Deliberate Positioning and Its Impact on Business Success: Insights from April Dunford

Episode Notes

This episode will inspire you to rethink your approach to positioning, question the rationale of launching a podcast, and discover the best channels to monetize your knowledge to attract the customers you truly want to work with and much much more…

  • In-House vs. Agency: Engage in the critical debate on whether to cultivate positioning skills within your team or to outsource for expertise.
  • Unveiling the Positioning Process: Gain an insider’s perspective as April Dunford reveals the strategies behind her successful consulting practice.
  • Positioning Wisdom: Learn from April’s personal journey and the pivotal lessons that have honed her approach to positioning.
  • The Podcasting Paradox: Join April and Allan as they dissect the surprising pros and cons of podcasting for thought leadership.
  • Monetizing Expertise: Discover effective tactics for leveraging and monetizing your expertise, and learn how to set and justify competitive pricing.
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April Dunford: [00:00:00] the job of positioning is to help people understand. Why this thing is the best in the world at delivering some kind of value and the positioning should contextualize the product to make it easier to understand what that value is.

Allan Dib: April, you are not the loudest person in the marketing space, which kind of tells me that you're doing some cool stuff.

Can I give my brag about you intro. So, You've held several senior marketing positions at tech startups and large multinationals. You've run marketing product, sales teams. And I don't think it would be out of order to call you one of the leading positioning experts on the planet. You've written two books obviously Awesome, which was really awesome, I have to say.

And that book outlines your methodology for positioning yourself in the marketplace. And more recently you've written sales pitch, which is a step by step way of building a sales pitch that reflects that positioning. So, have I got [00:01:00] that about right? Or what have I missed? What have I, what should I

April Dunford: a great job so far. Yeah.

Allan Dib: Excellent. So April I really enjoyed your books. They were so easy to get through for a couple of reasons. First of all, they're not super long, but they're really entertaining. You write in a really entertaining way. It's an easy to read language, and it's an easy to understand framework, which I really love.

And I think

April Dunford: Your books. like this too,

Allan Dib: Oh, thank you. Thank you. I try my best and I think that's maybe why I resonated

April Dunford: is what people want. I think people are sick of these, big marketing idea books that are just blah, blah, blah, blah, and you're like, yeah, yeah, buddy, but how do I do it? Get to the meat.

Allan Dib: you are my kind of person. April, I, I've seen a couple of interviews with you and I thought, I've gotta get her on the podcast. She doesn't talk a lot of bullshit. She doesn't talk a lot of academic stuff, so she's really my type of person. So you're right. And. You come across my type of way.

What I really love and what sort of was something that really stood out for me is [00:02:00] that everyone's positioning themselves some way, right? So the thing is, are you doing it deliberately? And I think what some of your work does is really help you see, Hey, how can I deliberately position myself?

Because a lot of people feel like, Hey, this is what we charge in my industry, or this is how we present our package or product or whatever it is in, in my industry. Whether you're doing it deliberately or not deliberately, you are positioning yourself one way or another. And so I'd love you to just maybe give us a 32nd intro on the idea of positioning yourself deliberately and where do people go wrong and what's your way of doing that?

April Dunford: Yeah. I think most folks I. And I work mainly with tech companies, but you know, so you see this a lot in tech companies where, there's the original idea of we're gonna build something, right? So the founders get together and they say, you know what sucks? Databases suck. We're gonna build a better database and we're gonna, build this database.

And what [00:03:00] happens is they build a thing, they get it out in the market, and customers are like, oh, we love this part, we don't love this part. And they go back and they mess with it. And then they go back and forth and eventually you have this thing that, maybe. If you were coming at it fresh from a customer's perspective, it might be better to describe this thing as a data warehouse or some other kind of a data thing.

but the founders are still like, well, we're database people. We made a database. That's what it is. That's what we set out to be. And they just think, well, what else could it be? It couldn't possibly be anything else but a customer's looking at it and saying, well, I don't know. Like most databases do this thing and this one doesn't.

You know, And when I think databases, I think these things and this thing is something totally different. So I think what we really need to do is the job of positioning is to help people understand. Why this thing is the best in the world at delivering [00:04:00] some kind of value and the positioning should contextualize the product to make it easier to understand what that value is.

So just because you set out to build a database doesn't mean that that's the best way for a customer to understand what that thing is Today, it might actually be something different.

Allan Dib: that's really excellent. What I love is that you really targeted an area that is such a leverage point for so many businesses from a marketing perspective. And it's one that hasn't been addressed very well, in my opinion, at least. So from, what I could tell, and, I could be missing something here, but last time that positioning was really addressed in a comprehensive manner, and it was probably not that comprehensive is Al Reese and Jack Trout in their book positioning the Battle for the Mind.

and Al was actually kind enough to blurb my book before he, he passed away, well before I was, well known also, not that I'm hugely well known, but that was really [00:05:00] good of him. there

April Dunford: But this is like the original book on positioning. If you're going to understand this topic at all, I still think that's the book you should go read first.

Allan Dib: Yeah, I agree.

April Dunford: and

re trout's book positioning the battle for your mind. Like it's hilarious. Here I have it. It literally sitting on my desk.

Allan Dib: wow.

April Dunford: I was looking something up in it just the other day and I was like, Ooh, I need to go back to the source here. I think everyone should read this book, the original. And if you look at my version, it's all full of, stars and underlines and things. But that book, laid the foundation for what we understand about positioning.

It does an amazing job of telling you what positioning is, why it's important. There's a bunch of really interesting examples in there where they show here's what the bad positioning looked like, here's what the good positioning looked like. So I think everybody should read that book. It's a great book.

Allan Dib: if I'm not mistaken, I mean, it's been a while since I read that book, but he kind of defines positioning as what a product does and who it does it for

April Dunford: yeah, that's [00:06:00] right. Like in that book, they define this idea of positioning as being like, a file folder that the customer puts you in, right? So they gotta put you in some kind of a bucket. And so if you're doing a really good job, you're defining the bucket in a way that the customer puts you in there and that's right where you wanna be.

