ones that get them really go in and then you adjust your material. It's exactly the same as that. Yeah. No, there's no better, no better test than a real life audience. Is that? Yeah, I agree. You need to every so often, right? You need to just go in and hear what they're saying because it changes and.

You know, even if you know your customer really, really well, they're not like a persona that just stays the same for years. They all their different fears and frustrations just constantly shifting. And if you're not, you're not one step ahead of those, you end up just looking really dated and out of touch. And I've known some, cause I work with agencies, specifically agencies have met some agencies that have just totally lost touch with their customers. And they just look 20 years out of date.

They just look like they're from the 90s, still trying to do 90s marketing. And I'm like, you are, you are in a different era, not even, not even just behind the, yeah. And they, they're the ones that bring me up and say, I'm struggling. And I'm like, well, yeah, you haven't spoken to anybody who's not 70 plus years old. It's the same, you know, it's a step that lots of people miss because they jump straight to, because we, you know, we do a lot of messaging work. We write a lot of stuff.

agencies, how they pitch themselves publicly, how they sell themselves to clients directly. So much of it is just based on massive assumptions about things and they haven't always checked it or they haven't sat in the room. And most often it's because they haven't really narrowed down any kind of target customer. So they're still trying to service everybody from B2C lipstick brands to B2B oil and

farmer and it's like, well, you can't sit in the room with everybody. Right. So pick which room you're going to sit in and then really sit in that room for a while. And you will learn what pisses them off. What excites them, what frustrates them. That's like you said, that's the gold mine because you lift all of that, put it on a page. And then people are like, wow, it's like you're in my head. We used to get people ring us up and say, I've just read your website. I can't believe.

Have you been listening to us in our meetings? Because you've written exactly what my co -founder of me had been talking about for the last six months. And I'm like, no, people don't. You're in there, you're listening. So you can pick it up wholesale and sell it back to them. And I know that sounds bad, but it's mirroring what they do. But so many people don't want to do that work. They just want to see who comes through the door. But then they come to me moaning that it's tire kickers and lowballers.

I'm wasted and I'm like, yeah, but you just you didn't filter any of them out. You just opened it for the door for anybody. So it's your fault. It's your fault. And there are people who pretty clearly divide themselves into one of those two groups. Right. It's either the ones who absolutely do not want to hear that and the ones who hear it and are like, shit, you're right. That's a really good point. It's a really good point. Yeah. And I think that group of people, I said,

know, 20 years behind, they're the ones that don't want to hear that. But there's a lot of people, to be fair, in the agency world, the people that I speak to, they want to do the work they know, they know where they're not good. And they're pretty good at reflecting on themselves and saying, shit, this is our this is our blind spot on the whole. But yeah, not not everybody, but they're pretty good. Yeah, then what do you find what like, are people receptive to that kind of news in your world or?

You know, I think that there those those two groups exist in every market in every world and the balance or the ratio between the two differs depending on the barrier to entry into the markets. I'm looking forward to hearing your take on this. I think marketing agencies probably follow a similar path to like business coaching and I've even said this to a few people. Marketing agencies are the new business coaching.

Our business coaches where there's a pretty low barrier to entry and it's easy for somebody to come in and just say, Hey, this is what I do now. And, and those, they tend to be the ones who are, who don't really want to be accountable for what it actually takes to do the things that they're going to say that they can do. Yeah. That's a really interesting point. I've not thought you're absolutely right. I mean, the agency market is exactly the same, but there is no barrier for entry in the agency market. You need a laptop.

You need a laptop and a website which you can literally download a WordPress template called agency 001. And that's it right you are in business. And that's what's kind of difficult in the is great because it's democratized it right so I'm all for people around the world being able to get out of the traditional nine to five working environment. I'm all for that.

