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Episode 227: The Power of Positioning Your Consulting Business—with Guillaume Wiatr and Deb Zahn

Deb Zahn: I want to welcome you to this week's episode of the Craft of Consulting Podcast. So, on this podcast, we're going to talk about the power of positioning your business, and how positioning has everything to do with the success of your consulting business, and particularly getting clients, how much you get paid, all kinds of great benefits. And we're going to talk about how to actually do it. Now, this is a special episode because it's actually a recording of a LinkedIn live that I gave with my now good friend Guillaume Wiatr, and we dive into all the different nuances of positioning. So, by the time you're done listening this episode, you're going to know what you need to go back and do to position your business for better success. So, let's get started.

All right, well, I want to welcome everybody today to our LinkedIn Live. We're very excited to be on with you. I am Deb Zahn. I am the CEO of the Craft of Consulting. And what I do is I help people who are just dying to be consultants start, build, and grow their consulting businesses, and do it in less time with less stress. And I am joined today by...And I'll turn it over to you to introduce yourself, Guillaume.

Guillaume Wiatr: Hey, I'm Guillaume. I'm the principal and founder of MetaHelm. MetaHelm is a business strategy consulting firm. And what I do is that I help professional services firms, and specifically business owners, CEOs, founders of this professional services firm, build a firm that is focused and makes more traction thanks to what I call narrative power. And my methodology is based on this approach called strategic narrative, and positioning is at the core of this method.

Deb Zahn: Fabulous. And so we are going to be in dialogue today talking about something that we both get really excited about but let me just start. And I'm going to give a very simple definition of what positioning is, and then I'm going to talk about a couple implications of getting it right. And then I'm going to turn it over to Guillaume and he's going to talk about how to do it. But we do want this to be interactive. So, for anybody that's on, please feel free to put things in comments. And we'll be talking through those comments as we go along, so feel free to just pop it up. And then when we take a pause, we'll pay attention to the things coming in. So, I'm going to give a really, really simple definition, which is essentially when anyone in your market, and particularly those folks that you most want to work with, when they think about you, when they think about what you offer, and they think about that relative to other businesses in your market, they think what you want them to think.

So, if you've done a really good job of positioning, they think exactly what you want them to think, and they experience you as that. Now, here's the thing, is positioning always happens. You just don't want someone else to do your positioning for you. So, it doesn't happen by chance or hope, or you're like, ah, let me just do my thing. And if I do my thing, then people will figure out who I am. You don't want anybody to get it wrong. You want them to actually get it exactly the way that you want to say, "Here's the place that I've carved out for myself in the market or markets that I operate in." And so if you do a really good job of defining what that position is. And again, we're going to talk about how to do that later, but you've done a really good job. And then everything you do throughout your business shows that you've earned that, that it makes sense. It is clear when people engage with you in any conceivable way.

Then you get all the goodies and the benefits that come with positioning, including making your business magnetic to the folks that you actually want to work with. So, you start to attract the exact right folks who are fit for you, and you're a fit for them. And again, we're going to dig into how you actually develop it, but I do want to talk about why it matters so much. So, there's a whole lot of implications that we could talk about, but I'm going to pick two, and I'm going to touch upon those. So, the first is about getting clients, right? So, if you have a business...So, I work with consultants. Guillaume works with other service providers.

Guillaume Wiatr: But consultants as well.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. And you actually have to get clients. And so when you do positioning really well, you're sending signals out in your market that any would-be client would hear and say, "Oh, OK, I get who they are, I get what their values are. I get that they're someone who might be able to help me with the things that I care about." And they're going to want to lean in. They're going to want to know more about you. They're going to want to think about hiring you because you've done a really good job of defining those things for them instead of them having to sort of piece it together by different things you've said, which by the way, most clients won't actually take the time to do that. So, you're essentially answering the question, why me? But it's also more than that because you have to answer the question, why me instead of them? Because you're in a market. There are other businesses out there. There are other businesses out there that probably do things that are really similar to what you do. So, you have to be able to answer the question, why me instead of them?

What is it about me that would make you want to consider me? Make you want to think about me in the ways I want? And that is a positioning question is where do you place yourself in that market and carve out a space for yourself, and carve out what's special about you and clarify that for folks so that the right people understand it and the right people start to understand that they're a fit for you. That has everything to do with getting clients. Now I want to contrast that with what a lot of folks do. And Guillaume, you and I have talked about this, which is the old I can do anything for anyone, which no one believes and no one's going to buy because it's not true, and they know that it's not true. And they are not going to know if you're a fit for them. And most folks aren't going to take the time and put out the energy to try and again, sift through the various things that you've said or the various things that they've heard about you and try and figure out if you're a fit.

So, if you haven't yet clarified your market position, what ends up happening is you end up confusing your clients, and prevent them from saying, "Hey, this business is for me. I need to be part of that." In contrast, if you've done the good work of really clarifying it and along the lines that Guillaume's going to share with you, you make it easier for them to step up and step towards you and say, "I need to talk to this person." Now, this is not just a marketing exercise. So, what we're not talking about is come up with some fancy marketing language and some pretty images, and boom, that's your market position.

It really is about every encounter that anybody has with you, or anything that you produce that says to them, "Here's what my market position is." And then everything you do actually matches that. So, again, they're never confused. They're like, yeah, this person is all of those things that they've said. This business is all of those things that they've said. Now the other big one is with pricing. So, this is one of my favorite things to talk about. So, if you think about positioning and you think about the continuum of what other businesses are charging in your market for similar things than what you do, and you sort of look along that continuum, you have to decide where am I placing myself? Am I at the low end where I'm not charging a lot? Am I at the highest end where I'm really a premium service provider, and that's where I'm going to be?

