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Guest Post by Eric Holter: The Sharp Axe of Positioning

Now that Eric, our former CEO, is off to new heights in his career, I’ve invited him to contribute a few guest blog posts. This is the
fourth of several posts that we’ll feature from Eric in the coming

After studying at the Rhode Island School of Design, Eric Holter worked as an engraver and illustrator for Pagano, Schenck & Kay Advertising, then as a web designer at Leonard/Monahan. He founded Newfangled Web Factory in 1995.

When I critique advertising agency websites the first aspect I evaluate is positioning. Positioning is a foundational element for an effective web strategy.

Positioning is defined as “what you do,” “who you do it for,” and “what the benefit is to them.” For example the positioning for Newfangled would be broken down like this. What do they do? They build websites. Who do they do it for? Advertising agencies. What is the benefit? Newfangled helps them transform their websites into powerful new business engines.

Defining a sharp position statement is critical for an effective and sustainable web strategy. That’s because web strategy is primarily expressed through a content strategy. And developing compelling content on a regular and sustained basis is hard work. But hard work is always made easier when you have the right tools. A good sharp axe makes the task of chopping wood easier–you can exert less force with fewer blows.

Think of your positioning as the edge of your axe. If your firm’s positioning is sharp (focused, narrow, and clearly defined) the effort needed in content creation will be much less than if the positioning is dull (over-reaching, broad, and generalized).

Not only is content creation easier with sharp positioning, it’s also more compelling and effective. Conversely, an out of dull-edged content strategy is hard to sustain and its results are ineffective. Most agency sites I’ve seen that have made a stab at devising a content strategy (such as blogging) they usually do okay for a few months. They’ll start out with a few posts per month, but soon the fatigue sets in. Ideas run dry, and the posts don’t bear much fruit. It’s not surprising that such posts are ineffective. Their subject matter tends to be about typography, design awards, new projects–stuff that’s only marginally interesting–and that only to other designers. This is the kind of content that flows from an undefined content strategy which results from generalized positioning.

But blogs from specialized, narrowly positioned firms are far more interesting–especially to clients and prospects who are interested in content that relates to their industries. Let’s try this on. Imagine for a moment that your firm had a super sharp positioning, something like “trade show marketing for technology startups–we help you make the most of your trade show events.” This is perhaps an extreme example, but just imagine for a moment that this was your focus and expertise. Can you come up with half a dozen subjects that you could write about, if that was your expertise? Even without having the expertise I bet you could come up with a decent list. And for specialized firms compelling content ideas are easy to come by. And when a prospect discovers them, the sales process is near to closing even before your phone rings or your email comment form gets filled out.

Web strategy is like an axe, the blade is a content strategy, and its sharpness is defined by your positioning. So sharpen your axe, and you won’t have to exert as much effort in your marketing.

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