Marketing Messaging & Positioning
with Jason Van Orden
Most people think that marketing is just about sending out a bunch of emails or posting on social media. They don’t realize how important marketing messaging and marketing positioning are in actually making sales. Those who really want their marketing to work know that it’s not only about getting a customer to buy once; we want to get them excited about the benefits they’ll enjoy from using it over time. And that’s what good marketing messaging and positioning does for you.
It’s really an art that most entrepreneurs tend to skip over because they’re not sure where to start, they don’t have time, or they find it too difficult and overwhelming. So I’ve asked my friend Jason Van Orden to join us and walk us through the exact steps for creating clear marketing messaging and positioning.
If you don’t know Jason, he’s one of the first leaders I ever followed in the digital marketing space. He’s definitely an OG and brilliant at helping people like you to get clear and find success.
Introduction to Jason
Jason Van Orden was one of the first people I ever learned anything about how to do business on the internet from. People want this magical fairy to come by and sprinkle this marketing messaging and positioning fairy dust on their business, but he is going to show us there is actually a little bit of work behind the scenes to make that happen. One of the first things Jason does with his clients, no matter what they hire him for, is doing some positioning work. We’re actually doing a rehaul of this right now because the growth we’ve experienced in the last few years has caused us to rethink our entire strategy because not everyone on my team can read my mind!
Why should we trust Jason? Here are a few credibility points for ya. Jason started out as an engineer and lasted a whole three years before he realized corporate was not for him. He fell into real estate investing, but those folks really needed marketing help. Jason began consulting with them on marketing, and he realized he was pretty good at it after he had learned it from marketing his band, which he was a guitar player in. This led to him doing a workshop; his first launch was a list of 80 people to local real estate investors. The sequence was three pieces of direct mail, which convinced 25 people to join him at this workshop, making $8.000. Then he needed to sell more. He was recording his content and burning CDs, creating binders with all his printed slides. Where did he turn to sell more? The internet!
But he didn’t know how to do it. In 2004, there was no YouTube or other social media yet, so he turned to forums. In 2005, he got a marketing newsletter for musicians that mentioned podcasting. He googled it, and Google corrected him because it didn’t know what podcasting was yet. He found geeky blog posts about RSS feeds. His marketing brain put the pieces together and realized it was going to be a good technology, so he wanted to position himself as a leader in the podcasting space. He put in the work and ended up with a book deal and speaking gigs and a few podcasts of his own.
One podcast was with a friend where they did this two-person mastermind over the phone and decided to record those conversations and put them up on the episodes. This was the very first podcast about internet marketing called Internet Business Mastery in 2005. Within a couple of years, it was one of the most popular business podcasts for a decade. They then pivoted to coaching, courses, and consulting. Over the next 12 years, they launched and sold over 60 different courses and had over eight million downloads of the podcast.
In the last seven years, Jason has begun working with established thought leaders and experts to help them package up their knowledge using scalable income streams because he “likes helping good ideas reach the problems and populations who need them most. The best ideas in the world need to be heard.” My husband and I heard Jay Abraham speak once, and he talked about being preeminent in the field, and clearly that description fits Jason to a T.
Positioning is all about where the market perceives that you sit in the market. It consists of three pieces. The first piece is about knowing who it is that you serve. The second piece is knowing how it is that you serve them. The third piece is who are you? What does that mean? Businesses often jump too soon into determining what they are going to sell, but that can get you into trouble. That needs to be a customer-driven decision. Jason always asks first, “Who is this product for?” when someone is pitching him something. All of the decisions about your offer, your messaging, your marketing content all needs to be founded within a space of empathy for the audience that you are aiming to serve. This is all about customer discovery. If you don’t get on the phone with people in your market when you’re gearing up to make a key decision about your business strategy, then you will miss something. You’ll make a poor assumption or miss some opportunity because you didn’t ask your market directly.
I was at a conference last year, and we were talking about this exact thing. Somehow it came to me that we do serve experts. The one word I hadn’t used in our positioning (value statement) was the word “influencers.” I spoke to several people at this conference who said they wanted to be known as an influencer. I changed all of our messaging everywhere to “experts and influencers.” A year later, I posted about this in our Facebook group and asked which word our group members identified with. No one identified with “influencer.” I had used the word for an entire year!