Give them a shot, right? If you're great at what you do and you want to do it, then I'm not that person that tells you have to do 20 years earning your stripes. But what it does mean is there's a it's saturated at the bottom end of the market by people who will undercut each other, churn and burn clients, no real quality control. And but the problem is that clients don't always understand the difference between.

the very bottom and the kind of mid market. So they see it all as the same. So there's just a massive agencies, as I'm sure there are like consultants and probably in every industry, there's just so many oversaturation. You know, so then that's kind of why we started was, you know, we were working with agencies on their client projects, just writes that copywriting, you know, it's some cool agencies. And then they were all turning around to us and saying like,

Can you write our own website because we can't do it ourselves for some reason, we just don't seem to be able to do it. But what I realized is there's a massive market because they're just one of thousands of agencies that do exactly the same thing. And they were like, well, it's not really how your copy sounds. You haven't got any reason to be chosen over any of these other agencies. That's why you can't get the copy signed off or nobody likes the copy. It's not because it doesn't sound cool. It just doesn't say anything. That's the problem.

You're just saying the same shit as everybody else, but just in a different order. That doesn't, that's not going to sell the business. It's not going to make any difference. It's just, it's just surface level polish. So then they started saying to me, well, can you, can you get us, can you sort our agency out? We'll just sound like everybody else. And that's when I was like, there's a market here. This, this industry needs somebody to come in and say, let's find what makes you interested in first. And then let's write the copy where they're just jumping straight to the copy going.

Let's pick an adjective with, you know, with this, with that. And I'm like, no, no, no, no, no. Find what to say and then how to say it comes later. I'm a note taker. So I'm writing things down as you go and you have no reason to be chosen. Talk about hitting between the eyes. That hits right there. I mean, that's the, that's the brutal truth. That's the brutal truth. Most agencies do exactly the same stuff.

That's the reality of it, let's be honest. If you're a design agency, you design stuff. Marketing agency, you market stuff. Advertising, it's all the same service. So then it comes down to a load of different factors, right? And it's either who's doing the work, how you're doing the work, the results of the work. There's only a few handful of different things, styles you can turn to keep yourself on edge. But there is always something in there.

And that's the puzzle that I love. I love that bit. Right. What is it? What can we find? And I would love to hand on heart tell you that it's always a hundred percent unique. And I definitely push for that every single time, but sometimes it's just a 10 % tip towards the balance in their favor. That's enough for them to add another zero to their revenue. It's a, they just need just a little bit of something. Otherwise. You know, clients must just go into those pitches and just.

By the end of the day, you must just be like, they all basically said they're going to do the same thing. They just had different colors and logos. You somehow manage to stand out. You somehow manage to blend in. And that's the opposite of the goal. So how do you do it? Because you do it and you do it well. Like, everybody who views what you're saying is going to be like, yeah, that's great. Me too. Me too. But they don't produce it the way you do. It's good.

It's hard, right? It's, it's yeah, I have to, well, I'm honest with people upfront, right? So when, when we work together, I say, I asked them, what's your appetite for risk and reward here, right? Because if you want the big rewards, you have to take the big risks. If you just want to slightly evolve what you say, I can do that, but you have to then be, you can't expect it to add a zero to your revenue because it doesn't, right? If I'm just rehashing what's on your website.

It's going to say the same thing. You'll attract the same people with the same shitty offers that lowest budget, highest expectation people. It's always the way. But if you're willing to go on the journey, then we could add, we could really push you to somewhere new and it will be scary and it is risky, but it could mean that that's the big reward. So I always set that expectation with people first. Then in terms of the actual process itself, the first thing I'd do is just go around and listen.

basically just speak to people in the business outside the business, research the business, just soak it all in. And there's always little seeds of ideas that people have got and they come from the maddest places. They're not always from the CEO or the boardroom. They come from the guy that's delivering and paid ads, right? It's sat at his desk every day or just those little seeds of ideas. But then basically we lock us, or I lock everybody in a room.

and I sit them down and we thrash this stuff out and we in it's part of its process, part of its rigorous. And I would love to tell you if it was all like a, some huge, amazing brain work or system I had, but honestly, some of it's just pure. Coincident, chaos, creativity, intuition. There's like, there's a part of it. It's just uncontrollable. It just comes from seeing something. And then what happens is I will just.