And anywhere along that, you have to make that decision. And the thing that you have to keep in mind when you're doing that is that price communicates value. It always does. And so when you're thinking about positioning, if you position yourself at the low end, you're actually communicating to your market that you're less valuable because those are the shortcuts that our brains take. Cheap equals less value. Higher price equals more value. It's just how we're kind of wired to think about things. And so you have to think about where you're going to put yourself. And I want to give sort of a whimsical example of how this actually works. So, about 10 years ago this month, my husband and I moved up to a rural setting a couple hours north of New York City. And we love it here. We love living in the country.

We've got like seven and a half acres around us. And we had a neighbor who had lived in the country his whole life, and he was never shy about giving us advice or telling us when we were wrong, and that city folks don't just get it. He was very, very, very forthcoming with his advice. And one thing he told us early on is he said, "Look, I know you just moved here, probably have some stuff that you want to get rid of. So, let's say you have a sofa you want to get rid of, go ahead and place it on the curb near the big road, but don't put a free sign on it. Because if you put a free sign on it, people will think it's junk, and they won't take it." He said, "Put 10 bucks on it, and then someone will steal it."

And I thought, what a perfect example of how much price communicates value. And if when you're thinking of your positioning, or you haven't thought about it, and you're just pricing all over the place, or you're so worried about getting clients that you're pricing yourself at the low end, you're positioning yourself, whether you know it or not. You're positioning yourself as a less valuable consultant. So, the act of deliberate positioning and making all of the decisions related to that has implications for getting clients. It has implications for pricing. And what you want to do is to be able to make sure that at the end of the day, when you've defined what your position is, people see it in your price. They see it in how you're approaching clients. They see it in your market and see it in your outreach. It infuses everything that you do because it has implications for everything that you do.

So, that's actually what I wanted to share. And the sort of quick thing I will say before I turn it over to Guillaume is, remember, if you do position yourself towards the higher end of the continuum with pricing, or you do position yourself as a premium consultant able to get people amazing results, et cetera, people's experiences have to match that. So, again, it's not just a branding or a marketing exercise. People have to get the results that match what you say your position is. They have to get the experience that matches what your position is. And what you don't want to ever do is to have a mismatch, which just causes further confusion. And again, your position will then end up being what someone else defines instead of what you define. So, that's what I want to say about it. So, somebody in the comments, Liz, hi, said "Deb, you gave me a good idea on how I need to get rid of this old rug." Yeah, don't put a sign on it.

Guillaume Wiatr: I was dying to ask you, Deb, did somebody take the couch?

Deb Zahn: Yeah. Yeah.

Guillaume Wiatr: ...faster than you thought?

Deb Zahn: They stole it. He was right. He was right. And yet some of my other neighbors will put other things up there that aren't horrible, and nobody takes them because they think they're junk.

Guillaume Wiatr: I love it. I'm just like, Liz, I'm constantly clearing my house, and I am big...I give a lot of free things or sell for cheap on Craigslist, but I'm going to take that.

Deb Zahn: That's right. That's right. Love it. Well, Guillaume, I'm going to turn it over to you. So, let's say somebody heard this and they're like, "All right, I haven't really done enough or any work related to my positioning." Where do I start? What do I do?

Guillaume Wiatr: Well, I want to rewind the tape a little bit here because I really like what you said in the definition, which is your definition of positioning really overlaps with mine in the sense that it's the outcome. It's what happens in people's minds. And the reason why I want to highlight this because it's going to have impact on how we build this, how we increase repositioning. Many people think, yeah, it's just a statement.

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Guillaume Wiatr: If I can just write the perfect sentence, then I'm good. I'm just going to repeat that sentence to everyone and they're going to memorize it, and they're going to love you for that.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Guillaume Wiatr: And that's a total myth. That's a total fallacy here. Now, don't get me wrong, and I'll start there, having a good positioning statement is helpful. It is helpful, but it's just one sliver of the work here. So, what do I mean by positioning statement? It's something that was very popular in the mid-90s by a book called Crossing the Chasm. It's a very popular framework in this book, and it's basically like a template where you fill in the blanks, right? It helps you say, my company is doing X for people who don't like Y. And when they work with me, they get benefit Z, right? So, that's one of the many templates you can find. So, I don't want to advocate for a particular one, but a model that I found very simple and very easy to use is to think about your position statement as a discipline that you do for a market.

For instance, I do business strategies for CEOs and business leaders of professional services firm. That's it, right? That's how I announced, in five seconds or 10 seconds, what is it that I do? Now, obviously this isn't enough, but it just starts with a...You know the metaphor when it takes...If you're eating a slice of pizza, this would be the tip of the pizza. Most appealing. Who eats pizza by the crust? Some people do because there's cheese in the crust or whatever, but most of us eat pizza from the tip. That's where we start. And so when you build your positioning, think about this metaphor. What is the first thing that people see? Or how can I influence what people know about me by a very simple, clear, easy to understand statement. A pitfall that I always see is people trying to say too much in that statement or use concepts that people in your market are not familiar with.

For instance, I have a client who is a coach, and she focuses on highly sensitive people. For her, the acronym HSP is like that's her everyday thing. Yeah, I do HSP, this HSP that. And the first time I met her, I'm like, "What do you do?" And she's like, "I do coaching for HSP, and HSP this." And I'm like, "What is even HSP?"

Deb Zahn: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Guillaume Wiatr: All of a sudden using that technical jargon that your ideal market is not familiar creates this cognitive load. It's OK to use a technical term if people are familiar with it. That's OK, right? Because I hear this also. "Yeah. Yeah. Everything has to be dumbed down. Everything has to be simple, sixth grade." I disagree with this. It could be technical if people know what this technical jargon means. So, that's the first thing I wanted to talk about, is the statement in reference to a definition, which I love.

It's not just a statement. It's the outcome. It's how we think about your business. The next thing is positioning. So, you mentioned pricing, Deb, which I love, and I have another thing that ties to that is to think about the art of positioning as a practice of creativity. You can be very creative with your positioning. You don't have just to niche yourself to just a simple statement, but you can be very creative. You can be creative in your pricing, similar to what you just said. Make sure that this is the right pricing for you. But something that I found very interesting lately, especially in professional services and for consultants and coaches, is to be creative with your business model. What's the most typical business model, Deb, all of us consultants use? What is it?

