Today’s co-host is April Dunford, a positioning consultant and entrepreneur who literally wrote the book on positioning. She’s also an in-demand keynote speaker. While her book, Obviously Awesome, refers to products, most of it can be applied to services, as well — something April talks about in today’s show. She also shares how her loose position affected her trajectory when she first became a consultant.
If you’ve ever searched online for information about positioning your business, you know there is a ton of material available. But what’s often missing are the actionable items and exercises you need to work through in order to actually do it effectively. April noticed this gap in the market and created tools and processes to help businesses better position themselves.
April’s life has turned out to be more free-form than she ever thought it would. She received her degree in systems design engineering and lucked into a job at a startup right out of school. She was eventually hired as a technology evangelist, where she learned that she was great at engaging with people and giving presentations. She points to that moment as a turning point in her career.
Currently, April can be found on her book tour and speaking at conferences (more than usual). She’s using the book events and publicity from the book as an interesting experiment in growing leads since up to this point her business has been mostly referral-based.
In this episode, April and I dive into what makes some businesses fail and others succeed. We also discuss the principles and science behind positioning (like how people’s brains react to seeing something new).
In this episode April talks about:
- What positioning is, why it’s important in all aspects of marketing, and what she noticed was missing.
- The science of positioning and how you can use it to your advantage.
- Why it’s slightly harder to position services versus products.
- Positioning is the foundation of your marketing. A certain set of criteria pointed at a certain group of people about why you’re the best in the world is the building block for all of your marketing.
- Positioning is often a science-based on groups of people and their given assumptions about certain markets. You can use people’s assumptions about these markets (competitors, costs, etc.) to differentiate yourself and give yourself an in.
- Product positioning is generally easier than services because the differences are more obvious. Figuring out how and why you’re different and which differences people really care about is the best strategy when positioning your service.
Important Mentions in this Episode
- April Dunford Website
- April on Twitter
- April on LinkedIn
- Obviously Awesome: How to Nail Product Positioning so Customers Get It, Buy It, Love It
- Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind
- Jane Portman explains “How We Used April Dunford’s 10-Step Method to Overhaul Positioning at Userlist”
April Dunford 0:00
If I do a good job picking that market category, and all those assumptions that I trigger in your mind are true, fantastic. Because I don’t have to tell you my competitor is it’s assumed I don’t have to list every single feature. It’s assumed, right? But if I did a lousy job of picking my market category, and what I triggered was a bunch of assumptions about your product that are not true. Now you got trouble, and I’m going to spend all my time trying to unwind the damage that that positioning is already done.
Jason Resnick 0:41
Welcome to episode eight of season six of living the feast. I’m Jason aka rezzz helping you grow your business by having a conversation with someone who’s been there had success and built a business designed around the life they want to live. That’s live in the feast. This is your first time listening. Thank you very much. Why not hit that subscribe button so that you get notified every time a new episode drops live in the feast is in your podcast app of choice. If you’ve heard the show before, leave us a rating and review on iTunes or drop us a comment in the episode on breaker or cast box. Today’s co host is April Dunford. If you’ve ever searched online for positioning your business, you know that there is a ton of material out there. But where things fall off quickly is the actionable items and exercises you need to work through in order to actually do it. That’s why I’m stoked to have on today’s episode April who literally wrote the book on positioning obviously awesome how to nail product positioning, so customers get it I love it is the title of her book. While the book refers to products. Most of it can be applied to services as April points out and today’s show, but she is explains why it’s slightly harder with services. But how to navigate through that she also shares her experience when she first became a consultant herself and how her loose positioning was actually putting her into a bucket of copywriting. In this episode, we dive into what makes some businesses fail, and what makes them succeed. The principles and science behind positioning and how people’s brains work when seeing something new for the first time. And finally, how positioning can align you to comparables in a similar space, but highlight why you’re different and better for your customers. So without further ado, let’s dive in.
Hey Feasters, Welcome to another episode of living the feast. I’m here with April Dunford. She wrote Avi
sleep awesome. It’s like the manual on positioning. And I’m super excited for you to be here. April. Thank you for joining us.
April Dunford 3:07
Hey, thanks so much for having me. It’s great to be here.