I'll be, I'll just be a pain in their ass and just say, like, I will just push and push and challenge them and say, well, you know, they don't, they don't want to specialize in something. And I'll ask them why, why not? And I'll push into that and I'll challenge them. And quite often they've got massive misconceptions that if they specialize, they'll be bored or there isn't a big enough market or, and I just have to kind of keep challenging them and saying, is that true? There isn't actually any data to say that's true. That's just your.

limited relief. And so, yeah, we thrash this stuff out basically, and it's part strategy part therapy. And we sit there and they go on a journey and we find some interesting angles. And eventually you get that point. And like you said at the beginning, testing your material, you'll see that moment when the eyes just open and they go, little breakthrough moment happens when they go. And that's when you know, we're starting to get somewhere.

And then I basically don't let go of that. And I don't let them get distracted by all the other possibilities. I hold onto that and say, no, no, no, no, no, no. Stop looking at that. Yes, you could be that, but you're not going to be that. Let's just stick to this one day. And that one is that thing of tennis balls where you throw 10 tennis balls at a prospect. They're catching none. If we can just get that one tennis ball to throw at them, they will catch that understand it and come and talk to you. And then you can slowly throw the other nine, nine at them. But.

Everybody needs to throw all 10 tennis balls straight away. And that's, that's. Problem. So yeah, I'm like a, I dunno, like, yeah, like a dog with a bone for the first bit of just, just stick to something. One thing. Well, what I hear when I hear you talking about that is I hear craftsman talking about his craft. You know, what the outcome is that you're going to produce and you know how you're going to get there and what it takes to get there. And you're going to cling to that and you're not going to let.

someone who's not the craftsman, steer you away from it. You're doing your job. Like that's why you're good at it. I don't know how many conversations I've had with marketers. The conversation always starts the same way. It's like, do you know who your ideal client is? Yeah, sure. Okay. Then let's talk about who that is. And then we have this conversation and they're like, okay, well, we'll get to work. And so then I'm like, well, wait a second. What if I'm wrong?

What if some of the stuff that I just told you about them is wrong? What if that's not a good description? Or what if the way that I positioned this is not right? What if the offer is not right? They're taking everything in face value and not doing any type of validation. They're not thinking for themselves, right? And when you reach out to somebody, an expert like Treacle, Roland, or a marketer, you're trying to get help on these things, you're not looking for somebody to come in and be compliant.

Like I want some collaboration at least. I don't want them to think that they're just going to walk in and get the answers handed to them. If that's what they need, they're not qualified. Too many leaders are afraid of friction, right? Friction is where the heat, the energy sparks from, but agency leaders especially, they're all, not all, quite often really nice people, creative people.

Empathetic people. So they will, and me included, which sometimes shy away from that friction, but that friction is needed because that's where the decisions get made. The big decisions, the important decisions, the yes, no. And so people always want like, they want to be people pleasing. They want to have lots of people in the room. They want to have democratic decision -making processes. But I'm like, sometimes you need to have an argument or a debate, not an argument, a debate. And that's healthy.

Because that's when the air gets cleared and people make decisions, you know, not just an emotion, but with rational, you know, with rationale as well. But if everybody just agrees with everybody we have designed by committee and your positioning and messaging will just sound like a mess of everyone's ideas. Somebody needs to take control and yeah, and just not, not, not be afraid to piss a few people off.

That's part of the process of leadership. You have to, you don't want to be a big dictator. You don't want to be, you can do it in a good way, but yeah, I think friction is good. And I think, like you said, even in the writing that we do, I embrace friction. I want, I want to piss people off. It should, it should, it should piss somebody off. It's not pissing somebody off. It's not turning somebody off. It's just nothing. It's just noise. I want to, I'd rather you hate it than ignore it.

I've already disagreed and just kind of just pull past it. And I think that's where people go wrong. They just they just kind of want to please everybody. Don't please everybody. Wrong way. There's some people are and some people. Yeah. What I'm hearing you say is you don't want people to leave your riding feeling lukewarm, either get hot or get cold. Yeah, exactly. Exactly. I love that. Yeah. Lukewarm. The middle the middle ground is where.

great agencies and great positioning and great method and go die. Right. Just put a stake in the ground, stand for something and back it, but don't, don't try and don't try and, don't try and please everybody and keep everybody happy. It's like, yeah, well trying to please everybody and speak to everybody is going to create the equivalent of the shitty AI content that's everywhere to be found right now. Right. I mean,

AI by design is going to create the average of all the shit that it's been fed. So it cannot do anything unique. It can't give you something like a unique perspective because it hasn't gotten that. And that's the same thing as trying to speak to everybody.