Deb Zahn: You mean just hourly hire me, and I'll just work hours for you?

Guillaume Wiatr: Work hours for you. So, yeah, so I'll just work hours. So, it's just hourly, right? But there are so many other ways you can build your clients. And lately, I have found this firm called is operated by one freelance designer.

Deb Zahn: Oh yeah.

Guillaume Wiatr: And his business model is simple. It's a membership. But not just any kind of membership. It's a membership with which you can ask him as many designs as you want per month. It's like an all you can eat buffet, right? You want a logo, a new website, and you, I don't know name it, just brochure, digital, this iPhone, whatever you want in design. And he has a list of I think like 35 items that you can choose from. And he goes on, and more if you want. And the reason why I find this way to position is from very clever. And why it stands out is because typically in business, the narrative is, from agencies or consultants, is, well, I've got to protect my profitability, so I'm going to make sure that I cap my services, that the scope of work is very detailed and everything is written down.

And Justin, I think is the name of the founder of Justin thought, I'm going to swim completely in a different direction. I'm just going to completely disrupt this and ignore that old narrative and go on my new narrative, which is you give me...And I think his first membership is like $5,500 a month, and then he has a higher level at 7,500 a month, so 7.5k.

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Guillaume Wiatr: I'm going to say with that amount, I feel comfortable that I can be very successful, very profitable, and offer tremendous value that nobody else does because everybody is stuck in a mindset that is an old, outdated business model. Will this work for any discipline? Maybe. Maybe not. But he's very successful. You can watch him on YouTube. He generates $1.2 million by himself, no employees with this business model. And to me, the way I read this as an expert is mostly due to his positioning, mostly due to his positioning.

So, that's another layer that I want to bring here. And the process is you can be very, very creative, pricing, business model, the segment and target market that you serve. Maybe it's in the deliverable that you offer. I'll tell you my example. I differentiate in my market because I'm the creator of a very unique methodology that I call and trademark strategic narrative. And most people in my market go very...They go very differently about this, but mine is a system that people can read. You have all the definitions, and so on. So, this is another layer, maybe it's your vision and so on.

Deb Zahn: Actually, let me pause right there because we've got some comments. I just want to acknowledge folks. Theresa, first of all, Rob, thank you for taking my couch. I appreciate that. Theresa, I know you mentioned motivational interviewing, which is a particular type of training and that some directors are just checking off boxes and they go for lower bids. So, that's where, in the way that Guillaume is talking about, you might want to get creative with, are you selling motivational interviewing? Are you selling some other thing that motivational interviewing does for you? That's a positioning question. And then I just want to hit...also mentioned you mentioned the H S B person and lots of IT consultants also struggle with explaining what they do in simple terms. So, the first taste of the pizza is always the tricky thing. And I just want to acknowledge that folks put in some comments there.. it's great to see you.

Guillaume Wiatr: Yeah. Another thing, and I'm a guy who likes to use metaphors, so usually this one is pretty vivid. I want to tell everyone that positioning your business is not a face tattoo. So, it's not getting a permanent thing that you can never remove off of your most visible part of your business. That's what the metaphor is. I borrowed this metaphor from my very dear colleague and mentor, Philip Morgan. And he has a book on positioning that I highly recommend that everyone buys and reads. It's very detailed, and he has this awesome metaphor. So, I am just stealing it from him because it's so beautiful. And what this means is that you don't have to be scared about the choices you're going to make. It's OK to test, and I'm going to give you some specific tactics about how you can test. But say today, you're feeling in your business that as you say, Deb, you're offering kind of everything for everyone. And you go, well, I feel like it's time to narrow it down. I would be happier with this, and with this, and with that.

And say one of my clients is in the process of repositioning his business, and he's really excited about focusing on mental health. He wants to focus on mental...He had no focus. He was doing manufacturing work.

Deb Zahn: Oh wow.

Guillaume Wiatr: Yeah, he was doing all sorts of stuff. By the way, fabulous work. Just to see this, you go, wow, how much...This is incredible. But the problem is that when people see his work, they don't see themselves. They see other industry. They see other people. So, it doesn't speak to them initially. So, he's in the process of focusing, and he's been doing also the research, like maybe mental health. And he expressed his concern with me about, "Well, if I do this, my business is going to slow down because all of a sudden, I don't have all the opportunities and I have to pay the bills and feed my kids and so on. I'm very stressed about this."

And I said, "It's not a face tattoo. What we can do is create a sandbox for you to test things and see how you feel about it, how comfortable are you explaining this move, and how, first of all, your first circle of people in your network will respond to it." And my advice was for him to create a landing page, first start with a landing page, and say, "Pretend today, that's the only thing you do is mental health. What would your business would look like?" And he said, "Yeah, that's a great idea. Let's try this." So, he's in the process of testing this, along the lines of also having interviewed with people that give him direct feedback. And he's been learning so much and gaining confidence. And he's really, really seeing some terrific outcomes, learning a lot, and gaining that confidence. And he has that sparked other ideas. So, that's the thing you can do is...And he's doing it with one, but if you're considering two options, say, or three options that you have times and you have the resources to test more, it's OK too.

Deb Zahn: And if I could, there's one thing I love to tell people because there's usually, at the beginning, you probably experience this too, where there's fear of niching down because oh my gosh, I'll never get clients. And as Joel said, those darn kids always...Having to feed them always gets in the way. And then if they decide to niche down, then there's a feeling of getting locked into it. It becomes the face tattoo. And what I like to say to folks is, niching is a tool for you. You're not a tool for niching. So, if it has utility, and it lets you say, "OK, I now know what to do. If I've defined that as my position is within that particular niche, if that helps me make decisions, if that helps me know what to do next, and if I start getting the responses I want based on the work I'm doing, then it's useful." If you hear crickets, it's not useful. If it just confuses you, it's not useful.