And so it's all about owning this space in the customer's mind. So it's a really neat book. I think everybody should read it. What bugged me about it though, is when I was a vice president of marketing and I was wrestling with positioning on the product that I was working on, I read that book and I got to the end and I was like, so what do I do about it? Like it didn't. So what it didn't do is give me a methodology to actually do positioning now, in their defense those folks were running an agency and the idea was, you're supposed to call them, they're gonna do it for you. which I respect that, I respect content marketing which is what that [00:07:00] book was.

And at one point, even when I was working at a company that was a lot bigger and had the budgets, we did call those guys and talk to them a couple of times about bringing them in to do stuff. The problem was that I had so many products to position, I thought. Well, this is an in-house competency.

At some point we're gonna need to know how to do this. We can't go out to the agency every time we wanna reposition something like as, particularly in tech companies, like it's one thing and things outside of tech, like consumer packaged goods, we often don't reposition products after we launch them.

Like we get one shot at it and we don't really position them later. If they're either successful or they're a flop. In tech companies, it's different. Like often what we launch as is not the thing that we expect to be two years from now, or four years from now. So we're gonna be constantly repositioning ourselves across the lifetime of this product.

So I'm like, I need to know how to do this. I can't just send this out to the agency every single time. That's not gonna work. So I thought that was very frustrating that they didn't have a methodology for it. [00:08:00] So when I started out in marketing, the first product that I repositioned, we just kind of messed around until we got something that worked.

And it, it worked really well.

Allan Dib: when you say you messed around like, because a lot of people talk about their methodology, they're like, okay, we we started at a magic happened, we ended up at B. What does messing around look

Oh man, like the first one, we had no clue what we were doing. I didn't even know it was called positioning at that point. And so we had an original thesis of what we thought the product was. And the product officially failed. we didn't sell very much of it. The ones we did sell companies didn't use it.

April Dunford: It was a failure. And so we thought, well, maybe we could relaunch it for a slightly different use case. So then we went through a bunch of different use cases. Well, maybe they would use it like this or maybe they would use it like this. And then we would test that out with like customers that we already had and say, Hey, would you buy a thing that looked like this and did this thing?

And it was really [00:09:00] time consuming. And in my opinion, I think we got lucky when we landed on one that worked. 'cause we weren't following a methodology to come up with the different use cases or anything else. We were literally messing around like we were in brainstorming in a room, maybe we could do this, maybe we could do that.

Maybe we could do this. I don't know. And eventually we found one that worked before we gave up trying. And the company took off. It was amazing. We got acquired by this big company and my boss quit. They put me in charge of the department and then they transferred me a bunch of junky failing products and said, April, do that thing that you did with the other one, and I was like, no, we didn't know what we were doing. And I thought, well, okay, look, there must be marketers out here that know how to do this. This is a fundamental marketing thing, so I'm just gonna find some marketers that know how to do it. So I started having coffee meetings with senior marketers and saying, positioning, how do we do it?

Like, how do we actually do it? [00:10:00] And nobody had an answer. Like everybody was kind of doing it the way we were had done it. We just kind of messing around and I thought, well, this, can't be the way we do it. And I learned a couple of things. One was, there was a thing at the time called a positioning statement.

So I went and took this like post-grad course and we did the course on positioning there at Northwestern University. This is Fancy Pants Marketing School in the United States. and they said, today we're gonna learn about positioning. And I'm like, oh boy. So the professor gets up and says, we're gonna talk about positioning today.

Here it is. We got this thing, it's called a positioning statement. And this is like a mad libs fill in the blank sort of a thing. And it's like we are a blank that does blank, unlike blank. And the blanks are things like the competition and your value and you know what you do and all that stuff.

And, market category was one of the blanks. And so the professor says, so you just write down the answer for those things in the blanks, and that's [00:11:00] it. And then he starts moving on to some other topic and I'm at the back and I'm like, no, no, no. Wait a minute buddy. Like I'm at the back. No, no, no, no, no.

Stop. And I put in my hand and I said, but how do you know? Like how do you know? There's a blank that says market category. Like that first product that I worked at, we thought it was business productivity software, but we repositioned it as an embeddable database for mobile devices. Very different market categories.

Like how should we have known what the best market category was? 'cause as far as I could tell, most products could be positioned in multiple market categories. So I gotta have some kind of a methodology to figure out what the best one is. Right? And you know what the guy said to me? trust me, April, you'll just know.

Allan Dib: Just intuition.

April Dunford: oh my God. So at that point, I, thought to myself, okay, this is it. Like we don't have a methodology. No one knows how to do it. Maybe Reise & Trout but they're not telling. But otherwise nobody knows how to do it. So at this point, [00:12:00] I had repositioned two or three things and I had been grilling everybody I knew I'm positioning.

So I thought, well, I could figure this out. And so here's the way I did it. first I said, well, maybe we could take positioning and break it down in the component pieces. And that was pretty easy because we kind of agree on what the component pieces are of positioning. So it's, competitors, if you didn't exist.

What would a customer do? Second thing is differentiated capabilities or features like things you have that the competitors don't have. Then there's differentiated value, which is nobody really cares about your features. They care about what the features can do for their business. So what's the value you can provide that the other guys can't?

And then we're not trying to sell to everybody. We're trying to sell to certain customers. So what's our definition of a best fit customer? That's the fourth component. And the last component is market category. Are you business productivity tool or a embeddable database for mobile devices? What are [00:13:00] you?

So those are the five things. And so I thought, well, we know what the five things are. So all we have to do is figure out what's the methodology for figuring out what the best answer is for the five things. You figure that out, figure out how to smash it together. Voila. Good positioning. And so what's interesting when you break it into pieces like that, the first thing that you notice is each of the component pieces actually has a relationship to the others.

Allan Dib: hmm.

April Dunford: So if I look at differentiated value, the value your product can deliver that nobody else can is completely dependent on what? Well, it's dependent on your differentiated capabilities or features. Like we don't get to just make this up in B2B, we don't B2C maybe a little, but in B2B we don't. but then you think, so those two things, I can't figure out one without knowing the other.

But then if I think about it, my differentiated capabilities are only differentiated when I compare them to a competitor. So those three things are actually related. [00:14:00] And then if I really think about it, who's my best fit customer? My best fit customers are customers that really, really care a lot about the value that only I can deliver.