Yeah, it's I mean, it's just it's at the minute and I'm aware that it's going to change and it will get really good, I'm sure. But right now, it's a plagiarism engine. And you know, it's, it's, you know, it's just it's just scraping other people's ideas and and mashing them together, which is why when you get people with an opinion or perspective or a stake in the ground or like a sharp focus, it really cuts through because.

you said AI isn't going to do that. It's not going to tell you what thing is just going to rehash how to say it. But people want that you're going to we're going to the whole world is going to crave humanity again, right? There's going to be a swing back away from this is my totally unsubstantiated opinion about nothing to back myself just this is just my field. But there's going to we're going to live in a world of robotics and AI and all of this is inevitable. So,

People are going to crave that weird, maverick humanity, just, you know, like self -deprecation, opinion, friction, arguments, all of these things that are just innately human will really resonate again because people don't want homogenous robotic thinking. They want all the weird fringes of what real people are like. And so I think in marketing and business, that's going to swing back to that. People are going to want that crazy and stupid ideas late night.

drunken bits of writing all of that stuff's gonna be Ledge because everyone else can get the homogenous b2b writing by pressing the button. So it's like well Throw it on the pile. But yeah, we're gonna need weirdness again. Yeah, I'm like you know a lot of a lot of the writing that I do people like it because There's like there's a thing for the prep for that right is that like?

the minute that you let your guard down or you fuck up in some way, people like that, right? They want to that because suddenly you're more human and you're more approachable. AI is like infallible. It's too clean. It's too polished, right? People are going to want to fuck things that are fucked up, mistakes, stuff you get wrong, all of that stuff is just people are going to like that. And I kind of tap into that quite a lot of like...

I'm just a guy. I don't really know what I'm doing. I'm making it all up. I'm just winging it. But I feel like, yeah, that resonates with some people, maybe not others, but that's okay. Well, I've said a lot about how differently your writing sounds to me. And I mentioned the article, the first article of yours that I read was something like, you know, why your agency's value prop is pretty bad or...

Something like that, you know, and right from the very beginning, you know, it definitely hits different. Tell us about like, what's going through your head as you're coming up with and writing content like that? How do you think about that so differently so you can produce something so different? Well, I think, you know, I spent a long time looking at agency websites, like a weird amount of time. I had a different job and I had to...

contact loads of agencies and look at their websites. So I was looking at like thousands of agents. After time, I was just like, I don't even understand what this agency does. Like I don't even understand what kind of agency is, let alone, it's not selling me anything. It's literally, it's not even telling me anything. It's literally just a soup full of words that I don't understand. And I'm like a relatively smart guy who can read. So I was like,

How are these guys winning brands, right? This is nuts. So when I first started Treacle, yeah, we used to write these opinion pieces and so value propositions. So we were looking at like, when I go on your website, the agency's website, what does it say? What's the reason for me to want to work with you as an agent? And we used to, some of it was just so bad. It was like,

either really meaningless statements like we deliver results. And I was like, well, that doesn't mean anything. Right? Show me who out there is not delivering results. Results could be anything. They're not even good results. Just to know like you're just just telling me you do something. Then you get really abstract ones like we create the future. I'll be like, what? What does that mean? Okay.

how can you create the future? It was all just... Yeah, I couldn't get my head around it. And they were always, we do this, we do that. Or just, we are a marketing agency. The amount of marketing agencies, websites, I open it up and it says, hello, we are a marketing agency. And I'm like, I know that, right? I'm on your... I clicked on the site, I know you're a marketing agency. Or even the worst ones are...

they're called, they're called, I don't know, like, green donkey marketing, and then you click the website and it opens up and it's like, Hello, we are green donkey marketing. I'm like, Yeah, no, I've just clicked on it can see a logo. So they just used to waste all this real estate on their website where they could be saying something valuable, like, you know, this is why you should choose us. This is what we'll do for you. So yeah, it's the right these opinion pieces. I just ranting ranting.