Guillaume Wiatr: I want to touch a little bit on the topic of niching, Deb because I may have a slightly different twist than you. And I think that the first I heard that, I was torn between, for my business, for instance, I was torn between, well, I get it, I see the benefit, but it's awfully scary. What if I pick the wrong niche, right?

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Guillaume Wiatr: And then I have nowhere to go. So, I like to think about niching as not niching necessarily who you are and your whole business but niching your offers. There's a subtle difference here, but important, which is that you're not just one thing. You're many things. I run MetaHelm as a consultant, but I have other activities or other professional commitments too. And I'm not just MetaHelm, but I have positioned MetaHelm and some of my offers. So, I go down a couple of level deeper to understand that positioning is about building a portfolio of things, and that if one of the offers positioning becomes irrelevant, it's not going to affect the rest of my portfolio of activity. So, I think it's an important thing that people also like to hear sometimes, is that...And maybe Nika, that's something you can add to the comments you're adding here for people, just as a reminder is, niche your offer, not just your business, right? Niche down your offers, not just your business.

Deb Zahn: And I agree. I think you do what's most helpful to you.

Guillaume Wiatr: Exactly.

Deb Zahn: And I work in healthcare, I work in particular sectors, so those are niches. But then I do particular things for them. Those are also niches.

Guillaume Wiatr: Exactly. Exactly. Exactly.

Deb Zahn: Great.

Guillaume Wiatr: Let's see, what else do I have for you? We talked about statements, we talked about pricing, you talked about business model. OK, now here's the next one, a big one here. So, say you've started engaging in this process and you're starting to see some options you can look at. It may take a few weeks because it's an intense reflection process that you need to step back a little bit and then come back at it, step back, come back at it. And at the same time, at some point, it will be due. You're going to have to make a choice. One of the things that I highly encourage people to do is exploring dispositioning options through content creation, content writing. And that was my experience with MetaHelm. I thought, OK, I think I have all of the theoretical ingredients, but I need to really see how I can unpack this. So, shoring up your positioning with a perspective is really critical because I'm going to continue with the pizza thing.

Deb Zahn: Love it.

Guillaume Wiatr: As people eat more of your pizza, they discover interesting toppings, meaning different layers of the...See how this beautiful metaphor works today?

Deb Zahn: No. And now I'm hungry, so thank you.

Guillaume Wiatr: It's morning where I am. I just had breakfast. I'm fine. So, sorry. But hopefully you like pizza, by the way.

Deb Zahn: Yeah, I do indeed.

Guillaume Wiatr: So, as people discover what you do and understand more what you do, they discover that you have additional perspectives in your business, that maybe your take on consulting, Deb, I'm going to talk about you a little bit here. Maybe your take on differentiates from others, not just because you have a unique focus, you have a different business model, your pricing is such and such, but there are things that you may disagree with your colleagues.

Deb Zahn: Right.

Guillaume Wiatr: ...that you don't think that they're right. There are specific things that you'd like to explain differently. All of that can only happen if you let yourself, if you give yourself the creative freedom to say, OK, I'm going to try this out. I'm going to try to express this thing. I'm feeling like there's something different in my market. I don't know it quite yet. I'm not going to shoot for perfection, but I'm going to start exploring those topics." How could you do that? Well, the first thing that comes to my mind, or most people, is writing. Writing is a beautiful, awesome practice. You may start your email list, for instance, post on LinkedIn, social media. And one that is very, very effective is video. So, if you're not doing video creation to position yourself, it's a huge area that you can leverage here. Just like anything, the first videos, the first articles, the first post will, sorry, they will kind of suck. You will...

Deb Zahn: Yes, they will.

Guillaume Wiatr: Let me tweak a bit. You will think that they suck.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Guillaume Wiatr: Not the outside. People are going to go, "Oh, interesting." There's always that gap here. But as you add one after the other, one after the other, you'll realize that it's hugely helpful for your positioning because it really helps you craft a little tiny facet facet of things and then become more and more and more confident. My story, Deb, was September of '21, I think. I was writing one night. I had committed to write seven days a week, and I did it for over a year and a half. And I was catching myself using the word story and narrative interchangeably in one of my posts. And then I post. I'm like, I've done this hundreds of times. I see this. I see people do the same all the time. Everyone uses narrative and story the same way. And I am French, English is not my native language.

So, I like to research the true what's behind words in English. And I'm like...I just took a moment and say what's behind it? And I noticed a subtle difference that really helped me and had a radically different impact on how I position MetaHelm. Notice I don't say I'm a story strategic storytelling guy. I say I do strategic narrative is because I make a difference between those two. So, I'll stop with my story. But just for you people, for everyone here, for you, colleagues, friends, partners, consultants, coaches, everyone here really tapping into your creative energy, tapping into your creative energy is a source, immense source of positioning. You are going to start shaping your voice, finding it, and seeing that people recognize you for your own specific way to articulate what you see in your market, how your work needs to be brought to bear, how you engage with people. You and you only have this unique way to do the work that you do.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Guillaume Wiatr: Your colleague, your partners, whoever, have their own unique way as well. And there's tremendous value in going and exploring this. OK, I'll stop here.

Deb Zahn: Yeah, if I could because I want to drill home something you said about really defining what you stand for, which I have found, in my consulting business, to be one of the most profitable things that I ever did. So, I just want to state that. And so I've been a consultant now for actually, oh, as of this month, for 13 years. I have particular segments within the healthcare market that are certain types of providers, institutions that provide direct care to patients. And what I differentiated myself quite intentionally with positioning is that I'm on the side of providers. So, if somebody else just wants to get business from them or be parasitic, do whatever, I'm not interested in doing that work with them. I'm on the side of providers. I'm on the side of patients. I want to do work that makes people's lives better. And I've staked that claim.