So I got four things that are related to each other, and then market categories a little bit more esoteric. But if I think about the market category, what it really is, is the context I position my product in such that this differentiated value kind of makes sense to these best fit customers. So I can't figure out category without knowing value and customers.

So everything has a relationship to each other. Where do we start?

Allan Dib: Well, I thought category was most interesting to me at least, because category is kind of like you can take almost this exact same product. Potentially repackage it, potentially reprice it, and have it be perceived completely differently. I know, and in the book you used the example of cake and muffins, right?

So cake is something that you would have for dessert after dinner or [00:15:00] whatever. And that's pretty much about it. And it feels, you probably don't have that every day and all of that sort of stuff. Well, most people, but a muffin. is pretty much a cake. But you might have, it's positioned as, hey, you can have a breakfast muffin, you can have a muffin with a tea or a coffee, or whatever else.

I thought that was a, a really interesting example.

April Dunford: right. Same product. Different context, right? I pick it up and I sell it. You know what, different price points, different, everything else. Context is different. Expectations of the product are different.

Allan Dib: So often especially tech companies, and I'm from a tech background the company starts with, Hey, we've got this cool little technology trick we can do, or we've got this cool little feature or whatever. And it's what often they call in Silicon Valley a solution in search of a market. And so they're like, Hey, let's find who needs a firewall with a blah, blah, blah, whatever, that sort of thing.

And that to me is completely backwards. So many businesses start with knowing what their product is, but not knowing what their [00:16:00] market is. And so, There's a good reason why in the one page marketing plan, literally the first block is our target market. How do we select our target market?

How do we figure out who our people who we're gonna serve? And then we're gonna figure out what problem to solve.

But where in that process is positioning? Is it before target market selection, after where are we doing this in the whole sort of marketing life cycle? And then how often do we need to redo it?

Is it once and done or are we redoing it over and over?

April Dunford: Yeah. is a great question. So I like to think about it this way. Like in the early days, if we think about tech products. Well, we start with when we're building a product, if we've done this properly, we've done our homework. So we've decided, hey, maybe we're gonna build this thing. But before we've built it, we've gone out and we've talked to a bunch of customers and we've validated our assumptions.

Do they actually need this thing? Do they have the problem that I assume that they have? Would they pay for a thing like this? Does it deliver the [00:17:00] value that we think it's gonna deliver? Are there things that I don't understand about the market in the early days before we launch it, what we actually have as a positioning thesis.

So it's a thesis that says, we think this is our competition. We think this is what makes us different. Therefore this is the value we're gonna deliver. And we think these kinds of customers are gonna love it for

Allan Dib: And so you would do that before even building the product? It's just

April Dunford: if we're doing this to the letter properly, yeah, I think we would have a thesis now. Is our thesis, correct? Ah, we don't know yet.

Allan Dib: Hmm.

April Dunford: It's just a guess. It's a best guess from, the research we've done and the stuff we've done. My experience is that when you launch a product, the first wave of customers teach you a lot about the assumptions that you had baked into this positioning thesis.

And often the assumptions are wrong.

Allan Dib: Yep.

April Dunford: Often, we launch it and we find out, ah, like they're [00:18:00] not actually comparing us to the things that we thought they would compare us to, or the value that they want is something different than what we actually gave them. And, we thought this kind of customer was gonna love our stuff, but it turns out there's some other kind of customer that we didn't know anything about, and they really love our stuff and we'd be better to chase after them.

Once we understand that, then we can tighten the positioning up. I have a terrible analogy for this, but it's the only one I've got. So I'll, I'll give it to you, which is so let's say, we're not tech people. We're building a fishing net, right? We're fishermen. So we're building a fishing net.

And the thesis is, this is the world's greatest tuna fishing net. I'm gonna catch tuna like crazy. It's gonna be amazing. So we designed this thing or whatever, like we could launch it and say it's the tuna fishing net. And, maybe it works out, maybe it doesn't. Like we don't know, right? Because we haven't actually tried it.

We haven't tried to sell it to tuna fishermen yet. Like maybe we're successful selling it there, maybe we're not. In my opinion. A better way to do it is internally [00:19:00] inside the company. We're like, we think it's a tuna fishing net, but we don't know. So let's just launch it and we'll keep the positioning a little bit loose.

So we'll say, you know what, it's a net for fish, big fish, all kinds of big fish.

Allan Dib: Should we even do a net?

April Dunford: Yeah, well, I mean this is the thing, should we even do an net? I don't know. But see, the thing is, is if I launch it as a tuna fishing net, then all the other kinds of fishermen are gonna go, well, that's not for me.

They're not even gonna try it out. If I launch it and I say is a net for big fish, all kinds of, and then you are gonna let it loose and your first wave of customers are gonna try it out and let's just see what they pull up. And then maybe what happens is, they're pulling up stuff and you find out.

Oh, the thing actually is amazing for grouper. We weren't even thinking about grouper when we built the thing, but now we've got a bunch of customers using it and we could see was grouper fishing net. Now I can go and tighten up the positioning and run at the grouper market and maybe I get to tune it later. So I think it's good [00:20:00] to have a thesis, but I don't think that companies need to have super, super tight positioning when they don't even have customers yet. 'cause you don't know where to tighten it up. And I

think it's good to do your homework beforehand. do all that good stuff, but be prepared that your positioning is gonna shift based on what you learn in that first wave of customers.

'cause often what happens is you shift it, you learn a bunch of stuff in the first wave of customers, then you're like, oh, actually this is what we're doing. And then we can get really tight and go run at it after that.

Allan Dib: Yeah, you talk a lot about best fit customers, which I think is so important because the suboptimal customers just destroy a business. They take up all of your resource. They're the ones who pay late they complain the most, have the most support requirements. And I think it's such an important part of positioning as being intentional.

and it's difficult for so many people, especially at startup stage, early stage, because any revenue is, feels like good revenue, right? But it's a mistake.

So what's a [00:21:00] balance in the beginning of if you are a startup or early on, do you just take on any kind of revenue? do you stick to your guns and you're like, no, these are our customers.

what's been your experience with that?