Positioning is about how the market perceives you, but we can do things to influence how the market perceives us. A powerful method for this is using language that is resonant with our market. Jason has the two R’s: you need to be Relevant and Resonant. Relevance is about knowing who your audience is, what they want, and understanding how to speak to them to interrupt everyone’s short attention span. Resonance is “what keeps them paying attention long enough for you to earn their trust.” They like the way they feel when they are interacting with you or your content. That is who you are. It’s why you do what you do, how you show up, your unique genius, and how you resonate with your audience.
When Jason was a musician, he would go to conferences to meet industry people and gain insights about how to make it in the music business. He was at a conference once with other members of his band listening to a vocal coach to Gwen Stefani, Britney Spears, Jack Black, etc. speak. She said, “I’m positive there are people in this room who have more talent than any of those people. But they have identified the thing about them that people latch on to, and they take that and turn it up to 11.” Perfect metaphor for a musician.
Jason’s friend Nilofer Merchant wrote a book called The Power of Onlyness, which is all about standing in the place that only you can stand in and saying the things that only you can say. The world needs individuals that folks can resonate with. Who you serve and how you serve them is all about relevance, and who you are is all about resonance. It’s such a vital piece to help you stand out in the noise of those who have similar expertise to you.
We have an exercise called the Quesadilla of Awesome that helps you elevate your awesome and figures out how to be true to yourself in your marketing and content creation. Determining how to establish your position and then communicate this is really what can be so tricky, which is why Jason has a five-step process he is going to take us through to help us figure this out.
Step #1: Communicate Your Purpose
Let’s start with Jason’s Magnetic Messaging Framework. If Jason asks, “Who here has a purpose-driven business?” he imagines that everyone here would raise their hand because that is the type of person who Jason and I attract. People want to make money and have freedom, but they also want to contribute to the world. But what do you do with the fact that you’re a purpose-driven entrepreneur? Does your audience understand that? That’s what this framework does: it helps you to pull out the unique parts of who you are so you can resonate with your audience and sound like a individual.
The research is clear about purpose. Consumers these days want to do business with organizations that represent their values and stand for something beyond the transaction. We’re jaded now about companies, especially after the 2008 recession. Millennials want to contribute to purpose-driven organizations; they want to make a difference in the world. What is your vision for the future? How does your business contribute to your community or the world beyond your transaction?
- As Adam Urbanski said, when you are looking at content that you are consuming, you also want to look at the context. Watch the way you talk your walk and walk your talk.
Here’s an example. Jason loves working with thought leaders who have ideas that need to reach their communities because that is going to elevate the world in general. If we just depend on big organizations to solve the world’s problems, like we did 30 years ago, that won’t happen. A groundswell of smart people who can connect with slices of the world is actually what’s going to work.
They want to know that you’re in it for something more than money. Jason talks about how curiosity is a value that makes him thrive, and when he doesn’t get to feed his curiosity, he doesn’t do well. So one reason he loves what he does is because he is a curious person who loves to understand new good ideas. Jason likes dropping into emails how he sees these new opportunities changing the future of the world, and people truly enjoy being part of something bigger than them. This supercharges your brand and message and helps create resonance.
This framework will allow you to create content that you can use in your bio and in your speaking gigs. Jason weaves in certain values into the stories he shares while speaking so audience members can get an idea of what he stands for in the world in the time he is standing on that stage. I have a hashtag that I use as the sign-off for every email, which I also translate into a concept that I use at the end of my bio. The hashtag is #standforjoy, which is all about finding the joy and possibilities in the problems, which is how we will literally change the planet. Standing for joy is contagious and it’s something we’re fiercely committed to. Another hashtag we have now been using is #speakyourkind, which is now the sign-off on my email.
Step #2: Understand Your Unique Genius
We hear all about figuring out what your unique genius is all the time. It’s an amalgamation of things: skills, talents, experiences, who you are, what you stand for, and more. There are a couple very good assessments to help you glean these things about yourself because sometimes you need that outside perspective. One he recommends is called Strengths-Based Leadership. They find your top five strengths out of 30 options. The output of it is all about how you show up as a leader in the context of different leadership qualities people are looking for.