Jason Resnick 3:09
Yeah. And it’s funny we were we were talking about how things were making us disconnect in a way. And I think in of itself, that is kind of ironic, because of the tools that we’re trying to use was like, hey, you’re positioning yourself as, hey, let’s connect to people’s calendars together. How come this isn’t working? Right? A little ironic, right? So I like to ask a lot of folks that show up on the show and ask them what your defining moment in life so far is
April Dunford 3:44
my defining moment in life. I don’t know if I believe in a defining moment in my life. You know, I will say that my life has been a lot more freeform than I expected it to be like, I think I expected to have more of a plan and follow up plan. And that didn’t happen at all. Like a you know, like I have a degree in systems design engineering. And when I finished school, I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. And I literally lucked into a job at a startup. And I’ve been doing startups ever since. And the job happened to be in marketing, even though it wasn’t really sort of a marketing job. It was, I was hired to be a technical evangelist, which is a kind of a job where you need the tech skills, but you need to be able to talk to people and do presentations and things which I was pretty good at. But, you know, I often think about that first job and how, you know, my whole career took this kind of turn. It never would have if I hadn’t taken some other job, you know, maybe I would have come to this place. I don’t know. I doubt it, though. I you know, so I think I think you do sort of, I kind of believe in serendipity that way. I think there’s only so much you can plan for and then the rest of it, you know, just kind of stuff happens and you get lucky and you just do things and then you end up where you end up.
Jason Resnick 5:05
Yeah, no, I mean, it’s funny, I was talking with another guest on the show, Philip Andrews, and he likes to look at his career, like a spider web, not necessarily a letter. And sounds very similar to what you’re, what you’re saying here is that I am very methodical. And I knew that I wanted to work for myself, I just didn’t know why. And I didn’t know how I didn’t know all of those things. So I just always kind of just feel like a little bit lucky and how I ended up where I ended up because the internet came along. And I was in college in the 90s. And the internet wasn’t even a thing really at that point in time. And like, you know, all of a sudden, I’m writing web pages. And I’m like, Oh, I’m doing this thing that people need and, and all that sort of thing. So I feel like I lucked into that whole thing.
April Dunford 5:50
Yeah, it’s funny, you say that, because like I’m, you know, I’m a consultant now. So I run my own business now. But I never had a desire to run my own business. It’s not funny. Like now everybody’s all the entrepreneurship, blah, blah, blah. But my big thing was, I got really into marketing, like really into the idea of what makes some products successful, and some products fail and what makes like, particularly in tech, where, you know, we come up with these things in there, so new and weird and hard to understand. And some of them take off. And some of them people just never get their heads around. And in my mind, that’s the hardest problem you can solve in marketing. And so I got really interested in that problem. But I was never like sitting around going, I had to run my own business. None of none of that. And so I was quite happy to, you know, work for people and work on teams and work on projects that weren’t my project. They were just projects, and I thought they were all fine. But then I did end up transitioning into consulting more, because I felt like I had kind of outgrown the Vice President of Marketing role. And I had done it about bunch of different times at a bunch of different companies. And I thought, you know, I can still sort of pursue this thing that I’m still super interested in. But I could do it a little more at scale by working with dozens of companies instead of just one at a time over the years. But I you know, it was quite late in my career. By the time I, I thought, yeah, this would be a good thing to do. Let’s go do this now. And again, it was more kind of, I just kind of fell into it. I was like, Yeah, I should try this out for a while. And now it’s been years. And I can’t imagine doing anything else like now. Now I you know, I’ve said that before. And then I get recruited into some company. But now I think it’s actually true, right? I think this is it for me.
Jason Resnick 7:42
So I’m interested to hear, like you said that you you loved working in startups. And then you also love solving that complex problem of essentially, you know, describing something and selling something and marketing something that people don’t necessarily get or understand. Why do you think that is? I mean, does it come from your just innate curiosity to try to
April Dunford 8:04
know why cuz it’s so hard, like I like so I so I came out of engineering, and an engineering, I used to find engineering that hard. There’s rules and you learn the rules, and you follow the rules and things work out. And if it’s not working out, it’s because you messed up somewhere. You were following rules, right, whatever. But then when I when I graduated, and I started working more on the business side, there are no rules there are there are some right there guideposts, but it’s way harder, like, like what you found that worked perfectly at the last company doesn’t work at all at the next one. For reasons that sometimes you can figure out and sometimes you can’t. And it just seems so much harder to me like positioning in particular, it’s probably interesting that this is the thing that I focused on now like that, in particular was a problem that vexed me for like a decade. So we think positioning like in marketing. positioning is sort of the foundation. So you can think of it almost like like I have a degree in systems design engineering. So I think about things like there’s inputs, and there’s outputs. Right? Right. So if I’m making a campaign, or I’m doing a sales tactic, or I’m creating content, any sort of marketing thing I’m doing, I have this standard set of inputs, and the inputs are, who’s my target customer? What am I differentiators? What’s the value that I can deliver to that customer like, these are the basic inputs, and taken together, that’s just another fancy way of saying positioning. Because positioning defines that it defines how you’re the best in the world at doing something that it finds set of people cares a lot about. And so it defines what my differentiators are, what my value is, who my target market is all that stuff. And yet, there was no methodology for positioning, like I went to all these marketing courses. And I learned a lot of stuff and taking marketing courses. And they were lots of courses where they define what positioning is. And there’s a there’s a great book that that you take when you go to marketing school, and you learn about positioning the book is called positioning the battle for your mind. And it’s by these kinds of reasons. And they do this amazing job of defining what positioning is, but they don’t tell you how to do it. They The idea is you’re supposed to call them and they’re going to do it for you. I like this is bonkers, here we have this thing, it’s fundamental to everything we do. And there’s no methodology to do it. And like this just doesn’t happen in engineering.