April Dunford: know, I think in the early, like the super early stages when you're still trying to figure out what works and what doesn't. I, I think you wanna try a lot of different things. Again, like if, if your thesis is, this thing is gonna be really good for quick serve restaurants. Then let's go try some quick serve restaurants.

If that doesn't work well, then maybe we're gonna have to try some things that aren't quick serve restaurants

Allan Dib: Yeah.

April Dunford: and go a little beyond that. If we're trying to test this thesis of quick serve restaurants, we shouldn't be doing like things that are way outside of that, right? If a dry cleaner comes along, why are you doing that business?

What are you gonna learn from doing one dry cleaner and 29 quick serve restaurants? Nothing like, forget about the dry cleaner. You're not learning anything. The first wave of customers should be optimized around this learning, right? Which is why it's good to have [00:22:00] the thesis write it down and say, what are we trying to prove here?

We're trying to prove whether or not this thing works with quick serve restaurants. So let's do quick serve restaurants. And then we say, is it working or not? and if it's not, why is it not working? And what are we gonna try next?

So I don't know. And then I think there's a certain amount of discipline in that particularly in the early days of what you're saying is, you're not being that disciplined about it.

And you say, well, we're for, mid-market businesses. Well, that's pretty broad.

Allan Dib: Yes. Yes. We're, we're for women over 40,

April Dunford: is a little more narrow than that because otherwise you're gonna do, one dry cleaner, one restaurant, one car dealership. What have you learned? I'm not sure all those businesses are really different.

So I think even your thesis has to be somewhat narrow. Like you say should we build, the fishing net at all?

Allan Dib: And, and the analogy I use in my, new book and I've heard before is kind of like the mayor of a town. Like Who are my people? And, what's relevant in this [00:23:00] town may not be relevant in another town. So this town may have garbage collection under control.

Everything's really good, but there's a dangerous intersection that we need to address. And I think of that, that way, like starting with who your people are is the most powerful way to start. Because now we can clearly see what's a problem that they really need, address what language are they speaking, where are they congregating? all those sorts of

April Dunford: Well, it's a good point. It makes everything easier downstream when you can get really narrow on it and say we're just going after customers that look like this. And then we can get so specific in the language we use in the channels we're using to try to get to those people in the marketing tactics we're using.

Everything just works better than saying, oh, we're trying to be everything for everybody. I mean, this is much worse in services businesses than it is in product businesses. Like product business. You got a product and it kind of does what it does in services businesses, I think they have a very hard time staying focused because it's easy to [00:24:00] sort of lean back and say, well, we do custom development so we could build you anything,

but even a services business does not do well and does not grow and does not get to charge high rates unless they specialize. Everybody doing a good job specializes. Like If I came to you and said I'm a marketing consultant, I could do anything. anything a VP marketing does, I can do.

'cause I used to do that job. Well then I'd be competing with every fractional VP marketing on the planet of which there are 10 billion.

Allan Dib: Many people do

April Dunford: Like you would not invite me on this show if I was that

the reason I'm here is 'cause I'm very so narrow. It's, only B2B tech companies that only do positioning work and even more narrow than that, I only do positioning work with B2B Tech companies of a certain size that have a sales force. Like it's so narrow and that's why I'm so busy. If it wasn't that narrow, business will be terrible.

Allan Dib: It feels very counterintuitive, doesn't it? Because like you feel

It's hey, way to get more [00:25:00] businesses to widen the net. The more people that I can serve, Hey, I can help everyone in marketing. So

April Dunford: it is it's so counterintuitive and so it's hard to explain to people that haven't experienced it. and say, no, actually, if you wanna really grow, what you gotta do is get really focused. and people that are early on this stuff will say, what are you talking about?

Allan Dib: Yeah. Like

April Dunford: the bigger the addressable market, the bigger the business. Right. And it's actually no. At the beginning. No.

Allan Dib: Well, one of the examples I often give is if you look at your Google search history, probably pretty specific. You're not typing in doctor or lawyer or car. You're typing in BMWX five in San Francisco, or you're typing knee specialist in whatever area you're in or whatever.

So you wanna be super specific because then your messaging is completely messed up if you're general. That's one thing. The other thing is you're doing so much custom work as a service business. If you are all things to all people, this guy needs messaging, this guy needs positioning. We need to work on strategy with this person.

and you're just doing so much custom [00:26:00] work.

Some of the best consulting businesses I've ever seen are just essentially productized services where they deliver the same thing over and over and that helps them increase their competency at that thing. But it also helps them really deliver more and essentially.

Productize their service rather than doing custom work every time. And I think that's something that you've done really, really well. I heard on a previous podcast that you were on that do only positioning only for, people with sales teams and that you've really cut out all of these other things that you, used to

April Dunford: I say no so much. It's kind of hilarious.

if you go on my website, like there's an FAQ that is basically a list of things that I don't do.

Allan Dib: I love that.

April Dunford: So it's if you're consumer business, I can't help you. But it's, that's it. My customers come to me and they don't want, like somebody that does dabbles in positioning, like they don't want somebody that does positioning now and then on a list of 15 [00:27:00] other things they do, like positioning is a really big, crunchy, strategic problem inside the business.

So if they're gonna spend some money to have somebody come in. Like they don't want to, hire just anybody. What they want somebody that really, really gets how to do this for a company just like them.

Allan Dib: I know you've been consulting for a while. How long did it take for you to say, Hey, I'm gonna be so specialized in this little lane. This is gonna be something that I own and I'm just gonna focus on that. I'm gonna say no to everything else. Did you figure that out immediately? Is that something that you figured out over time?

April Dunford: Yeah. I wish I'd figured it out immediately. No, I think, I went through the same phase that everybody else does. You know, at the beginning I was like, I think I'll do some consulting. And I'm like, I don't know what that means, but you wanna just do some stuff. I think it was about two years it, it took me a year, like I knew fairly early on that I wanted to focus in on positioning.

'cause that had, that had kind of always been a thing that I was [00:28:00] good at when I was in-house, even. It took me a while to figure out an offering, like something I could do as a consulting project in a repeatable way. And then it took me a while to figure out like, what my ideal customer looked like for that.

