Positioning for self-employed people

Guest contribution by | 12.09.2022

Positioning for the self-employed can work quite easily if you get it right and start with the right question. I have developed a theory for this. This theory uses value chains, a term from business administration. However, since this term and the theory are somewhat unwieldy, I would like to start with another image.

Clear the stage for Petra I

Petra is self-employed. Today Petra gets to present her services on a stage. She hopes for new customers and orders, because business is not yet really great. Petra has stage fright before the big performance, but also a great passion, a great motivation for the topic she is about to present. She is on fire for her topic. The curtain rises, Petra steps into the spotlight. She gives an exciting, a great talk. She is able to pick up her audience and take them with her.

Petra has told a great story, the people are enthusiastic. Petra gets a lot of applause. Even after her talk, over coffee and cake, Petra can hold exciting conversations. People are enthusiastic about what Petra has to say.

But no one buys.

In the end, Petra goes home disappointed. She has aroused a lot of enthusiasm, had great conversations, but no sales, no customers.

What went wrong?

Petra has developed a personal brand. She stands for something. She clarified exactly what her why is, what she started her own business for and presented this story in a credible way. She was actually able to inspire many people with her idea.

But why did she still not sell anything?
She had no product, no offer, no portfolio.

She had hoped that people would ask what Petra could do for them and that she could then create individual offers in individual conversations and extensive processes. But people don’t have time for that. They need to understand very quickly what Petra has in her portfolio, they want to be able to assess quickly and precisely whether this offer is of use to them or not.

Petra has now recognised this.
She has to define her offer clearly.
And now the value chains come into play.

Value chains and products

Business value chains are an extensive and exciting topic. Even a Nobel Prize has been awarded for its research. Now I don’t want to take you into deep theory, but only to work out a decisive message:

The decisive message lies at the beginning and at the end of a value-creating unit, for example a company, a factory, but also every single self-employment.

At the end of the value chain, this is the product. This can be a product in kind but also a service product. If this product is not defined or not worked out clearly enough, the value chain breaks, there is no buyer for the offer and ultimately the company or the self-employment fails.

In my work I have met many Petras. Entrepreneurs, self-employed people who were passionate about their subject and enthusiastic about what they wanted to do. Unfortunately without success in the market, without success with their target audience. I was able to help them. With the idea of the products, with the links in the value chains, the decisive element was built in that made the difference.

How does that work?

Products and resources

In my experience, it is best if products are derived from the skills and abilities of the people or teams working independently or representing a company.

Let’s take Petra. It’s about drawing out her skills and abilities, her skills, the things that most motivate Petra to work, to convert them into products. The linchpin for Petra’s positioning and business is not her personal brand, but the products Petra has to offer her clients.

Especially in our increasingly developing service society, it is important to productise the services. It must be effortlessly clear to customers what is being offered.

Often, in the case of services, several products arranged next to or on top of each other can make up a service portfolio. In this way, more favourable entry-level products can be defined that invite customers into the world of the respective service portfolios.

So I met with Petra for a short and intensive process. I asked Petra about the activities she would like to do in her self-employment. The specific question was:

“WHAT would you like to do?”

In the process, Petra imagined several scenarios that she would like to do in her self-employment. She wrote down these activities and the topics she would like to work on. In a defined process, products and a product portfolio were derived from these words and groups of words.

From then on, this portfolio was the basis of Petra’s positioning and communication with her target group, with her potential clients. Through the defined portfolio, it was quickly clear to the customer what Petra actually offers. Not every interlocutor is interested in what Petra has to offer. But from those people for whom Petra’s offers were interesting, deals came, sales came, the business took off.

According to the value chain, the product is the link between the supplier and the consumer of the product. Without this link, the business does not function. Defining the products is therefore the linchpin of the business. This was also the case with Petra.

Attributes of the products

To the defined products, to this anchor, all other attributes that additionally distinguish and characterise a product could then be added. So Petra not only had clarity about her products and her portfolio, she not only had clearly defined what she offers, but she could also attach all other attributes to this clearly defined products. For example, she could clearly define to whom she offers these products, how much these products should cost, what benefits these products have for her customers, on which markets and platforms she wants to offer these products, which landing page should be developed for which product, how the social media profile should be adapted to support this portfolio as well and so on and so forth.

With the clarity of the product portfolio, Petra was not only able to communicate clearly with her clients and close the first deals. She was also able to brief her advertising partners precisely so that they could perfectly place and position the website, social media presence and other activities in marketing and sales.

As a result, Petra’s business took off.

Clear the stage for Petra II – including positioning

Months later, Petra is back on stage. It is just like the first time, but there is one crucial difference: already in the presentation Petra can name her products and afterwards Petra can distribute her product brochures at her small stand. There are still exciting conversations with customers about Petra’s topics, but now about the products, about WHAT one can buy from Petra, what it costs, what the delivery times are and so on. As a result, a lot of new customers were acquired at this congress. This congress has advanced Petra’s business, not only strengthened her personal brand.

If you want to learn from Petra, as a self-employed person, first define your products, your offer, your portfolio. First clarify the question of WHAT. The second question to be answered is the question of the target group, the question of WHO.

Products and target audience(s)

Those who have developed a clean positioning and portfolio and now define one or more target groups have another advantage through this methodology:

A product-target audience matrix can be developed. All offers are entered as rows. All potential target groups, and there is almost always more than one, are marked as columns. Each intersection between a product and a potential target group represents a possible marketing action. The intersections can now be prioritised. Petra can consider with whom she would like to offer which product and with which priority. From this, advertising campaigns can be derived, landing pages developed, social media marketing campaigns defined and much more.

In a very clear, very structured and very targeted process, Petra can try out which of her products works best with which of her target groups. She does more of that and so the business can grow and blossom.

If you want to start in self-employment, start with WHAT.
If you are in self-employment and your business is not working the way you want it to, redefine your WHAT precisely.

You will find it will work better.
Benefit from Petra’s experience.



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Heiko Roessel has published another article in the t2informatik Blog:

t2informatik Blog: The PARIS model in service

The PARIS model in service

Heiko Roessel

Heiko Roessel

Heiko Roessel is an entrepreneur and systemic management consultant. His focus is on the productisation of services and service positioning. He is a lecturer for service management at the HTW in Aalen. Through his vita, Roessel combines theory, methodology and experience.