And there are a lot of healthcare consultants out there that are just about helping institutions make as much money as possible. They're really different than me. And when I talk about it or when I've given presentations or anything along those lines, I talk about it in my particular way, and that's what draws the right clients to me.

Guillaume Wiatr: So, can I ask you, Deb, do you recall the moment of the day or the period when you realized that, that you were really on the side of the patient?

Deb Zahn: Yeah, it's interesting. I didn't do it deliberately until a private equity firm wanted to hire me because I knew a lot about the providers, and I was grossed out. I was grossed...That really was it, is I was grossed out by what they wanted and why they wanted it. And the way that they were talking about it basically was not something that I felt like I was put on the planet to do.

Guillaume Wiatr: Yes.

Deb Zahn: And so it hit my values in a certain way. And that's when I realized I should be talking about this because it's going to resonate with people, that I'm on your side essentially.

Guillaume Wiatr: I think there is a wonderful insight here in your story, which is I would translate it as if I wanted to improve my positioning, I would go, what is it that I am saying no to?

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Guillaume Wiatr: Not just yes but no too, which is very powerful because it's like...There's a quote by Michelangelo that says, I don't have it by heart, but it says, “When I see this block of marble, I see the statue in it. And my job is just to chip the marble one piece at a time.” So, get a read of all of the unnecessary marble to come to get to the fabulous statue. And I feel like there's so much wisdom here in connection to positioning, which is to get read of all the unnecessary aspects of your business. And saying no to specific kind of clients, specific ways to work in your market is super powerful. So, that's the insight I heard in your story. That's why I wanted to ask you.

Deb Zahn: Thank you. We've got some folks chiming in too. Me too. Well, doesn't it reveal itself when a situation hits your values? Yeah, I think if you're a good person on the planet, if you hadn't defined it before, that'll help you define it. And I would say it's the same way with my craft of consulting business. At a certain point, I realized that why I'm on the planet for that work is I want to help do gooders do well. And that's not what I said when I first started, and then had some encounters where I'm like, "Yeah, I'm not really interested in helping that industry put money in someone's pocket. But it's not just...I have a very expansive definition of what a do-gooder is. And so that's why I'm here, and that's what the business is about. And that is different than some of my competitors who are on the planet to help you get a yacht.

Guillaume Wiatr: Yes.

Deb Zahn: I'm fine if you like boating, but that's not what I'm really about.

Guillaume Wiatr: I'm big into sailing, but...

Deb Zahn: It's a beautiful thing.

Guillaume Wiatr: ...I don't need a yacht.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. All right, so we have about five, six more minutes left. And we can go a little bit longer if we want to, but what are we missing? What else should folks be doing if they want to develop their positioning?

Guillaume Wiatr: Well, I think another thing they should do is keep in mind that it is not a project, but it is a practice, an ongoing practice. You will never be done because as you say, Deb, very rightfully so in the beginning of this life, it is all about how people, and correct me if I'm not using your exact word, but all about how people perceive you in their mind.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Guillaume Wiatr: When they need to work, like someone like you, what do they do? They go, "Who do I know? Who did I hear about? Maybe I'll ask my neighbor or my friend or my partner, whoever." So, it's really the immediate things that come to mind. And the way we get to that answer is also very dependent on context, very dependent on what's going on. These days, more and more people want to be in consulting. They're leaving the corporate world to try it on their own, get their first gigs, and so on. And so it's a process because you're going to have to revisit it and keep an eye on it kind of all the time. So, knowing that hopefully releases the tension of trying to have this right, perfect from the get-go.

Deb Zahn: That's right. That's right. That's right. And you're going to have interactions with people in your market that help you refine it, help you think about things that you haven't thought about before. And so yeah, I love the notion that it's an ongoing practice. Now, Liz asked a question. Would you say that the membership unlimited model, so that's the model you mentioned for the design group, is different from a retainer model because there's no monthly cap on allocated time? That is what's different about it. That's why it was so bold.

Guillaume Wiatr: Yeah, this is an awesome question. In fact, Liz, thank you for asking. Because after I saw this, I talked to my wife about, "Look at what this guy is doing. What do you think?" And she's like, "Isn't that a retainer?" We know people in our network who, or they have a retainer with an attorney, and that's how my wife said, "What's the difference here?" And as I started thinking about it, I looked it up. And there's a very, very fine line. Maybe some people will say, "Well, retainer has a bad reputation. Membership is the new cool kid on the blog." So, there is this too.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. Yeah.

Guillaume Wiatr: But a retainer may be very specific. It's capped to me. It has the connotation of constraints and scoping. And it's a little bit...It's based on scarcity. Memberships feels...This is just my way.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. I'll jump in afterwards, but yeah, go for it.

Guillaume Wiatr: But it could be very, very appropriate in certain cases. And then membership is...Being a member is being part of a group of like-minded people, a group of people who think about the work that you do in a different way. So, there's the community aspect, there's the values aspect, as you mentioned. So, exactly, thank you so much for that note, Nika. They evolve different feelings right here. And so look in the dictionary if you prefer to just have the clear, but very, very strong overlap and just two different vibes and tastes, which by the way, taste, feeling, senses, crucial in your positioning your use of work. If you go to my website, you will see membership. I don't do retainers. I do membership because I want people to be in that energy,

Deb Zahn: But that's also a different positioning decision. So, I have a membership, and I also do retainers in my consulting business. And I'll say that there is a difference. So, when I'm doing a membership, it's for everything you said. It's for community. It's for mutual support. It's all of that. Notice that he priced it such that...Because he had to figure out that the math was going to work for him, and everybody has to figure out that the math is ultimately going to work, is that you're going to have a bell curve of clients who are going to be in a membership model, some of whom are going to be extraordinarily active, and they want way more than a logo. They want everything under the sun. And they're going to be very high demand within that model. And then you're going to have some folks who occasionally pop up.