Allan Dib: So talk about that. What is your offering? Because I, I'm always fascinated with how other authors and thought leaders kind of monetize their knowledge, what they do, how they deliver it. I, I'd love to know, some do courses, obviously you are an author, you, you obviously do books some do speaking, some do productized services.

So, talk about that a little bit. how do you monetize what you

April Dunford: yeah. So I've been very clear on that since the beginning and I try to keep the main thing, the main thing. So, I do speaking, I have books. I consider those marketing for the main thing like. for speaking, sometimes I get paid, sometimes I don't. I actually don't care because as far as I'm concerned, like I shouldn't be doing that speaking engagement unless there's a possibility for me to sell consulting [00:29:00] services, in which case the consulting services are so much more lucrative than what I could charge for a speaking engagement.

It's, it, it doesn't matter whether they pay me or not. What matters is, is it the right audience for me? Is there a potential business as a result of that speaking engagement? Same thing with books. Like, books are great. But in my business, the books are an introduction to my ideas. And so if you're a company and you're wrestling with positioning or you're wrestling, how to take that positioning and turn it into sales pitch.

You can use my book and lots of companies take my book and self-serve like they solve the problem on their own, and that's great, but the ones that can't solve it. Take the book, attempt to solve it. But what they've got is a tricky thing. Then they come to me and these are the folks that I end up working

Allan Dib: is your only, offering consulting like one One-On-One

April Dunford: Yeah. So, what it is, is I don't actually do positioning for you because I don't actually believe in that. I don't believe that an outside consultant can come in [00:30:00] deeply understand. Like, imagine you run a cybersecurity business and you sell a very specialized cybersecurity thing to say super regulated industry like the government.

Do you honestly believe I'm gonna come in and in a couple of months know more about that than you do and your team and your whatever. And let's say you do 50 million, 60, 70, a hundred million. You really think I'm gonna figure that out better than you? I don't believe that. But what the teams often need is they need an outside perspective as a facilitator, and they need a process to follow to get them to a good outcome.

So that's what I do.

So the work that I do with companies is, you can think of it as a facilitated exercise. So we get a cross-functional team together. I come in as the outside facilitator, the expert, the person that knows what good looks like, so we know when we're good. And then I'm there to facilitate this [00:31:00] cross-functional team and pull the answers out of them.

That's what I'm doing.

And so we work through, in this, little engagement, which is like less than a week. We go in, we work through positioning, then we take that positioning and we translate it into a sales pitch.

Allan Dib: okay, so you're just in and out in, in a week and you are, are essentially facility. Okay.

April Dunford: Now, sometimes they.

keep me around on a retainer as they're doing the backend work.

So there's the work that happens after the workshop to make the positioning live in the sales team and the marketing team. And there's a bunch of work the company has to take on internally to do that. And so often, they'll keep me on a retainer and we'll do a regular call where I'm advising on that.

But other than that, I'm done. And most companies don't keep me on for that, only the really big ones do, because execution is harder when the company's really big. But for the most part, smaller companies I'm in, we do the thing and I'm out. I'm helping them get unlocked on this thing. We get everybody in agreement, [00:32:00] in alignment, and then they're good to go and run with it.

Without me, after I'm gone,

Allan Dib: And are you doing that in person or are you doing that remotely over zoom

April Dunford: could do either one. During Covid, I did them all remotely over Zoom. and even today, if the company's really distributed and they're used to working over Zoom, we just do it over Zoom. But if the company wants to do it face to face, I'll fly to them. We'll do it face to face.

Sometimes they fly to me.

Allan Dib: Nice,

April Dunford: Yeah. come to Toronto. It's nice in Toronto. Yeah. I could give you a good sales pitch on why you need to come to Toronto to do

Allan Dib: I, I've been to Vancouver, I've not been to to RiNo, so,

April Dunford: I know

Allan Dib: visit.

April Dunford: spirit, great. Don't come in January, February too cold. But

Allan Dib: too cold? I hear that. I hear that. Well, I'll, I'll come in summertime.

So is that the only deliverable that you, sell, the only thing that you monetize? Do you do courses? Do you do other, things

April Dunford: Yeah. So people talk a lot about having a lot of streams of revenue and how good that is, and I've dabbled in this [00:33:00] just to see is it worthwhile? So I, did online course and I think I've got two more left of those and then I'm gonna wind it up. But I, I did a test of an online course with a company, and we built the course and we did it.

And it's okay, but it's kind of like, revenue from workshops, revenue from a course,

Allan Dib: yes, yes.

April Dunford: And for the effort that it took to, build it, market it, get it stood up, sell it, all the rest of it, I mean, I could do one workshop and make the equivalent of an entire year's worth online course.

So I never really saw the advantage in doing that. I see people that are monetizing everything, right? Like absolutely everything. Like they have sponsors on their newsletters and sponsors on their podcasts, and they charge for speaking and they just, everything is getting monetized.

But for me, I really focused on monetizing the workshops because I felt like that [00:34:00] was my main offering.

and I think I've done a very good job monetizing that. And then I think I've done a good job of moving up market, essentially, like I used to sell more to smaller companies at quite a low price point.

Now I sell to bigger companies at quite a high price point. And that's been good for me in terms of scaling the business

Allan Dib: and is just yourself or do you have a team doing

helping with the delivery or just you?

April Dunford: which is so great.

Allan Dib: That's incredible.

April Dunford: Like, it's on purpose. Like I ran big teams my whole career when I was in-house, when I decided to go out, I thought, I'm gonna see how big I can make this business just on my own. And, you know, I always had a number in my head if it could be this much, and just me, that would be the dream.

And April's living the dream right now.

Allan Dib: I love that April you are doing business and, I had to use the word thought leadership but thought leadership deliberately, you know, so many people are just, let's try a hundred different things. And, that's something that I fight with every single day.

I am [00:35:00] like, we should launch this product. We should do this, we should do that. And it's just, novelty is just in the DNA of an entrepreneur.

