Market Segment Positioning

In the TV show “Who Wants to Be A Millionaire?” one of the fun parts is that a contestant can use a “lifeline.  You can call a friend or ask the audience for help when you were stuck for an answer.  In some ways, market segment positioning is a bit like that. It’s a way to get help with a pursuit when you need it to keep moving your Capture Plan forward.  


We often use the term “positioning” when we discuss gaining competitive advantage for a particular pursuit, but it also has a more general application that can accelerate the whole process for you.  I’m referring here to market segment positioning.


In short, segment positioning for us means being top of mind among thought leaders and critically influential players in a market segment.  They know you, will recommend you to others, and will help you gain intelligence and make connections  relative to clients you’re pursuing.  The whole client pursuit process is much easier when you are well positioned in your key markets because you can get help from many powerful resources – like contestants on Millionaire reaching out for a lifeline.


How do you gain advantageous segment positioning?  In our opinion there are five aspects of segment positioning, and they are all interrelated.

  1. Business and political issues – do you fully understand the business and political issues that impact the segment and often drive competitive strategies of many institutions or corporations in the segment?  One example might be the competition for grants for academic research in the higher ed segment.
  2. Connection to segment leadership – do you personally know the paid and elected leadership and board members for key industry associations? Do they understand your firm’s place in the market?
  3. Connection to segment influencers – do you have relationships with key thought leaders, highly respected executives from admired institutions or corporations.  These are people who are well known and widely respected and whose opinions carry weight.
  4. Project Delivery Partners – do you have allies among firms in the segment with whom you can share client intelligence and develop unique business propositions?
  5. Non-traditional connections – do you have relationships with people who may overtly or covertly impact the segment?  An example might be a key member of the state legislature committee that approves funding for, say, higher education.  Another might be a bond attorney who does legal work for hospitals who will be selling bonds to finance capital programs.


If you have all five bases covered, imagine the head start you have over competitors as you set out to

  • identify smart clients in the segment
  • understand how business and political issues affect their strategic initiatives
  • gain insights into the personalities and strategies of senior leaders in your client’s organization
  • establish connections with critical influencers and decision makers
  • minimize what you don’t know about how a given organization works and makes decisions
  • find partner firms who can add diversity and depth to your propositions.

Plus, when your Capture Plan stalls, as they often do, wouldn’t it be nice to place a call to a lifeline who really does know the answer and can help push you over the hump to success?  If you’ve achieved superior segment positioning, you can make that call and regain your edge.


All in all, segment positioning gives you a head start. It gives you a different view of your market and usually causes the market to view you more positively. It becomes an indispensible resource that when leveraged properly helps you achieve your growth objectives faster and more efficiently.


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