People in agencies are really cool, right? You know, they're great people. I love them. They're like, creative people, strategic people, commercial people. Like it's a really good balance. I love the people. They're a good balance of all of those things. That's why I work in this world. I want them to win. I want those people to win. They're not, they're just balanced people. They've got a bit of all of it. I just couldn't believe how bad they were talking about themselves and used to really wind me up.

that really creative, smart people couldn't sell themselves or do it. So we've write these opinion pieces and try and, well, yeah, first I'll call out how bad it was, but then try and give some like, you know, some practical advice on stuff they can do. And I can't even really remember the post massively, but you know, it was just like just basic stuff, you know, find a benefit and sell that. What's the, what's the main benefit you can sell to your prospects?

know, yes, you need to say what kind of agency you are, but that can be in the sub header, you know, talk about the value you're going to bring, but don't make it too universal. And don't make it too specific, the magic's in the middle, right? It's something in in that middle ground is where you want to weigh. We used to write these like quite specific posts on how to do stuff. And agencies loved it. They were like, you know, it was not just calling them out and telling them their shit, but trying to lead off some kind of help as well.

I don't want everybody to think I'm just a negative guy that goes around hating on agencies. I do try and help them as well. So I want you to take us through your process. So basically, I heard you explain it like, first is, okay, here's how we do this. First thing is we figure out who do you want to work with? Then what's the category that you're in? Then what's the specific problems that you solve? Then do you have a robust and unique solution? Then what value does that create in the eyes of your customer?

then is your agency credible and is your competition doing it? And can we make sure that you can't, they can't solve it as well as you. Then we've got something that we can go out there and put in front of people in a way that's going to compel them. How did I do? It's, it's at the heart of the process. Yeah. So we had this canvas. It's a one, one page and it's everything you just said. Right. And it's, it's, it's deceptively simple because it's literally just eight boxes.

And so you would look at that and go, well, that can't be worth, you know, this kind of money or this kind of time or this hiring this nerdy British guy to do this. Right. But it's really hard to fill that in without putting loads of answers in every box. So it's the discipline of being able to put one answer per box is the key bit because anybody can fill it in and people can download this for free. I can't.

I'll send you the link. It's like a pre -credit. So you can download it. It's got a guide. Everything's with it. But the value isn't in the canvas itself. The canvas is easy to fill in. Anybody can do it. Deciding what word you should put in each box is the value of that. And that's hard because to do that properly, you need to turn down opportunity. And you know, as a business owner and to everybody listening who's a business owner and leader,

You know, nobody wants to turn down opportunities. It's uncomfortable to say no to revenue, to opportunities, to leads, to all of that stuff. But ultimately every strategy is a trade off, right? It's what you're willing to say no to in order to say yes to. And so it's really hard to put just eight words in a box because that takes real discipline. It means staying single -minded and turning away.

you know, sometimes millions of dollars worth of revenue potentially in order to make more money by focusing on in some area, right? That's that thinking behind that canvas. And that's basically the work we do with them. So it always sits at the heart of the process. It's always there. It's the thing we always fill it. Like I said, at the beginning, that's the, that's the rigor part, to a certain extent. There is just craziness, ideas, you know, napkin ideas. That's

That should be part of that process. We need to explore each of those boxes. That's fine.

but they need to make some decisions. That's the key. And so once they filled the canvas out, it does always get filled out. What we do then is we score it, right? So there's five things we score against to work out, is this a good positioning? So we might have two or three of these canvases, each of them a viable strategy that could scale that agency or that business. So what we'll do is we'll look at the canvas and go, well, first, you know,

Have we filled it in right? Yes, that looks good. Let's score it. So we score it against five things. How distinctive it is. So is it unique in the market? Does it stand, does it set us apart from the people in our competitive landscape? Is it desirable? So is that, do clients actually want this? Is there a market for this? Or are we selling something that nobody's going to buy, but we've fallen in love with? Then is it defensible? Right? Can we actually live, live up to this? Can we prove it?