April Dunford: Yes. you know, so I launched this podcast last year 'cause I'd never done a podcast before and I thought I should do a podcast. So I launched this podcast I'm gonna do one season. I did 26 episodes. It was great.

and at the end, numbers are looking really good. It's like a top 2% podcast, everything's looking great. and someone said, well, you should get a sponsor on that because there's good money in podcast sponsorships. And I said, well, I don't know anything about podcast sponsorships, so yeah, let's get to sponsor.

And so then I, called around and I actually had a company reach out to me that has like a little sponsor network and they do a lot of podcasts that I like and respect. And I thought, well, this will be great. So they called me and we had the call and that was great. And I was like, okay, so show me the money, and it was so tiny. It was so tiny. I literally couldn't believe it when they told me the number, [00:36:00] I was like, wait, what? What?

And I was like, well, for the effort it would take now I'd have to cut those ads in and do all that stuff. And for the effort it would take. Do I really wanna monetize this for this puny little thing that, again, compared to my main business, isn't even a rounding error.

Like, no.

Allan Dib: yeah,

April Dunford: But I think some people are like, well, I'll piece together all these tiny little things. But what they don't realize is all those tiny little things are a distraction. Like all those tiny little things are taking the eye off the real prize.

If I had been, well, let's build a newsletter and let's sponsor that and then let's have this podcast and let's, I'll have that sponsored and now I'm locked into all these things that I gotta do for this little dribble of money. And instead I was like, well, let's just make one thing really good

and make a whole bunch of money off that. and then maybe we'll do these other things for fun.

Allan Dib: I think that's really, really cool. I mean, like I said, it's such temptation to do more. And more and more. And,

what I've found [00:37:00] is the best marketers, the best thought leaders just do very, very little. Like, Myself included, I mean, I've got a, a large team. I've got about 12 people in my team, but, and we've got coaches and we've got all of this stuff.

But when I look at what's the stuff that actually makes us money, it's a very small subset. And so, it's just the main thing just often subsidizes the stuff that's peripheral.

how did you go with the podcast in terms of, was it. A useful exercise in terms of, I guess, positioning yourself in building your audience. What were your thoughts about it and why did you decide to stop or have you decided to stop?

April Dunford: Well, so I've decided I'm gonna do season two, and then we'll see what happens after that.

Allan Dib: was it like

April Dunford: I thought it.

Allan Dib: episodes or did you have guests?

April Dunford: I had guests, but not very many. the main conception of this podcast was that, I do a lot of podcasts as a guest, but as a guest you can only get so deep into the concepts of positioning.

And a lot of people would say, oh, I have all these [00:38:00] questions that I wish you would answer on these podcasts, but you know, we never get around to it 'cause we gotta start at the top and work our way down. And so I thought, okay, this is gonna be like a solo thing. Sort of like Huberman. If Huberman was just talking about positioning stuff for tech

companies, So that was the idea. Every week I would pick some gnarly little positioning thing and I would go deep on that, so one week I'd say, Hey, how is positioning different if you're a small company or a big company? Or how is it different if you're in an established market or you're breaking into a new market?

Or how does it work if you have a lot of competitors versus few competitors? Or what happens if a competitor tries to copy your positioning? What should you do? Like all these things that people ask me about. and then occasionally I would have a guest in, but only if I thought they were really good and we could get right down into a gnarly positioning thing.

So I had Bob Mesta on who's. I wanted the architects of jobs to be done and I wanted to talk about the intersection between positioning and jobs theory. And so I thought that [00:39:00] was a really good one. a handful of guests, but mainly it's, you know, it's positioning Geek Town over there, man. And then I got to about episode 26 and I was like. I think I'm done. it was enough. It was kind of when I was planning to watch, so I finished and then I thought, well, maybe I'll do season two.

Maybe I won't. And I thought I'd probably do season two, but I'm gonna have to decide what does season two look like? So I'm now working on season two, and I think it's gonna be a bit more guest because I feel like I've kind of said what I needed to say. There's a handful of things that maybe I could cover as a solo episode.

So I think I'll still do the occasional solo episode and then I'm gonna do some guest. The podcast wasn't as good for bringing in new business as I thought it would be. Like the book, for example, has been very good for bringing in new business. Like people read the book and then they call me.

The podcast on the other hand is, it's been really good for after a customer hires me, like a company, the CEO will call me the CEO [00:40:00] reads, the book calls me, we decide we're gonna do something. And then CEO says to the cross-functional team, Hey, we're gonna get together and do this exercise. This is April.

You should read the book. You team doesn't wanna read the book. 'cause that feels like a lot of work. The team though, will go and listen to the podcast on two x speed while they're out walking the dog or whatever. And that actually works pretty good. So the folks come in, what I get is. The CEO has not listened to the podcast, and that's the person that hires me.

But the team has, so when we go in to do the exercise, the team is well, you said this thing on the podcast, and that's actually really good. So I didn't see that at the beginning, but I did see it over time. At the beginning I thought the podcast was a total waste of

Allan Dib: I've definitely found a podcast as more of a middle of funnel type of,

marketing. I mean, can definitely bring stuff into the middle into the top of funnel, but

I found it's

definitely more of a middle of funnel thing. so

many times I'll, I'll someone say, Hey, I saw this interview that you did on this [00:41:00] such and such podcast or whatever, and it's usually when someone's googling you for something, for speaking, for a podcast interview

April Dunford: found that guesting has been very good front to funnel stuff for me. Depending on the audience, like depending on the podcast. But I've gotten a lot of calls from CEOs that are like, I heard you on so and so's podcast, and then I read your book and then now I'm calling you. So I thought that running my own podcast would be good for that, but it has not been at all.

It's interesting. So we'll see. Like I'm, committed to doing season two, but I think I'm gonna space it out a little. Like, I also found doing one every week was exhausting and maybe too much, and maybe too much content for people. And so I know everybody says, you gotta do it weekly, blah, blah, blah.

But again, I think a lot of people are trying to build an audience to get this sponsorship thing, which in my opinion is crazy. And so I don't care about that. I actually have business reasons to have this podcast. I want people to listen to it for other reasons. So I don't think I [00:42:00] need one every week.

I think I'm gonna go every second week or maybe even only do one when I feel like there's something to talk about. Because people

Allan Dib: episodes,

April Dunford: thing all at once.

