Yesterday I read something that connected a lot of dots for me, so much so that I wanted to share it the excerpts at my blog right away. For starters, there are two general hunches—or “myths”—that I’ve been trying to untangle and unpack amongst many others. The first is:
Confidence, innate or manufactured, creates an advantage.
In The Business of Expertise, David C. Baker writes of two paths to success as a services business that provides expertise:
“The first path is a deeply held belief or confidence about their value to clients. In spite of the fact that nearly everyone espouses this to be true, the evidence tells a different story (more on that is forthcoming). … Their body of work, often over more than a decade, commands significant fees (regardless of its effectiveness). These people are rare, but they don’t depend on external validation for their business value, and that confidence becomes self-fulfilling in the marketplace (clients are drawn to confidence).”
Examples of this first path include IDEO, Frog, Big Spaceship, amongst many other agencies. I’ve found this to be true of marketing agencies as well. He continues:
“The second path is benefiting from the many opportunities that come their way, either accidentally (being in the right place at the right time), or intentionally (they’re really good at marketing their services). … If you are not blessed with a heavy dose of confidence, you’ll need extra opportunity. That opportunity will translate into marketplace acceptance, which will in turn give you the confidence that’s required.”
Baker ties it all together:
“You’ll be successful with strong innate beliefs (which come from childhood) or lots of opportunity (which comes from marketplace acceptance, which comes from opportunity, which comes from positioning). That’s what I realized on that snowy road. I’d never been successful telling people how good they were, largely because I was probably the world’s worst motivational speaker. So to change their thinking, I had to let the marketplace send them that message, over and over again. For that to happen, they needed a steady stream of opportunities. And for those to show up on their doorstep, they’d need positioning.”
This connection really blew my mind open, because it was tied to another hunch that I’d been dabbling in:
Niching down, or focusing on smaller opportunities, also creates an advantage.
One last fascinating point:
“In a way, positioning is fake for a brief period of time. You’ve noticed just enough patterns to gain some credibility. Then you make the most of that driver’s permit to keep exploring, keep learning, and keep articulating insight. Eventually it feeds on itself and then you step into your expert clothes and really fill them out.”
The magic of positioning, made much clearer.