And then you'll have some folks that just need this one thing. But in case they need other things, they're going to be...Have thought through, how do I make this business model work for me, such that I make the dollars I want, but I also am not killing myself to get the work done? You want to jump in and respond to that? And then I want to say something about retainers.

Guillaume Wiatr: Finish with the retainers because I think there is a comment here in the chat that exact...I was like, oh yeah, this comment is exactly what Deb is talking about. So, I got a little excited. I didn't even mean to interrupt you, Deb...

Deb Zahn: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And there are consultants who do do subscription and membership model. So, I've seen some of those, and I think they're fabulous. A retainer is where you also...It can have a negative connotation because what a lot of, at least I know on the consult consultants have done, the ones that I do not align myself with is they do big retainers, and their goal is to do as little work as possible so that they basically hoard the advantages instead of sharing the advantages with their clients. And so in my mind, a retainer is mutually beneficial, but you have to shape that perception and give the clients the experience of that. So, I have a retainer client that I work with right now. They love it because they love the flexibility that's associated with it. But that's also how I talk to them about it.

So, sometimes we're in the middle of something and the CEO will say, "Deb, I know this isn't what we had been talking about, but I really appreciate you jumping in on that." And I will say to her, that's one of the benefits of a retainer.

Guillaume Wiatr: Yes.

Deb Zahn: And given that the type of work I do does not lend itself to a membership in that regard because I'm dealing with things that are proprietary and they can't share, and et cetera. I have to have them experience a retainer, not in the old way of I'm hoarding benefits, but in a mutually beneficial way. And that's as much positioning as it is anything else.

Guillaume Wiatr: So, in other words, Deb, what you're saying is it's not just about the pricing mechanism, but very much how you use it, which mindset, which...

Deb Zahn: Experience. Everything.

Guillaume Wiatr: ...experience, intention, attitude, you have to where...I wrote down here the thought that the retainer is some people, as you say, hold, they hold the benefits to themselves and the value, whereas you could actually see that as a tremendous opportunity to just wow your clients with an experience that they couldn't even...

Deb Zahn: Yeah. The best consultants, and I see myself as one of those in my market, is if I'm in a retainer, I'm looking for ways to give them more value. I’m not just like, well, cool, I didn't have to do anything this week. And I give them the experience of that, and I point that out. But having a membership model, a subscription model, there is no reason to not get creative with pricing and the way, Yanick, that you're suggesting, even having a product. I've done a product with some other consultants. It did enormously well, not just because we made a lot of money, but because it helped a lot of people. It enabled them to get access to something that they probably wouldn't have been able to otherwise.

Guillaume Wiatr: Yeah, yeah. So, the comment that I was referring to is Yanick's comments, which I really thought is spot on with what you were describing. And I'd like to add to this. I think if you look at the traditional business models, and there's a great book, Business Model Generation, and they've updated it with...There's just a couple of handfuls, maybe of typical traditional business model in consulting and professional services. We kind of know all of the big categories and buckets, but there is so much from underneath that level to innovate in how you execute on them. I think the example you just gave of rethinking the way you think retainers is an innovation in itself. And I'll give you another example. A colleague of mine has this option in one of these consulting offers, I think it's coaching offers, sorry, where he gives people the chance to give him a call. And they're limited to 10 or 15 minutes, I think, as many times as they want, as many times as they want.

So, the connection that I was seeing between what Yanick was saying and what you were saying is you can be very innovative in the way you understand, what is that your clients really need? How are they going to even be able to leverage what you offer, and creating really that positive perception that you are there for them. I think we live in a world...I've been in consulting for over 25 years now, and one of the major, major change is we used to think about consulting as something very consultant focused. I dictate the way you can access my knowledge and my expertise.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Guillaume Wiatr: And we're now in a world where, look, everything is available at your fingertip on your phone. So, everything is on demand. Everything is there. Communication never stops. It's multichannel. So, it's also about the way you execute on those business models. Look at this book. There is also a...For people who are solopreneurs, there is also a business model you version of that book that talks about that all the possible facets to execute on these very traditional business models. Those facets are the innovation in these business models.

Deb Zahn: And Eva brought up a point which is very important. She said, Many companies don't see the retainer's value but is lost work hours." So, Eva, you're hitting upon also a bigger theme, which is you have to know your clients. You have to know the folks in the companies that you're working with, and what they value and what they don't. So, there are some people that I would never consider going to retainer for because they're not a good fit for it. They don't value it. They want something a little more innovative, or maybe they want something a little more traditional. But to know sort of who you're talking to so that you can do things that are creative, but also things that are going to be a fit, even while you're hopefully pushing the envelope to get them used to sort of new and interesting way to do things, like looking at a video instead of reading 40 emails.

Guillaume Wiatr: I love it. We positioned this session, and now we're all about pricing, which is one of the core elements of positioning. But do you have still time to maybe cover a few things?

Deb Zahn: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, let's go a little bit longer. I'm good with that.

Guillaume Wiatr: And if people have questions here in the audience, hit us with questions. Now is the time. We'll do our best. It's not like we know everything about this topic. I'm still trying to figure it out, to be honest. So, maybe another thing that I see is people on that topic still, they pay attention to the words, right? And so when we want to express how should people think about us, there's one framework that I like to share with people, is the idea of framing actually, framework framing

Deb Zahn: One of my favorite things on the planet.

Guillaume Wiatr: So, framing very well, right?

Deb Zahn: I live and breathe it.

Guillaume Wiatr: So, what is framing? Just a 30-second crash course for everyone here. Framing is basically the possibility that you have to explain something or give your perspective on something in a certain way. Think about a window, right? You can look at the same object different ways. The most known example of framing is, is the glass half empty or half full? This one is a bit lower. Half empty or half full? This is framing. I have two different ways to frame the glass. It's either positive or negative, right? And so the way you talk about your business also, you have an ability to frame it. And people, when they receive your message, also have their way to frame it, right? And what happens is that we've been talking about a lot in this session about immediate and direct way to position your business, but there are asynchronous ways and indirect ways to frame your business, which I call pre-framing. Pre-framing is basically how people understand your business when you're not in the room.