Know how you’re going to build a bridge.
We know how to do this. Right? And so I just got intrigued by that, by the hardness of that problem. The difficulty of it, like There must be a way to figure that out. Like and it turns out there is it just took me forever to formulate it. Right.
Jason Resnick 10:52
Yeah, I mean, I think I think also because engineering is like physics, and it’s math. It’s like, you know, it’s like black or white. Right? whereas he
April Dunford 11:02
Paul, people are calling.
Jason Resnick 11:05
Right, people are the defining thing of positioning, right. And that that’s the at the backbone and we are on expected, you know, we’re surprising, you know, like you said, you could do one thing, and it works great, then you do it again tomorrow, and it falls flat. It’s like, what’s the difference?
April Dunford 11:23
Yeah. But what’s crazy is that there are principles, right? It’s just that, you know, I found when I first got into marketing, people didn’t want to think about the principles, they wanted to be magic. And nobody wanted it to be magic more than the marketers, like they wanted to be art. And I came at it like, Okay, I get I give you that, that there’s a good chunk art involved in this. But there’s a good chunk of science here too. And y’all are just ignoring it on purpose. Because you don’t want there to be any science and this and I’m getting rid of it. I’m like I want maximum minimal art, because designs is the only music you control. So like, for example, in positioning, if you look at the research, the research tells us that as human beings, when we encounter something that we have never encountered before, we use what we already understand, to figure out this new thing. So we kind of use a reference point of what we know, to figure out what the heck is this new thing I know nothing about. And so in marketing, what that means is, I try to figure out what box to put you in what frame of reference to put you in. And if you don’t give me one, I got to make one up. And if you give me one, I’m going to grab that and run with it as hard as I can. And usually that framing is market categorization. So if I were to come up to you and say, Hey, I got this product, and I don’t tell you anything about it, I just say Hey, I got this product. And it’s a CRM, I have told you nothing. All I’ve done is so do the market category. But I guarantee you, you just made a bunch of assumptions about that product in your head, who’s my competitor?
Yeah, sales for sales, right? Who’s
Who? How much does it cost? Well, probably doesn’t cost more than Salesforce. That’s the upper bound, like they own this market. So that’s the upper bound. So I just said an upper bound on my pricing right there by telling you, I’m a CRM, what’s my feature set? Well, there’s CRM stuff, right, I can probably track and deal across a pipeline and keep track of accounts, all this stuff, who’s my target buyer, Vice President of Sales, that’s how you sell CRM to right. So this way, you just assumed all that stuff. I didn’t tell you anything, I just said, I’m a CRM, and that’s Margarita category. So if I do a good job picking that market category, and all those assumptions that I trigger in your mind are true, fantastic. Because I don’t have to tell you, my competitor is it’s assumed I don’t have to list every single feature, it’s assumed, right? It’s my pricing is in the boundaries, then you’re probably not going to get a whole lot of pushback on that. But if I did a lousy job of picking my market category, and what I triggered was a bunch of assumptions about your product that are not true. Now you got trouble. Now you’re going to have to spend a significant amount of your sales and marketing energy saying, No, no, no, not that kind of CRM. No, no, not a CRM like that. And I’m going to spend all my time trying to unwind the damage that that positioning is already done. So I give you an example. So I got a call from this company. And what they do is that the way they pitch to me is they said they got a thing, and it’s email for lawyers. These guys are ex lawyers. And they came up with this idea that lawyers and people are collaborating on a deal. And they need a way to securely share documents and stuff. And so they’re going to do that in this email for lawyers thing. So they show me they’re showing me the demo. And it looks kind of cool and looks kind of like email and stuff. And at one point, I said, hey, how’s the calendar work on this thing? And the guy says, Oh, we don’t have a calendar, like, wait a minute.
Thing is email us calendar. Like you’re saying, I can’t replace Gmail with this thing. No, you can’t. We don’t have a calendar. like, Well, shit.