Allan Dib: For your solo episodes, do you like plan it all out, have an outline and all that? Or do you just switch on the camera and riff

April Dunford: I usually have an outline, like for a solo episode, I'll pick the topic and I'll kind of rough out a set of bullet points, and then I just go I don't write a full script.

Allan Dib: Yeah.

Yeah. should though.

No, I mean, do, do what works for you? I'm trying to, I'm

trying to figure out a good cadence for my own podcast. That's the reason I'm

asking. Probably most of the questions I'm asking are, are selfish, because I wanna know, how does

April Dunford: Yeah.

Allan Dib: run their

April Dunford: Yeah. I mean,

I had a lot of fun with the podcast too, which I think does count for something like, I think content that you're having fun with, you'll do more of it. But it was fun at the beginning and at the end it started to feel like work, like it started to feel like, oh man, like I'm doing this again, but.

Allan Dib: Yeah. Yeah. That's cool. And then I'd [00:43:00] love to know a little bit about your thoughts around price.

Like where does price come into the whole equation? Because I mean, price itself, I mean, something can be the exact same product and just be price completely differently and that

immediately changes the positioning.

And in some weird circumstances I've found raising the price raises demand, which is opposite what most of

April Dunford: exactly.

Allan Dib: us.

April Dunford: Now that's a smart thing to say because it is true. I do think price is an indicator of something, right? And so a lot of times companies will say to me, oh, well, we could just drop the price and sell more. But what they're not thinking about is what the price represents. If the price is lower, there's different expectations with that.

Like in in enterprise software, you don't want the price to be too low because it will communicate that the thing is not ready for enterprises. Right. So there'll be this idea that, well, it can't really, we're a big company here and something that cheap, you're not gonna be able to support us.

It's not gonna have the [00:44:00] customization we want. It's not gonna have the scalability we want. It's not gonna have the thing, it's look at it, it's 10 bucks. so I think there's that. I think if what you're doing is, a premium thing for big enterprises, the pricing should reflect that.

Now, sometimes we have issues in terms of comparables. So if you're always getting compared to these two or three companies, your price should probably be in that ballpark. If it's not, there's gonna be a question and you're gonna have to answer it. So you might decide, well, we're gonna price it above that.

But if, as long as we have an answer for it and say, look, the pricing is like this because the span of what we do is broader or deeper or, we include a bunch of things that they don't, and they'll charge for you extra or whatever. If you can explain it, then you can justify the higher price. But if you're gonna go lower than everybody else, there's a question in that too, [00:45:00] I think especially in enterprise software, well, why is it so low?

And you might have a good explanation for that too, that you'll say, you know what? Those other guys are gouging you. And we do this in a different way. We're more efficient with it. We take this approach and because we take this approach, we can actually do that for you in a more cost effective way than the other guys do, because they do it differently.

So I think you can get away with things on your pricing, but you have to be ready to justify it. Otherwise, the expectation is your price is gonna be more or less like the other guys we're selling on value here. The price doesn't really matter. In enterprise, the price often isn't the sticking point. Like as long as you're in the ballpark with everybody else, it's fine.

The real sticking point is, all the change management that goes with adopting this thing, all of the, everybody's gonna have to learn how to do something different. Everybody's gonna have to stop doing the thing they're doing now and doing that, and that is really expensive internally.

And then yeah, the price of the software

Allan Dib: [00:46:00] Uh,

price is one of the biggest mindset shifts I've had to work with clients on to really get their head around. And couple of things that I often communicate is price is just an idea, right? So in almost every industry, there are people who are at the low end of the spectrum, at the extreme low end, and people at the high extreme.

And there's a huge spectrum in between.

And the other thing that is important is price is a signal and often a signal of quality. if a Rolls Royce sold for the price of a ho and die it would not be attractive to its

current target market. Part of what makes a Rolls Royce attractive to the current target market is what it takes to get one, what it represents.

The fact that it's often, it's a trophy essentially. It's not really a car.

April Dunford: Yeah. And I think people need to think about the value of the thing that they're delivering. Like often, again, if we're thinking about consulting services, the mistake that people make is they're in this hourly mindset, I charge this much per hour and this thing takes me this many [00:47:00] hours to do.

Therefore it costs that much. And I just think that's the wrong way to think about it. Somebody who's very, very experienced at something can do it in a shorter amount of time, and the quality is way higher. Then, some junior person who's gonna take longer. Should the junior person be charging more?

No. This is all backwards. So I think all what we have to look at is what is the impact on the business, and

can we justify the pricing that we've got?

my early days being a consultant, like I had no idea how to price my services because there just wasn't anybody out there doing what I did.

And so I didn't know how to price it. the competitive comparable for me was, let's do it internally. But most of these companies had been thrashing around on their positioning for years. Like they didn't know how much their positioning cost or didn't cost, and so.

How do I price this thing? And if I looked at it hourly, like that would be ridiculous. I'm selling this very specialized thing that there's a handful of people on the [00:48:00] planet that could talk intelligently about obviously I'm not, it's not an hourly work we're talking about here, but at the beginning I didn't know.

And so I started at a low price 'cause it was easy to sell. And then I just kept putting the price up. But I had things like, at one point I was selling a specific concept of a workshop to a company. and I got the guy on the phone and we're having a conversation about it.

We're having a really good conversation. He likes my stuff and whatever. And then he says, well, how much does it cost? And at the time, this particular thing offering, I had, at the time it was $15,000. and I said, is 15,000? And he said 50. And I said. Yeah. And he said, okay, can we do it next week?

And I was like, man, I'm under charging for this shit.

Allan Dib: Totally. Totally. I love that. I love that.

April Dunford: I couldn't believe it. He said, he said 50 and I was about to correct him. And then I thought, let's just go with that. And I said, yeah, 50. And he says, well, can we [00:49:00] do it next week? Like how long would it be for? And then we just got into negotiating when we were gonna do it and I was like, oh man, I'm thinking about this all wrong.