What is it that they've heard from word of mouth, from your colleagues? "Oh yeah. Hey, I need somebody to help me rethink my business" "Yeah, I've heard about Guillaume and MetaHelm. He does this kind of work. I'm not exactly sure what." Because another thing is that you'll realize that your positioning by heart. You study it, support it, you master it, and you will be disappointed to see that people are just aware of one tiny sliver of it.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Guillaume Wiatr: That's another thing, Nika, maybe if you want to capture this for...Don't be disappointed by your audience's ability to just remember one fragment of your positioning.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Guillaume Wiatr: So, when you do pre-framing, which is trying to influence what people will remember of your business when you're not in the room, language is of the essence. And here is something I see all the time, people try to get too complicated, too clever and too unique in this language exercise.

And they come up with things that are really, really beautiful, but very, very fuzzy. I'm trying to elevate the life of men, women who are energetically aligned with the approach of blah, blah.

Deb Zahn: And in a synergistic way. Don't forget synergistic, synergistic.

Guillaume Wiatr: In a synergistic way. And great. That's probably true. And I love that you dig your positioning language here. I probably relate to it if you give me first a book to read, but I don't have necessarily the time to read a book. So, you have to force yourself to let go of the desire and resist the temptation to come up with the most unique, brilliant language. As we said before, there are many, many layers to positioning and language is just the access and the entry point. And so how do you know if you're simple enough that you're clear enough?

Well, you test it. You test it with people as many times as you want. I ask my clients to...As soon as we have a positioning theory that feels viable, I say, Goo schedule five calls immediately, five calls with people that in your network this week, and preferably people that don't quite know what you do. These are the best conversations. You have to test your positioning." So, go see how these words ring with people. Like I said, I'm not a native English speaker. I'm French, and I've always had this in the mind, that I always needed to look for what words really mean to people because I learned English when I was in my thirties. It was scary at first because I thought in meetings, I would raise my hands like, "What does this word mean? Sorry," with my fresh accent. And people...I was scared. I'm going to look like the stupidest guy in the room.

And I did it anyways. I really needed to understand what was talked about. There was a lot of cultural references and words I need to understand. And people would be well kind enough to explain to me. And I got so much insight. The biggest insight I got was that I was not the only one in the room who didn't understand what was talked about.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Guillaume Wiatr: And other people. And they kind of thanked me for doing this. So, think about this whole positioning, exercise as you being lost in translation with your own business and doing the exercise of trying to understand how is this going to be translatable to people? How does it resonate with them? Yeah, that's it.

Deb Zahn: Love it. And I have to say, I want to give one example. And I actually just said this to someone the other day, and she just laughed, and she's like, "I bet you get a lot of business." So, one of the things that I do in my consulting business is I work with groups of leaders, so either different CEOs from different organizations or leaders within an organization in the C-suite. And basically, I help them make decisions so that they can actually get unstuck and move forward. And I joke. I say that, and then I say, "Well, really what I do is I cure decision-making disorders." And that moment of she gets us. And people remember that, they get the gist of it, and they will tell other people. And I actually heard this back from someone, "Deb is good with groups of leaders who are mad at each other." That's how she described it, but that's close enough because everybody knows groups of leaders that are mad at each other. And that is one of my specialties.

So, I've gotten business because people get it. It's clear enough. It's not fancy pants. I'm not trying to use big words. I tell a little joke, and that joke sticks with people, and they can say it to somebody else and it's close enough that somebody gets the idea.

Guillaume Wiatr: Yeah. Yeah. I'm going to refer you a ton of crazy people...

Deb Zahn: I'm now questioning that positioning. There's been a lot of feelings recently.

Guillaume Wiatr: In the same vein, a few years ago, I asked one of my clients to have coffee, and I wanted to ask her what she thought of the...We had just wrapped six six-month project with her team. I have to say, I was really making a lot of assumptions. I was assuming way too much. Don't do that. I was assuming that she was going to talk to me all about how the project was on time and the quality of the work. And she talked...She told me nothing about this. The one thing that she cared about, and that's how I started to realize how different my positioning could be, is, well, you're the first one who finally is able to make my team work together without me in the room.

Deb Zahn: Wow. Nice.

Guillaume Wiatr: Aha.

Deb Zahn: What a statement.

Guillaume Wiatr: And to me, it was just natural. Yeah, that's what I'm here to do, right? Isn't it the case. The rest of the week, that's not how it works to me. It was just natural. It was just obvious. So, that's another thing for everyone here. Sometimes it's the most obvious thing that you're so used to in your work that will stand out and really trigger something really important for you to add and reflect on that. So, her thing is you just make people work. It's not just the quality of the work. It's also great work with alignment. And that became one of the core focus of my practice of MetaHelm when I work with team, is to guarantee that alignment because it's so essential for business leaders that they're willing to pay premium price for that without them in the room.

Deb Zahn: That's the theme because they can do, but it's very time-consuming for them. They're also very close to people. It's a lot of their time. And I come in and I could do that more effectively because I have different tools. I'm also a third party, and so on. So, you get the point.

Guillaume Wiatr: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Deb Zahn: I see Andy.

Guillaume Wiatr: Andy, yes. How important is the name of the consulting business for positioning, or is the positioning statement more this? Great question. Do you want to take this question? I have thoughts on this.

Deb Zahn: I'll say something and then you jump in as well. So, I think the name of the consulting business is actually important. It's a positioning decision that you have to make. I think you have to have a positioning statement. Without that, I think you're kind of going to end up wandering in the dark, but this is where you decide is are you essentially building a personal brand such that it's really your name? So, are they coming to Deb or are they coming to whatever? I decide to name my consulting business, and there's a whole lot of decisions that go into that. If I know that I always want to be a solo practitioner and that in my markets that I've operated in my name actually has some weight and will be helpful to me, then I'm going to lean in that direction. If I'm in an area where I'm making a pivot to something and my name really doesn't mean a lot, now I've got some creativity to think about how would a different name actually serve me?