Like that, like what we backup backup. Everybody loves you guys. So what you know, what do you got that so lovable, and they’re like, well, we have this thing, we got a patent on it. And it’s this context where file sharing, and they demo it to me, it’s amazing, right? And it what it does is this AI thing, and it automatically figures out who should have access to a document. And then it has this like, super secure spot that the document is in and it only gets shared with the people it’s supposed to share. It does all that automatically. It’s like magic. It’s fantastic. But it’s also not email, right? Also not email. If I wanted to solve that problem, I wouldn’t expect the email would do it, I would buy something like team collaboration to solve that problem. And so if I take that exact same product, and pick it up and position in another market, that conversation is going to go way easier. So if I called it team collaboration, lawyers, that all my assumptions are different, like all of a sudden, I’m not competing with Gmail anymore. I’m competing with slack. But it’s team collaboration for lawyers. So it probably goes some special lawyer II things right, like and team collaboration is all about sharing stuff. And file sharing is a big piece of that. So yeah, sure enough, it makes sense. You guys have this super secure file sharing special duty file sharing thing that’s great. On the pricing side, there’s a massive change there. Because you set your expectation on pricing by talking about your market category. If I tell you it’s email, I expect the price to be pretty much free, right? Like it’s free. I come in and I say I got team collaboration fillers. That’s all different pricing ballgame. Like it like people pay a lot of money for team collaboration. And deep collaboration for lawyers might be extra special that maybe you spend more money. Sure, we had this really neat conversation, I said, You know what, on the pricing side, you should call the lawyers up. And you should tell them, Look, we’re going to, we’re going to charge you by the minute and just see what the lawyers, they didn’t do that. But still like pricing and features and everything else. A lot of this stuff gets baked into the way you do the positioning. If you miss positioning in the beginning, then you will set off these assumptions because people will automatically say, oh, you’re in that category. Oh, these are your competition. And you’re going to be praised like that.
Jason Resnick 17:29
What did you think about when April said the word CRM, you like myself and most people, you automatically put them into the same box category pricing, and even had a vision for what that actually looked like? What happens when a lead hears you say that you’re a web developer or a web designer? What happens when you hear those words? Is it a box that you want to be put in? When someone asks you what you do? Do you share who you help with a clear focus and precise solution? Where do you judge lyst. A number of your previous projects really love how April explains what positioning is right from the top here because it’s so critical to be able to charge what you’re want and what you’re worth. Rather than being forced into a bucket that your leads and clients put you in if you want worksheets, exercises, and the ability to create that laser focus and precise solution so that you can then position yourself head and shoulders above the rest of your contemporaries specifically for your customers, head on over to feast course.com. Today, as a member, you’ll get the processes and templates to not only figure out who your ideal client is and the services that you can provide for them, you’ll also learn how to figure out the price to put on those services. That makes it a complete no brainer for the client to sign up for you. That’s why I want to invite you to check out feast. By using the code positioning at checkout, you can get your free first month for only $20 feast is the community and resource hub for developers and designers ready to get off the project searching hamster wheel and actually run the business that you set out to build feast helps position you in the market with what you do, who you help, and helps you build the processes and systems for client management, sales, marketing, delivery. And of course, pricing. Your business is not the same as everyone else’s. When you are a member of feast, you get personalized guidance from me, it’s essential for me to meet you where you are, and make sure that you’re getting the exact tools so that you don’t get lost in that shuffle. The moment you sign up, we’re going to have a chat. Yep, we are going to have a chat so that I can create you a custom syllabus of resources within feast to meet you where you are, and get moving quickly. If you want to stop chasing down that next project all the time, so that you could start living your life, go to feast course.com today and use the code positioning at checkout. And your first month is $20.
A lot of the audience that developers designers and marketers there are consultants and they provide services and they get pushback a lot of times because they don’t they just say I’m a developer, or I’m a designer. And so they kind of lumped themselves into the group of a plethora of a worldwide plethora of other developers and designers and alike
April Dunford 20:39
oh my god when I started consulting This was terrible. Like I like my bit my problem was at the beginning I knew I wanted to do positioning work but I didn’t have an offering right like you need an offering you need a beginning you need this needs to be a project there needs to be beginning here and in otherwise I’m just going to be a freelancer right I’m going to be like part time VP marketing, which by the way is a terrible awful you’ll end up doing full time work for part time pay. So So at the beginning, I would come in and nobody would understand positioning. So I would try to explain it. But people would immediately jumped to the idea that Oh, that that’s messaging. And then if it’s messaging then that makes me a copywriter. Be like oh well. copywriters cost X dollars an hour. And that’s what we’re going to have you do it I’m like, Oh my god, you guys got this so wrong. Like there’s nobody that knows how to do positioning work and positioning work is much closer to business strategy, then it’s way closer to that than it is to copywriting.