One of Jason’s strengths he has learned from this assessment as well as through interfacing with clients and colleagues is his strategic mind. Many entrepreneurs are quickstart visionaries, but sometimes we need to zoom out and look at the big picture from a holistic perspective. Strategy is vital, but it can be hard to think strategically for yourself because of our cognitive biases that we are born with, such as recency thinking, which makes you want to try something that you heard about yesterday without determining if it actually makes sense for you to implement. Jason’s messaging is all about helping you identify strategies and tactics that will serve you best, not using formulas. It’s all about individualized strategies based on your blind spots and your gaps that you need to fill and your strengths.
My husband and I went on a couples retreat where we did this assessment together. I’ve done it in that context. I also have another client who has a supplement business who gifted me a session to dive into it, which painted this version of my strengths. But I’ve never thought about putting this in my marketing messaging, which is so weird. I found my results, and my first strength is Positivity, which is standing for joy. My second is Strategy, which I’m stoked about because I am all about the lack of formulas. My third is Futuristic, which is something I haven’t intentionally put in my messaging but is so spot-on. I want our brand to look like this futuristic Tron ‘80s thing, so clearly I knew I wanted the vintage futuristic vibe and had no idea I was using this assessment. The other two are Activator and Maximizer. If folks are looking for someone to help them imagine their possibilities in the future, that is me, and I can use that in my marketing messaging now.
What if in my childhood, the joy and exuberance in me had been stamped down because the adults were over it? Whatever the corollary is for you, sadly we have often learned through family of origin and society that one of your most incredible qualities was undesirable. Your strengths are always two sides of a coin. Another fabulous assessment is the Kolbe A Assessment, which says Jason is high on fact finder. If he is buying a computer, he is doing hours of research first. But then I can’t make a decision about which computer to buy. However, clients know that Jason has really thought about which path is the best path for each client because he has spent time deep in the weeds researching. Sometimes we only see the weakness within our strengths and thus minimize what we’re best at. Don’t forget to tell everyone about the best side of your strength! Just because it comes easy to you does not mean that it’s not valuable and that everyone can do it. Because it comes easy to you, it’s likely MORE valuable.
- As a singer, I worked on a cruise ship. A dancer I was close with came into my cabin one night and told me about what happened during a performance of a show I wasn’t in. She said, “I have to tell you about this because I wouldn’t feel right not telling you.” At the time, this upset me. She said the whole cast had done “a show” backstage pretending to be me, making fun of how positive I was. I was crushed because a whole group of adults were mocking me. My sister sent me a letter saying, “You are a stallion on a ship full of donkeys.” But it’s taken a long time for me to own that and recognize that as a superpower instead of being embarrassed by it. That illustrates Jason’s concept perfectly.
Step #3: Communicate Your Positioning Regularly
Now it’s all about putting these learnings into action. While creating content, you hopefully have these strategies in the back of your head, helping you determine which stories you want to share to help convey a point. As you do these assessments and get feedback from people, make it an automatic thing to weave these strengths into your content. Also, what are the touchpoints people hit over and over again? Home page, About page, Work with Me page, social media feeds, those are other places you want to include in this audit.
Go to your About page. Look for ways to weave in there, “My clients appreciate my ability to hold space for the possibilities of the future and how I encourage them to find that joy and feel that joy as they move forward.” Communicate that on the page for them. You can tell stories about how that strength has actually impacted people through testimonials and case studies from clients.
In the end, given Jason’s research, it will only help you to say what you stand for. The people who resonate with that message will appreciate that and notice that. Of course, there are people who are noticing the absence of your standing for things. You are actually hurting yourself rather than helping yourself if you stand for nothing. Make your decisions based on those things even if they don’t help your bottom line. Don’t shy away from putting these things into your marketing messaging on an ongoing basis.
One of the best ways to grab people’s attention in content marketing and resonate with them is to talk about what’s top of mind for them. This is obvious when it comes to pain points, but what is also top of mind is what is in the news. Jason has a client who is a resilience expert. There is so much to talk about there, such as the reopening of society in the pandemic. We aren’t going “back to normal;” there is such an opportunity to tap into how to reopen better and differently. She is talking about resilience in the context of what is going on in the world; she is taking a stand.