Can we back it up or is it all just hype and hot air? So those are the first three. And that's our, we have a registered model for that, the 3D positioning. So you score against those three Ds. But then there's two others that, excuse me, there's two others that you need to factor in. So there's two Cs. Culturally, if we go with this positioning, is it going to work internally? Can we recruit the right people? Will people buy into it? Will the team get behind it? Will it align? And then.

almost the most importantly, commercially, is this going to grow the business, right? If we choose this strategy, this positioning, is it going to make money? Are we going to be rich? You know, is it going to do all the stuff that we've said? So if we can score those five things, with decent level, we've got a winner, right? We think we've got a winner, but ultimately, there's only ever one test for positioning, and that's taking it to market. So you can

We can do the research, we can try and validate it. We can do all of this stuff and I'm all for all of it. I'm not against it. But, but people will vote with their wallet, right? That's ultimately whether you know whether the strategy is what the strategy up until that point is like an informed. Yes, let's be honest, right. And it's a risk, but we're just trying to mitigate that risk by scoring it. And then we take the best one for market and we can soft launch it. We can do a landing page. We can trial it. You know, there's loads of things we can do to.

to mitigate the risk, but ultimately, yeah, prospects will tell you whether it's shit or not. Yeah. So how much leash do you give us something when you roll it off the test like that? It varies. It varies on the client. So the distinctive one is easy to verify, right? We can do the research. Is it differentiated? Is it not? That's relatively simple, desperate search we can kind of go about.

Desirable is the hard one, right? Because ultimately you can speak to your current clients, you can speak to focus groups, you can speak, but it's never really tested in the market because they're not, they're not having to spend 50 grand with our agencies. They're not, they're not really full test. So that one's always the hardest. Defensible is fine. You can tell if it's going to have, if you've got case studies where you need to build that out. Cultural, that's mostly intuition.

Honestly, it's down to like the people in the business thinking, yeah, will our team get this? Will they be behind this? And the commercial one, that's a mixture nowadays of market research, you know, how big is that market? How viable? What the total addressable market for this? You know, what realistically do we need to win in terms of needs, conversion to generate the kind of revenue we can do. So this is just some calculations we can do. So most of them are.

Most of them are doable. It's the desirable one that's always the unknown. Like, do people really want this? And we've done things in the past, like some preference testing. So we've run a few different positionings by people, focus groups. The big one we've been doing at the minute is like, let's run a landing page. I'll write a landing page with your new positioning, your new messaging, and we'll run some paid traffic to it. And we'll see.

know, people are buying, then it looks like we're onto a winner, maybe like a low friction call to action, maybe like an easy way in. And we'll make a call on what we think is a success. And if it looks successful, then we'll start to roll it out to the main agency website, we'll start to evolve their positioning out. So there's different plays, but ultimately, kind of got to jump in at some point, right? I've seen agencies spend loads of money on really nice looking decks and documents and stuff. And I'm like,

It all looks great on paper, but like we don't know if it sells, so let's ship it. So just base this off of what you do know and what you have seen. And I hope this isn't unfair putting you on the spot too much, but what advice do you have for me? Like what are the things that I'm doing where I'm making the same mistakes that, you know, the people that we're talking about are making? Where am I missing an opportunity where I could sound different?

So this is it's good. And I think you should challenge me. I'm telling everybody that they need friction and then I can't duck the Christian right. So let's let's roll with it. I'm I'm all for it. So let me just like a mini session. Let's think of this as like a mini strategy session. Right. So I'm going to ask you a couple of questions if that's all right. And then that will spark a conversation on that. So who's your like who's your ideal?

client who do you want to be working with? Yeah, so it's business owners who are, they could be just about anywhere in their journey, but they're trying to grow, trying to advance, trying to level up. They could be under a million in annual revenue, but more likely, you know, one to three, one to five million. So they're kind of beyond the proof of concept, but they're trying to figure out what are the stages.

what are the levels that they're going to need to go through? What's the next thing I need to do to get this to click for me to level up? And they're going to be self improvement type people. They're probably using something like EOS, Entrepreneurs Operating System, or some other type of strategic planning, and they're self implementing. They read the books. They're members of mastermind groups or peer groups, listen to podcasts.

They're looking for that next thing to click so they can level up. They're looking for that next idea, the next aha moment.