Jason Resnick 21:41
So is that how you you turn the table on them? And you said I’m more business.
April Dunford 21:45
So here’s the thing, most people that I’m in talking to you, they’ve never hired anybody from the outside to do anything strategic, absolutely nothing. So I couldn’t make that comparison. I couldn’t say look, I’m a management consultant. And consultants are more expensive than copywriters as I won’t work. But I did have to do something to get out of this copywriting rut. And so first, I would spend a lot of time talking about positioning, and here’s what it is, and here’s what you get out of it and whatever. And then I spent a lot of time building the offering. But I still had this problem of the comparable. So then I thought you know what, I just got to look and see what else are these people buy and find the best comparison. So I got thinking about all the services and stuff that I bought when I was a VP marketing or, or a CEO and my customers usually CEO. And you know what I settled on. Every single startup that I’ve worked with has a PR agency, or has had a PR agency at some point. And without exception, everyone hates their PR agency like absolutely hates them for a handful reasons. One, the PR agencies come in and lock them in for a big chunk of time, like six months a year usually. And then they lock them in at a price that’s like, you know, between seven and 10,000 dollars a month, and they’re locked in for a year. So put it all together. It’s like 70, grand, 80, grand Iran hundred thousand dollars. And then the agency because they’ve already made their money, whether they produce any results or not, is highly motivated to ignore you as much as possible. Until you yell at them. And they’re really getting paid on results, right? They closed you and now you’re good. And you know, when your renewal comes up, you might see a few articles, whatever. So I started just comparing my pricing to PR agency. I’m like, you know, you guys got a PR agency? Like, yeah, I’m like, do what they do. Oh my god, no. And then that usually that usually sparks a rant. You know how terrible they are. I had an agency for months, and they were terrible. They never produced anything, or blah, blah. And a lot of times people do expect their agency to figure out their story, right. And figuring out the story is a lot closer to positioning that copywriting. So I’m like I bet you figured these guys, were going to come up with a story line for your stuff and then push the media, like, yeah, and I’m like, Well, the reason you don’t have a storyline for your stuff is you’re not clear on who’s my people, what’s my differentiator, what’s my whatever storylines are different, right. But if you have that figured out, then what we’re going to do with that is downstream, we’re going to create messaging, we’re going to create a sales narrative, we’re going to create a bunch of that. And that’s going to translate into revenue revenue for you is a different job than the PR agency. But imagine if you could do all that. And I’m just trying to sell you a couple days worth of a workshop, which is, you know, by the way cheaper than, you know, two months of working with this PR agency, right? Then everybody’s like, God, damn, you’re cheap. But I had to find a comparable like, again, it says I had to compare it to something because everyone was like, this sounds good April, but I don’t know what it should cost, right. And so I had to compare it to something like I couldn’t just go in and say I’m doing this weird thing that you’ve never heard of before. And if I don’t give them the comparable, then they’re going to fish around for it. And they’re going to land on something I probably don’t like like copywriting
Jason Resnick 25:00
in your book, you encourage your suggest to call out your competitors, right? You say, hey, look, if you’re in a similar space as somebody else, call them out,
April Dunford 25:10
yeah, like, especially if, like, you wouldn’t be positioning yourself in that space, unless you felt confident that you are going to win in that space. So this is the way it works, right? Like if I say again, if I take my CRM example, if I say I got a product, and it’s CRM, everybody’s thinking of Benioff, thinking Salesforce, like I basically just declare war on Salesforce. Now, you wouldn’t do that unless you thought you were actually declaring war on Salesforce. So you’re going to beat Salesforce, which you would did, and that sounds crazy, especially if you’re a little startup, you’re not going to do that. And that’s why you don’t just come out and say I’m a CRM, you say, I’m a CRM for lawyers, or I’m a CRM for super small businesses around the CRM for restaurants. And people say, Why hang on does me compete with Salesforce. And then you can say, God, we love them. They’re awesome. They’re huge. Look at them. They’re amazing. They’re, they’re by far the leader in the whole space. Not for you, though, because you have these three, four requirements, and those guys can’t do that. So you know, we that’s why we’re in the restaurant space. We’re not trying to take the role space, we’re just trying to do this. And so I think it’s fine to call it out. But you know, what, what you’re calling out is the difference between you and them. And it’s what you’re really doing. Right? You can’t call them out unless you think you’re going to beat them. Right?
Jason Resnick 26:29
Yeah. Yeah, not totally. I mean, otherwise, what are we doing this for anyway?