Some leaders make a decision on what they stand for, they get feedback from their audience, and they double down on that without success. This has to weave into how you show up on a daily basis, but you don’t have to be too in your face about it if that doesn’t work for you. Figure out the balance of not shying away from what you stand for but not being too in your face about it if that doesn’t make sense for you. Stand for your stuff!
Step #4: Stand for Your Stuff in Your Offer
After 12 years of doing Internet Business Mastery, Jason’s partner and he needed a change. They went through this reflective period: What about the past have I really enjoyed? What do I want to change now? Who do I want to work with?
Jason realized a few things over time. He needed to pull away from the business opportunity market. He was ready to pivot away from that noise. The other thing he realized was his last business was digital and allowed him to live a fun lifestyle, moving to Paris with his family for a while. But that arm’s length distance from his customers was starting to wear thin on him, and it wasn’t feeding his fuel, and it was robbing him of a chance to show up in one of his strengths, which is facilitating groups. He is great at creating frameworks and helping people forge connections. This is when Jason began creating group programs, something less scalable but will feed his soul. He created offers of six-month coaching programs and masterminds and hosting networking events.
Has anyone ever heard of strategic coach Dan Sullivan? He coaches entrepreneurs through his organization. He is the idea guy at the top, and all of the frameworks are trickling down through his levels of coaches in centers all over the world. It’s still scalable thought leadership. Jason is looking at that business model thinking that might be what he wants to do. If he can do four or five groups himself, and building the structures and operations mechanisms needed in order to make that happen, he can play more into his unique genius and then eventually scale it.
If you are feeling something is wrong with one of your offers, if you’re not feeling good about it or you are getting feedback as such, go back into your positioning and do some reflection there. Zoom out and look at things strategically. Envision the possibilities for how this offer could be more successful. Ask yourself, “What would I love?” Sometimes you realize that you got sucked into some dream that may no longer be what you would actually love.
Step #5: Stand for Your Stuff in Your Strategy
You’re looking for standing for your stuff in how you communicate, in your offers, and in your overall strategy. So many people were asking Jason, “How do you figure out what the next right moves are for your business?” In Jason’s new podcast Impact, he has gone into depth on his new strategy framework to help you figure this out. It’s all about zooming out and listing your big vision goals. For example, Jason would love to be an adjunct professor someday and to work with an international conversation-changing thought leader like Brene Brown. He needs to create strategies in the form of smaller dominos that will ultimately allow him to achieve those big domino goals.
There are three ways to grow your business: get more leads, convert more of those leads into customers, or deliver more value to your existing customers. There is a myriad of tactics within each of those three ways, but how do you determine which tactics you use? Let’s say you want to be an adjunct professor like Jason. You should be looking for guest lecturer positions and let your network know. You could sell more to the surplus of people on your list and focus more on conversions. You could also do a SWOT analysis and realize that you have a cash flow issue or a key employee leaving. How do you turn these things into a plan?
Divergent thinking is all about throwing every idea you can think of on the board without judgment in whichever form works for you: a list, a mind map, etc. Convergent thinking is bringing it all together. These are the three that you should focus on that you will get the greatest results given the resources you have. You come back to your unique genius, your purpose, your magnetic messaging to assess which ideas work best for you. Some strategic and tactical decisions may not have been correct, but when you do this work, the amount of clarity that is gained can be immense. Given your analysis of what you do and who you are, then you can decide which tactics to put into play.
The FOMO Factor is also something worth addressing. Sometimes you want to do everything, but let’s pivot that idea into the JOMO Factor, the joy of missing out. You can let that comparisons go, the formulas go, and really focus on everything that we discussed today about your zone of genius.
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- “Turn it up to 11” (This is Spinal Tap)
- “Stand for your Stuff” – Robin ?
- Strengths-Based Leadership Assessment
- Kolbe A Assessment
- The Power of Onlyness by Nilofer Merchant
- The One Thing by Gary Keller
- The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks
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