I mean, that's a good, I don't normally get good answers. So that's, that's a, I mean, that's yeah. I mean, you, you've got a good understanding, not just of them as a demographic, right? You know, them, you, you call that the demographic stuff, right? And then some firmographic stuff, what they've, where their business is, but you've got psychographic stuff in there, right? You understand them. You understand what they're.

thinking and believing in how they're behaving and that key, right? I think that's key because that's not a level that lots of people understand about their target clients. They know who they are, where they are, what their income is, what their business looks like, but it's like, well, what's pissing them off? What's keeping them up at night? What's frustrating them? And you've got that really nicely, actually, that thing of like, what's that nugget that's going to unlock the next...

thing for them, that next step for that. Yeah, I mean, I think what you've done really well, even in that first answer is start to hone in on what we have is number three and four on our canvas, which is what is their problem, right? And that's not just like, I want to make more money or, but what is their sort of immediate more, what's their immediate most important, most impactful kind of problem that they have? And what's your s -

solution. So I think the podcast is such a great idea in as much as you're solving, it solves a specific problem for them. You know, of like unlocking that kind of next thing, giving them that, that, that little insight they hadn't thought about. So I suppose that's the kind of, that's the thing. And I mean, you've done, you are on that line of thought that like, you know, this is, it's those little left field moments of clarity that somebody else has had.

you can steal or borrow or use the Fast Track. And so there's almost a kind of thing there of like saving yourself years of learning the hard way. That's the kind of selling point here of like, don't don't you don't have to make the mistake yourself. That's your it's a misconception that you need to earn your own battle scars. Like borrow borrow our battle scars. It's like that. You can just you can cut through that if you're willing.

heed the advice that the business owner give you, but you can you can save yourself. You can bring down your your the time scale. That's how I would see it's like a time scale place. Save yourself the time and hassle by not repeating these mistakes. There's something about mistakes. I like you know, that's where the learning is, isn't it? That's where we're that's what we're really chatting about as much today is, you know, it's people's mistakes. And it's the quicker you

listen to the mistakes, the quick thing you can learn from those. So I think you're on the right lines with all of it. I think you're, you're really close. Yeah, yeah, I think it's been, it's then it becomes more like, well, how can you spin it, describe it, tell it, sell it. And I think, you know, you've got the, you've got all the foundations, then it's just, what's the hook in for people? It's like, yeah, you know, don't bother wasting your time making the mistakes, listen to them, learn from them, get there faster. That's the kind of...

That's where I'd go in a very mini direction. That's where I would take it if we were redoing messaging. But I don't think strategically, you've got everything you need. Okay, that's awesome. So when it comes time to spin it, where do you go for inspiration for that? I mean, in that strategy phase, definitely that's it, right? I'm not opening the doors until someone makes a decision. That's effectively the kind of idea. Once they've made a decision,

It's back with us basically with me. And I will write, I will write a hundred versions of one line and 99 will hit the cutting room floor because they just don't quite have it. But it's that process starts by, it always starts by just saying what we need to say, not some bolts, nothing fancy, right? So just say it in the clearest way. Like would my eight year old son,

kind of understand what we're trying to say here a little bit. So I try and start like that. It's just as a thought exercise. Let's just let's say our strategy in the most basic way we can. Then we start to write more creatively of like, well, look, what are different ways that we could talk about this? What's the most? How do I structure this? What's the most important point they need to know upfront? And what's the flow of information people need to have after that? So then it's a kind of organizational thing. Take

Take this boring bit of writing that just says why, what our strategy is, who we are, how we're different, why you need us. And now let's organize it. So that's the second part, organizing it into an order. The third art is what's the best way to say that, right? And sometimes it is just clear and simple. That's fine. Sometimes in the agency world, cause they're dealing with brands and CMOs and brand people, it's like, well, we need to say it, but we need to say it with some style as well. So then.

That's the bit I get excited about that. Can we say something that's strategically sound? That's clear, but also has just a little touch of style in there as well. For me, that's the, that's the golden trifecta, right? strategy, you know, simplicity style. You get those three things working together. That's that wow moment when people go on a website and they're like, fuck, that's good. Wow. That's like, I get it. It's cool. I want it.

You know, you get, you get people thinking that you, you know, you're onto a winner. So yeah, we'll write a hundred versions, hate 99 eventually get one. We write that probably another hundred times. It's a lot of, you know, it's right drunk edits over. It's all of those cliche stuff about how to do it. but then you get it. And when you get it, it's like a, it's like, it's like a puzzle. It's like the last piece of the puzzle.