April Dunford 26:34
What are we doing this? We’re like, Hey, I know this other company, that doesn’t really matter. Maybe, you
know, you don’t want to do that. But But you know, I yeah, I’ve had lots of businesses where we’ve, we, you know, our aim was to dominate a niche. And we would go in there talking about the leader for the whole space, because it’s, it’s going to come up and everyone’s minds. And so you say, Well, you know, we’re, we’re, you’re the best solution out there for this. And people will say, well, hang on, doesn’t that make you just like IBM, or SAP or whatever it say, Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, they’re, they’re the general purpose tool, but not for you. right for you. There’s this thing, and we’re quite confident we can serve you better than them, otherwise, we wouldn’t be positioned.
Jason Resnick 27:16
So we’re talking a lot of stories on products. But you did it for your service. Right. You did for your consulting service. Yeah, there any nuances or differences between products and services. When you work with positioning?
April Dunford 27:29
In my opinion, there isn’t, although the vast majority of my clients are product businesses, but I have done a handful of services businesses. And the hardest thing on the services side is the differentiation. A lot of services, businesses just aren’t that differentiated. And so on the product side, if you are not differentiated, you die pretty quick. On the services side, sometimes your differentiation is you got a great network. You can survive a long time on that differentiation. You just know our people, and they are you because you’re the person they know. But your services are actually not all that differentiated. And so in the services businesses that I’ve worked with, differentiation is usually the hard bit. It’s getting that the nut of, you know, if I’m trying to sell somebody, what exactly is my secret sauce? Why do you hire me and not the other people? And then it’s the matchmaking between that and if this is the thing I’m really good at, and the thing where I beat my competitors, what are the characteristics of a company that makes them put a really high price on that value? Because those are the people I want to go pitch to you it’s not is the same as products, right? So you’re not the best service for everybody, you’re the best service for some people. And so key number one is thinking what your differentiation is. And then number two is, who cares about that a lot. And just talk to those people and don’t talk to anybody else. So thinking about me as a as a consultant, for example. So I have a very specific thing that I do, which is around positioning, I only really feel comfort, comfortable working with tech companies. And even more specific, I only do b2b because b2c is not my bag and all and I don’t get it. And so I only do b2b. And the sweet spot, really the sweet spot of my market, our b2b startups that have a little enough traction, that we can now really hone in on their positioning. And that that’s my real sweet spot of my market, I’m now selling occasionally, these bigger companies that have a weird positioning issue. But the sweet spot of my market is this very specific business, that sometimes I get calls from people that are outside of that, right. So they’ll don’t like I had one this morning, and it’s a school company, but their business to consumer, they’re not my bag, and I just say note all that stuff, because I could sell them something easily. But I don’t know if I can deliver what I sold them. Oh, my God, as a consultant is my reputation. I want everybody that finishes a project with me to say we did good work here and good stuff came out of it. But if you get outside of my space too much, I don’t know. Like I could tell you, I could easily sell you, I could take your money. But I wouldn’t feel confident that at the end, everybody wouldn’t be lean back saying I don’t know if that was good or not. Whereas if your b2b seed series, a even Series B startup tech, and I’ve basically screen you to make sure that you got a positioning problem, and it isn’t something else. But if I screened you and you made it through my screen, we’re going to do super duper stuff. But outside of that, I don’t know I, I spent a lot of time saying no to people that call me. They’re like, Hey, we can do this thing. And I’m like, I don’t think I’m your gal. And that takes some discipline, right? Like at the beginning, when you’re starting out and you’re feeling broke, or whatever you feel like you should say yes, like, you’re like, well, they hired me, like, you know, it’s their fault. If it doesn’t work out, they picked me. And that’s not true at all. You pick your clients, they don’t pick you, you pick them. And you should only pick the ones that fall in your in your sweet spot segment. That’s how you build a book of business. That’s how you build a referral business. That’s how your reputation grows like, Oh, she’s really smart, wherever. Because I’m not really smart and everything. I’m just really smart at this one little thing. So we don’t fit in that one little thing, and you’re not going to come out of this thing. And I’m super smart. And I want you to so for me consultants, I feel like that’s where they mess up the most I know, that’s where I messed up at the beginning, I would say yes to stuff that I should have ran away screaming. It’s something that I’ve I learned over the years to is you, it’s best to say no, if you’re on the fence, right? If they don’t fit off,
you’re on the fence
Jason Resnick 31:48
and always if they fit your wheelhouse on to them. If they’re on the outskirts of that, maybe talk to them, but refer them. Right. And if they’re not even in the ballpark just say no, right?