Allan Dib: And if he had said 15, he might have thought, wow, it is weird. She's very cheap. I wonder if I've got

April Dunford: exactly. It would've been embarrassing at that point to come back and say, no, no, actually 15. so anyways, at the beginning I had a hard time getting my head around. What to charge. The other thing is that, in the early days, I was thinking that my competition was an agency because a lot of little marketing agencies would say like agencies that did branding and your website and messaging stuff, they would say they did positioning too. But what they're really doing is they'd come to the company and they'd ask you what the positioning is who should target market and what should you know? And they would just write it down. But they would call that positioning but I thought I was competing with that. And so there were agencies out there that would do this positioning for couple thousand bucks kind of thing. And so I thought I was positioning against that, [00:50:00] but then as I got working with companies that were slightly bigger, like they were working with agencies that were charging hundreds of thousands of dollars, and it was this big long six month thing. and I thought, well, I'm really different than that.

And, and so I think I assumed my competition was one thing when it turned out it was actually something else. And then now I'm working with quite big companies and they're comparing me to like, McKinsey and Bain and, and what those guys cost.

So, you know, some days I feel like my stuff's kind of expensive, but I actually think it's remarkably good value.

Like I think I could charge more if I wanted to, and maybe someday the price will go up.

Allan Dib: Well, that's the best place to be, to be expensive and, good value.

April Dunford: Yeah, I think it's good value. Like it depends on the size of the company. Like, I like to publish the price because then I don't have to negotiate the price. Like I just say everybody pays the same and it's this which is maybe a mistake. And at this point the thing I'm doing is the same [00:51:00] whether your bigger company, smaller companys the same, but I think at the price point I'm at right now, it's probably too low for the big guys and too high for the little guys.

And so, I'm considering doing a fork on the pricing and having an offering for the, a slightly different offering for the smaller ones, a slightly different offering for the bigger ones. But the problem is I'm all booked up. Like it's not if I do that, then I'm just gonna have more pipeline.

And as it is right now, people have to wait a quarter or so to get on my calendar and I'm like, do I really wanna, I'm not really trying to open the funnel anymore here, so I don't know.

Allan Dib: Well, you, you're doing something right. For sure.

So part of your marketing it's the book, obviously podcast

season that you've done. Are you doing anything else?

April Dunford: like the book are the main thing. I do a lot of podcasts, like guests like this, and then, my own podcast when it gets restarted again for season two. I have a newsletter that I'm not very focused on, but occasionally I would say once every two or three weeks I'm inspired to write something and then I'll write that.

So I've got, I don't know, 20,000 [00:52:00] subscribers or something to that. And then I used to do a lot more stuff on social media. I'd say the only social media channel I'm active on anymore is LinkedIn.

Allan Dib: Hmm.

April Dunford: So I do a little bit on LinkedIn and I don't know,

Allan Dib: it's such a good lesson because like I said in the beginning, so many people are loud on all these channels, doing

tons of content, doing tons of things, and. Over and over. The best marketers I speak to, the people who are oversubscribed, who are booked up, are doing one or two things, but

doing them at a really high level, doing them consistently.

And I think that's such a good lesson for everyone because a lot of people feel like you've just gotta be omnipresent

everywhere, on every single channel. and it's just not the case.

April Dunford: Yeah. It's hard. Like you wear yourself out. And there's some channels that I just think, they're not my people. Like I don't think the CEOs of big tech companies are on TikTok.

Allan Dib: Totally.

April Dunford: I think like I could do TikTok, and similarly, I don't think they don't tend to find my stuff on YouTube, although there's lots of my stuff is [00:53:00] floating around YouTube, although I've not committed to doing YouTube as a channel.

But when I had the podcast, I was posting that stuff on YouTube. The same with Instagram. My folks don't seem to find me on Instagram. That's not a thing. And so I've dabbled in these other channels, but it doesn't seem to be worth it to focus on them. I used to do quite a bit of stuff on Twitter, but Twitter really changed.

And so now it's, doesn't work as well for me as it did back in the day. so then I've switched a bit more to LinkedIn. LinkedIn's got its own specific things, but people do seem to read the stuff on LinkedIn,

Allan Dib: Yeah, Yeah, I found LinkedIn good. I've only just gotten sort of back into LinkedIn and started being a little bit more active on it. I think it's important that people think about not only audience numbers, but the value of the audience. And in my experience,

the most valuable audiences are, book readers.

the next most would be probably people listening to podcasts. And

then after that would be probably LinkedIn people. So especially in, a space like what we operate in.

April Dunford: [00:54:00] Well, that's it. And I think people get really, hung up on the number like, number of followers. When I was active on Twitter I didn't have very many followers. I think I had 20,000, 30,000 followers. I actually couldn't even tell you.

But it wasn't that many, it's not like hundreds of thousands of followers, like nobody would've said, oh, she's got some big following on, Twitter. But when I launched my first book, I sold a lot of books from Promoing. That thing on Twitter. I had a not very big following, but they were very engaged and they were the right people.

I think I have sort of the same thing going on in LinkedIn right now. I don't think it's a very big number. But I'm not trying to just get anybody following me, so I'm not out there. People are out there posting memes and all kinds of things like this, and I think that's fine. If that's your jam and that's what you wanna do, do it.

But I think you get a certain kind of follower when you post a lot of content like that, which is great and maybe for your ego and your numbers, and maybe it expands your reach. but I've been always kind of focused on, I got a certain kind of [00:55:00] follower that makes me money.

And I, need those people. So everything I'm posting is aimed at those people. I'm not trying to get anybody else. Just those people.

Allan Dib: I love your focus and I love how deliberate you are about everything, so you're not

just throwing spaghetti against the wall and I mean, it's great for your own positioning obviously. So I think that's fantastic.

April Dunford: it would be bad if my own

Allan Dib: That would be embarrassing. April. Thank you so much. You've been incredibly generous with your time, with your knowledge. Everybody should read your book. Well, maybe not everybody, but everybody who wants better positioning, everybody who wants a better sales pitch.

We didn't talk much about your sales pitch book, but it's an great extension of your positioning book.

Both are excellent reads, easy to read and so the books are obviously awesome and sales pitch. April. Thank you so much.

April Dunford: Hey well, thanks so much for having me. It's been great.