And I love it. And then you're like, yes, all unlocked on there. And the rest, the rest is just telling that story in different ways. Basically, there's the core story is there. Yeah, then it's the marketing just repeats it. You know, the sales gives the detail around it. The website tells it and sells it. It's just the same story over and over. And that's good. You know, you need to repeat people, people try and say too many things.

You go on my LinkedIn, I just say the same thing, but in a hundred different ways. That's all it is. Your agency sounds too similar and needs to stand out. I just find different ways to say it, but it's the same message over and over and over. And that's what people need to be okay with that. Make peace with the back view. If you want your message to land, you have to repeat it over and over and over. That's okay. How much of this is going to be included in your master class?

mean? Good question. The masterclass is going to be a toss through the canvas effectively. So it's going to start by, you know, just if we've done looking at looking at the problems, what's going on in the agency world, why you need to find a USP like that, you know, going to just remind everybody why having a USP is all about, you know, giving you a reason to be chosen, tipping the balance in your favor, not leaving.

winning clients down to speed or price or luck. It's a way to control your destiny. So they would talk about that stuff, but then I'm going to go deep into the say, you know, relatively deep into the mechanics of each of those eight boxes. You know, how do you find the target client? You know, what, why do you need to know your service category? What, you know, what is a problem and solution? Why does it, you know, why should anybody care about that? So I'm going to go through those eight boxes in this workshop and people can kind of basically play along at home.

or in the room and start filling those boxes in. And the aim is I've got two hours, which is high pressure, two hours to try and get everybody to fill in that canvas. And at the end of it, there's like a short statement where you plug in your answers from the boxes. And it's like, this is, it's an onlyness statement. This is how we're the only agency that does this thing for these people, you know, so they can do this thing. You know, it's basically just a kind of boring functional statement.

that point. But if you've done it right, that functional boring only this statement is worth, you know, six, seven figures potentially, because it's the reason that you should be chosen over your competitors. So that's what I'm going to try and do. Some will do it, some won't. It will, you know, there'll be tears, there'll be laughter. There'll be blood, you know, but it's gonna be a yeah, we're just gonna get a rip into it and

not hold back and people can ask questions I'm sure and there'll be exercises and I'll wing it probably mostly that would be the you know I'm just gonna go with it and see how it goes. Do you have a book? I decided I was gonna write a book in about a month and I wrote it and then I don't think it's very good.

But so what I did instead was it's like 30 or 40 ,000 words. It's just a Google doc. I'm not even going to bother printing it. It's kind of everything that's ever been in my brain about agency positioning and messaging. If people want it, they can email me. Just go on the website and just email me and I'll send it to them. They can just have access to it. I also sent it out to our mailing list.

and said to people that they could just jump into the Google Doc and totally rip it to shreds. Tell me what they thought of it. And nobody did. Nobody did. And I don't know if people are too scared to call me out and stuff. But everybody can have that if they want to. I'd like to write a proper book. I think it will be more of like a bit more my style.

So what's the title of the first book? The first book is called Why You? Like a guide to nailing your agency's unique proposition, something like that. I can't even remember. Yeah, and...

Yeah, I mean, I don't even mind if you want to share the Google Doc link, we can put it in there. I don't mind if people just want it. I don't need anybody's email address. They can just go in there and see if any of it's useful. And if not, they can just ignore it. Thank you so much for listening. If you found the show valuable, you can say thanks and show your support simply by taking a quick second to like, share, and comment on the show. You can also find more information about each of my guests.

all of the resources from the show and myself at nickberry .info backslash tb oj.

Nick Berry Round Headshot

Nick Berry is an accomplished entrepreneur and CEO, whose track record includes founding and leading numerous companies since 2002.

He is also a mentor and coach to other entrepreneurs and business owners who are looking for a trusted (and proven) advisor.  

Among peers, colleagues, staff, and clients, Nick has been referred to as both 'The Business Guy' as well as 'The Anti-Guru', due to his pragmatic approach and principled leadership.

He shares his insights and lessons learned, along with those of his expert guests,
on his podcast, 'The Business Owner's Journey'.