April Dunford 32:00
Yeah, the only thing I do is I scream because I deal a lot with startup founders, like I usually get hired by the founder, I scream a lot for attitude like it like at the beginning I didn’t like and I thought, well, they’re calling me they must want help, right? A lot of founders that call me that, you know, they want to talk to me, and they want to bounce some ideas, but they’re not actually all that open to changing their mind about stuff. Right? And again, at the beginning, I said yes to a couple of those, and we go do some work. And we get to a spot that I think is really good. But you see them walking out the door and you’re like, you’re never gonna implement that stuff. And I know where this goes, right. A few weeks later, people are gonna say I was at work with April, they’re gonna go Yeah, we really get anything we used to ice cream really hard for that now at the beginning, like sometimes I get folks call me in there. And I’ll pro well we like Do you really think this is a problem? Because if you don’t think it’s a problem, I can help so but you know, sometimes I get introduced by by the investor like the VCs and say, Hey, you know, April, those are not always great, because sometimes the founder feels like they gotta talk to me, and they don’t really think they should, but their boss told them to.
And I usually let those guys off the hook. I’m like, man, I think if
you don’t think it’s a problem, then it’s not a problem, dude. I mean, we shouldn’t be wasting each other’s time here. There’s lots of business, right? There’s lots of business around.
Jason Resnick 33:30
Yeah, so the book is obviously awesome. Yes. And that’s a title. And that’s what is it? What it is Dan reading the book. And it is it is very much so. And and the thing that I love about it is that, and I am a very Yes, there’s methods in this theories, and I need to know understand all of those things. But then you actually put some, you know, actionable advice and suggestions and encouragement in into the book. Can you share a little bit of what people might get inside the book if they haven’t already read it?
April Dunford 34:04
Yeah, so. So this book is the book that I wish I had when I was back. And I was still working full time at startups as the VP marketing. So it came out of my experience. First company that I worked at, I worked in the marketing department, we repositioned a product. And it was really transformational to the business like we It was a database. And we had originally positioned it as like a personal use database, like a kind of an alternative to Microsoft Access. But at the time, people were, you know, mobile devices were just starting to be super popular. And we repositioned it as an embeddable database for mobile devices, because it had this really small footprint, and it could do full sequel and, and it was, it was great product in there. And that product totally took off, we ended up getting acquired by this big, big database company. And that product lives on today as an embeddable database for mobile devices is like a billion dollar business. So my thinking on that was, wow, this positioning stuff if you get it, right, it’s really powerful. But I don’t know how to do it. And like I said, I went, I read all the books, and I took the classes, and I’m like, how can we do it? And I started talking to other vice presidents of marketing, and everybody’s doing the same thing as me, we’re all just kind of making it up as we go along. Like, oh, I, you know, I did this, then I kind of worked at this. And that’s magic happen. And then we figured out the positioning. And the closest thing I ever got to methodology for positioning was, you know, in marketing school, you’ll learn this thing, that positioning statement, which is like this Mad Libs thing, fill in the blank. And this thing drove me nuts. Because the idea was one of those blanks was market category, and I just fill in market category. And the first time I saw them in class, I put my hand up, I’m like, dude, how do we know? What’s the best market category? Because at this point, I had already repositioned three, four products. And as far as I’m concerned, I can position a product multiple different markets, like how do I know which one is the best one. And the professor just kind of blew me off you just as old just being a pro, you’ll know. I just offended my little engineering brain. I’m like, really, I mean, where the world doesn’t work like that. And so I decided there needed to be a methodology. And so I worked on that for years where I thought, Okay, I’m going to break it down into pieces like and positioning can be broken down into pieces. And then I’m going to figure out how you get the best answer for each of the pieces. And so the book is my documentation on this methodology. So it’s the methodology that I built originally, for me working inside companies. And then later, I became an entrepreneur in residence at a couple of startup incubators and accelerators. And I started teaching a regular class on positioning. And now I’m a consultant, I do workshops. So this thing has been battle tested. I’ve done it enough times, I like dozens and dozens of times, that i thought you know what I could write this down and teach you how to do it. So the book is essentially that it’s the follow on to the reason travel book that explain what positioning is, this thing is going to explain what positioning is. And then you’re going to tell you how to do it. Step one, do this step to do this after you do this. So in the book, I describe how we break positioning down into the five component pieces, which are competitive comparables, unique features, the value that your product delivers the customer segmentation, so who are the customers you try to go after, and the market category that you’re in, and then it describes a methodology, because it turns out, you actually need to work through each of those pieces in a particular order, in order to get to real differentiated positioning. And so that’s what the book is, it’s like the How to book and if you want to sell study this and do this on your own, and you don’t miss it, you certainly want to hire me and bring me in, although there’s great value to that, too.
