April Dunford, founder of Ambient Strategy and author of Obviously Awesome: How to Nail Product Positioning so Customers Get It, Buy It, and Love It joins Stew Fortier to discuss the power of specificity and how to use product positioning to become a better writer.
The interview summary below was prepared for Compound Writing, a paid invite-only community of online writers. Apply here
1. Well-positioned content delivers value to a defined subset of people who actually care.
April Dunford literally wrote the book on how to position products so that they succeed. She explains it like this:
“What positioning actually defines is made up of five component pieces. 1) It defines exactly who or what you compete with. 2) It defines what you have that's different and better than competition. 3) It defines the value that you can deliver for your customers. Why do those features matter for customers? And then 4) it defines who exactly is this offering best suited for? And then lastly, 5) it defines your market category, which you can think of as the market that you intend to win.“
April’s advice on product positioning can be applied to writing and content creation, which she’s learned firsthand as an author herself.
2. Identify a narrow problem that you can solve with your writing. The more specific you are, the quicker you’ll become an expert.
April advises writers to take a niche approach with their essays and newsletters with a persistent focus on problem-solving for their readers.
“There are lots of really narrow problems to solve. Even if you're not an expert, today in solving that narrow problem, you could become one quite quickly if you decided you’re going to be the world's greatest expert on this little thing. I've seen a lot of consultants I know that are making really good money and doing great work with clients because they've picked one very small thing. They’ve said ‘I'm just going to do this, but I'm going to be so amazing at that, that if you need this then I'm your I'm your jam.’
So there's this great power in being able to draw this box and it doesn't take that long to get known for what you do if it is both necessary and narrow.”
3. Specificity accelerates success.
While it can feel counterintuitive to turn down writing opportunities, April insists that finding your niche and sticking to it will yield the highest returns over time. She explains this using her own consulting practice as an example:
“I have a set of criteria, and if you don't meet that, I just say that I can't help you. Because of that, people that do meet my qualifications are willing to pay me a lot of money to come in and fix this thing, because it's so specific. Who else are you going to go call? I'm literally the only person on the planet that does this one little niche thing, so if you've got that problem you don't have writing me a big check to help you solve it.”
This also applies to content. If you are the only writer delivering valuable content in your niche, it becomes less of a question on whether to monetize and more of a question of how much to charge.
4. Finding readers becomes substantially easier when your positioning is clearly defined.
Identifying a strong niche for your content makes almost everything else easier. April explains:
“The benefits of getting narrowly focused is that you can get really crisp on your messaging, you can get really crisp on your targeting, you can get really crisp on the campaigns you're running and in the sales stuff you're doing. This makes them all more successful.
The opportunity when you go narrow is you get to do some stuff that's really laser focused and then your results are really outsized because you're no longer just kind of spraying and praying all over the place.”
5. Start with the end in mind.
In order to be successful, April implores writers to approach their content with an eye on their ultimate objective.
“If what I want to do is make money on subscriptions, then I'd be optimizing for this question: ‘What does somebody want to read about every week? What's the topic with enough depth and breadth that I can come out in a million different ways, and there's enough content and meat there that the reader wants to open it up every week and read it and pay money for that?’ I would be thinking about that. ‘How do I deliver that value week after week after week?”
6. You can evolve your positioning as you go.
It’s common for writers to worry that defining their niche will pigeon-hole them into writing the same type of content forever. April reassures them that these fears are unfounded.
“People have this idea that positioning is something you're going to set and you can't change it ever. Nothing could be further from the truth. Most of the products that I work with adjust the positioning every year. Sometimes we're doing it every six months. Sometimes you get lucky and you find your position, it just works. and off you go. But most of the time you're adjusting it as you go along.”