When your positioning isn’t their positioning.

Stephen Pratley
2 min readMar 1, 2021


Small businesses stay small, because in the short term they aren’t brave enough with the cut when they choose the market they serve.

Then in the medium term term they can’t back it up with enough case studies in one market.

Imagine you have a couple of clients:

  • One sells tinned tomatoes
  • One sells pasta

You’re on your way to building a nice niche in Italian foods. Right now you might have a conflict of interest, but you’re one Parmesan cheese away from being a specialist.

Then one of these clients tells you “I have a friend who imports scooters. Maybe you can help him?”

While this referred business looks like the easiest sale, it could be damaging in the longer term.

The food products are in a recognisable category, for both the buyer and the seller. You’d expect to find them on the same shelf in a store.

The third customer from the referral wrecks everything.

Maybe, if things are quiet, you take on a customer that you just don’t talk about.

More likely, the temptation is to try to lump the three together. You try to show more experience in the “Italian imports” category, and to try to hedge your gets about which one you’re trying to target.

Creating your own category of “Italian imports” doesn’t mean anything to your prospects though. It only means something to you. The person who invented it.

If your prospect doesn’t recognise themselves in your marketing, they’ll just think “this isn’t for me” and pass right by.

Picking just one of the categories of “food” or “scooters” will make you far more likely to pick up more similar clients looking for your existing expertise.

There are more tips about positioning and its unexpected pitfalls in my free guide: “The Anchor Position”.

Aimed at founders of growing agency teams, it will help you get past a critical step that makes every twist of the sales process unnecessarily harder.



Stephen Pratley

Building online businesses with a team of one. Find out how at: https://oneman.media