You can buy the book, and do it yourself and attempt to figure it out.
Jason Resnick 38:09
Yeah, I mean, the book is great. You know, full disclosure, I am working my way through it. I’m about three quarters of the way through it at this point, but it’s it’s awesome. I mean, for me, who I have niched down myself, and really positioned myself in a market, you know, really tiny market, but I’m a solo business owner, I don’t need 1000 people, right? And so, even for myself, I’m like, Oh, yeah, you know, I should think about doing this. And I could probably position myself against somebody else rather than having to explain a whole bunch of things. Like if I just had a conversation with somebody, I could say, Yes, I’m like, so and so. But I do this. And so right. You know, a lot of these things are really actionable. And and for me, as somebody who loves to take action on things and read content that is actionable. Spoke is awesome. So thank you for sharing that with us.
April Dunford 39:04
That’s good. Well, I’m glad you’re enjoying it.
Jason Resnick 39:06
So before I let you go, what’s up next in the next 612 months,
April Dunford 39:13
so I’m really am in the thick of a book tour right now. So I’m doing a lot of flying around speaking at conferences like I more than I usually do, which is, which is kind of crazy, actually. So we were talking before we started the podcast that I’ve been, I’m in eight cities in the next nine days, on this book tour, and, and that kind of runs out through the end of the year, I get a few weeks off late July, where nobody does conferences, and then it starts up again. So that’s, that’s going on for the rest of the year. And then you know, because of the book, it’s interesting, the book has been a really interesting marketing experiment for my consulting business, and that it’s been out for about a month now. And I’m starting to get really interesting inbound inquiries as a result. So weapon Till now I would say my business has been very much referrals based, like, I work with a founder. He likes what I do, he tells his friends, and one of them calls me and even though I have clients all over the world, it’s founders talking to founders. So when I, when people call me, I’ll say, how did you know about me, they’ll say, Oh, I know guy who knows a guy. And you know, that’s how they found me. The book, on the other hand, has, has shaken out a bunch of really interesting business, that I that hasn’t come from that it’s come from people have read the book, and then said, Oh, gee, we have this problem. And working through positioning on your own internally is often hard for a couple reasons. One, because you need the political capital to be able to do it. Like I know me as a vice president marketing, I often had to spend three months warming everybody up to the idea that maybe the positioning might have to change because if I had just gone in there guns blazing, they probably would have just been. And so it helps to bring the positioning lady in. And then it’s not you saying it, it’s the lady in it. So that’s one thing. And then the second thing is, it’s hard to get the whole executive team on board, if you’re a big team, and everybody’s opinionated, which we are in startups is sometimes it helps a moderator to come in and say I’m hearing this, but I’m also hearing this and here’s how we’re going to resolve it. Anyway. So I’ve got all this really interesting inbound interest that has come from the book. And so I’m going to be doing a lot of consulting and that that’s my next 12 months book tour consulting. That’s it.
Jason Resnick 41:38
Which is a lot. It might be just three words right there book tour consulting. But outside of that, I mean, it’s a lot of work. That’s
April Dunford 41:45
it. Nothing else is happening. Nikki’s no podcasts recording.
Jason Resnick 41:50
Yes, thank you very much. Yes. Awesome. Awesome. Well, April, where can folks reach out and say, Thanks,
April Dunford 41:58
my, my website is April Dunford calm. And now when the book is done, I have great ambitions to go back to blogging. Although now I’m on a book tour it I’m really busy. But But there there is a blog content on there. So you can go there. And then I’m not very active on so on a lot of social channels, but I’m fairly active on Twitter. So if you want to see what city I’m in, follow me on Twitter. And I’ll probably be talking about where I am Awesome.
Jason Resnick 42:23
Well, thanks again, April for all your time and experience today.
April Dunford 42:27
Sure. Well, thanks for having me on.
Jason Resnick 42:28
And for everybody listening Till next time, it’s your time to live in the feast.
If you enjoyed today’s episode, I could speak for both April and myself by saying that we’d love to hear the one takeaway that you’ve got from today’s episode. It’s really quite easy in the podcast app of your choice, presumably this one, go ahead and drop a comment or review it or go ahead and share in a tweet and tag me at raise. I’ll be happy to pass that along to April as well. Hit that subscribe button so that you’ll be the first to listen in next week when we’ll be back with Brian castle. Brian has been a designer providing services. He’s built several product sized businesses, and he’s built products. If there’s anyone that can help us with our pricing. It’s Brian, super excited for you to hear that one. Till then it’s your time to live in the feast.