But I think you have to get to the heart of, as I make that decision, what is actually going to help me build the business I want and get the business I want?

Guillaume Wiatr: Yeah. Yeah. I like the difference you made here. I want to take an example from my colleague and friend, Patrick Kirby. He has a consulting business that focuses on helping nonprofits, and It is a great example. I'm about to tell the name of that business. Are you guys ready? Just kidding. Business is called Do Good Better.

Deb Zahn: Oh, nice.

Guillaume Wiatr: Do Good Better. And I think it's a great example of how business name can carry a positioning. You get immediately what it is about Do Good Better. In three words, "How many sounds does that, do, good, better"? Four sounds so very memorable. And so other reasons why it's three D effective, him and I have talked about this is because him and his team are very down to earth, very simple, very straight to the point. They're not the scientists of the nonprofit world. They're just action people. And see how this intent translate into their names. Be good, better. That's it. We're just...They're just very, very simple. Now, the second part of the question, Andy, was is the positioning statement more important? I don't think so. They also have a positioning statement. I think you got to think about all those positioning mechanism as a system, and...

Deb Zahn: Yeah. Yeah.

Guillaume Wiatr: And in some cases, one aspect might take the lead. Maybe your statement is so aligned or memorable or important, or you use it as a way to make better decisions that it's going to be kind of your focus or North star. But your business name is also very, very important. But in the case of somebody who markets themselves under their own name, you can't convey direct and explicit meaning, like do good better, the meaning comes with how you show up in front of people, what they remember. If I say Tony Robbins...Let's do the exercise right now, it's like if I say Tony Robbins, what do we think?

Deb Zahn: I don't think good things, but...

Guillaume Wiatr: Exactly. So, it's very much left to interpretation.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Guillaume Wiatr: Right? So, your positioning statement is maybe hopefully here to course correct. And so in the case of Tony Robinson and you, Deb, if Tony Robinson wanted to change their positioning in your mind, they would have to do a lot of work to try to...

Deb Zahn: Quite a bit, yes.

Guillaume Wiatr: Quite a bit, right? Maybe it's impossible. Even maybe it's impossible. And so you have to think about these strategies, techniques, tools for positioning as a system. So, I think through this slide, we give you a whole bunch of them. And you have to experiment with each of these. And really Craft of Consulting, how beautiful? How awesome is that?

Deb Zahn: Thank you. And it was picked intentionally because I believe that consulting is a craft. And so it signals to people that excellence matters to me, craft matters to me, and not just making a whole pile of money.

Guillaume Wiatr: So, Andy, there you have it, the pure demonstration that with a name, you have to have a bit of explanation to give context. Deb just said, "Consulting is a craft and it has to be done intentionally. And that's why this name exists. That's the work of your positioning statement. Your positioning statement has to give a chance for your name to be meaningful, like packed with additional things that give really the name of your business, all the dimensions that you can have.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Guillaume Wiatr: So, I hope we answered this question. This is a great question, Andy. Thanks.

Deb Zahn: It's a wonderful question. So, we are a little bit over, but...

Guillaume Wiatr: Really?

Deb Zahn: We are. This is why we did this because we love talking to each other about this stuff.

Guillaume Wiatr: I can't believe how excited we can be in the middle of summer here in North America on the topic of positioning. It's typically when I say, "Hey guys, positioning," they go, people go, "Oh my gosh, another positioning thing?" We're going to...It went fast, right? Hopefully it was fun for you guys. It was super fun for me.

Deb Zahn: I love it. I love it. And if you think of it as anything, think of it as lighting your path to the business that you want. So, if folks want to learn more about you, where do they go?

Guillaume Wiatr:

Deb Zahn: Yay.

Guillaume Wiatr: What does MetaHelm mean, by the way? No, I'm just kidding.

Deb Zahn: And if you want to hear...

Guillaume Wiatr: I'm not going to figure it out.

Deb Zahn: Wonderful. And that just got put into the comments. And then if you want to find out more about me, you can go to And we're both on LinkedIn doing a whole lot of cool stuff on LinkedIn, so you can find us there as well. But the websites will guide you to where do you need to go. And thank you for all the great feedback, everybody. It seems like this was helpful, so we should do more of this.

Guillaume Wiatr: I agree. I agree. You were way better. This is one of my first LinkedIn lives. You were way better at this, Deb. You're the pro at this. And...

Deb Zahn: You're very sweet. I do a lot of podcasts, so you know.

Guillaume Wiatr: Yes. But now I'm scrolling, and we've got a ton of comments and questions and so on. I hope we answered everything. Thank you guys for all your support here and your great feedback. And yeah, if there are more questions on this, reach Deb or me, or both, or whoever. You can copy us, and happy to answer and keep this going.

Deb Zahn: Sounds good. All right, thanks folks. Have a great time.

Guillaume Wiatr: Bye.

Deb Zahn: Thanks so much for listening to this episode of the Craft of Consulting podcast. I want to ask you to do actually three things. If you enjoyed this episode or you've enjoyed any of my other ones, hit subscribe. I got a lot of other great guests that are coming up in a lot of other great content, and I don't want you to miss anything.

But the other two things that I'm going to ask you to do is, one is if you have any comments, so if you have any suggestions or any kind of feedback that will help make this podcast more helpful to more listeners, please include those. And then the last thing is, again, if you've gotten something out of this, share it. Share it with somebody you know who's a consultant or thinking about being a consultant, and make sure that they also have access to all this great content and all the other great content that's going to be coming up.

So, as always, you can go and get more wonderful information and tools at Thanks so much. I will talk to you on the next episode.

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