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Promoting Your Consultancy Week: Patti Bourexis on Taking Time to Position Yourself for Success

I’m Patti Bourexis, President of The Study Group Inc. Back in the 1980s I was thrown into the world of marketing. Some of the enduring lessons I learned were from the marketing books of Al Ries and Jack Trout – particularly Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind. “Positioning,” wrote Ries and Trout in 1981, “is not what you do to a product, service, or company. It’s what you do to the mind of the prospect. Marketing is …securing a worthwhile position in the prospect’s mind. It’s about getting heard in our overcommunicated society.”

GoldfishSo when we launched The Study Group Inc. in 1992, we applied this positioning concept. We debated about whom our clients should be, how we should work with them and our intended results. We considered Ries and Trout’s first law of marketing: Find a category in the client’s mind that you can be first in. (“It’s better to be first than it is to be better.”)

Our goal became adding value to our clients’ own programs and we worked to create a new category in our clients’ minds focused on how we work. We insist on interacting with each client to define the exact assistance required before any contract is signed. Then we convene a “study group”– not unlike student study groups– which combine skills and expertise to tackle a specific task. Our study groups are temporary task forcesthat concentrate on a single assignment to provide quality services in a short period of time.  Work is intense; client participation is required.  The plans, products, and solutions belong to the client; work does not stop until the client is completely satisfied.  Then the study group is dissolved. We are delighted when a prospective client says, “What is The Study Group?” or, after learning about how we work, exclaims, “Gee, you guys are different.”

Lesson Learned: Sticking to our company positioning has led us down interesting paths. We decline clients who don’t agree with our positioning, which is dicey in tight times. We don’t have a web presence, which differentiates us from competitors. (We prefer word-of-mouth referrals.)  We employ only top talent. We only co-publish results with our clients because the work belongs to them, not us.

Hot Tip: Your path will be different than ours, but sometimes old sources are still good sources. Positioning is broader than product branding. Positioning means deciding how you do your work, with whom you work, and what sets you apart from potential competitors.

Rad Resources:

Al Ries and Jack Trout’s books: Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind and The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing.

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Promoting Your Consultancy Week with information on marketing and branding. The contributions all this week to aea365 come from our colleagues who own evaluation businesses. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.


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