Positioning: Embrace Your Inner Black Sheep
April 2013

Huffington Post
By Peter Sheahan 

I'd venture a guess that if I referred to Don Draper in everyday conversation, you would probably know who I was talking about. It appears our world has gone mad for AMC's Mad Men, and in the process we like to believe that we have all come to so intimately know the world of advertising. Given our recently obtained expertise in the industry, it wouldn't surprise any of you if I said that some of the best agencies were in New York City, Los Angeles, and Tulsa, Oklahoma. Right?

I can envision your furrowed brows as you read this. Tulsa, Oklahoma?

Yes. Tulsa, Oklahoma. Let me introduce you to Littlefield Brand Development, another case study from my recent research. As far as they are concerned, an agency can have the fanciest office suite on Madison Avenue and it won't matter if they can't create an effective message. They built their business, and reputation, around a simple concept:

It doesn't matter how well you say the wrong thing.

As such, they've dedicated themselves to helping clients articulate the right thing to say for their brand or business - they call it The One Thing, and it usually involves a healthy dose of science and art. Littlefield prides itself on its strategic, thought leadership approach in serving clients. They don't sell themselves through who they deliver to or where they are located. They eliminate the superficial distractions and focus solely on whatthey deliver.

In reality, it is likely their location that has enabled them to be so great. To emerge from the crowd they literally never joined it - opting to build roots in a geographic region not exactly famous for attracting advertising business. As a result, though, they've been able to capture the business of all the companies in that region needing high-quality branding. And boy can they deliver. What makes them different is the market they choose to serve, and it has made them the big fish in the pond.

As the VP of Brand Strategy Laurie Tilley put it when I asked her about not moving to be near all of the other national agencies, "great work and great thinking can happen anywhere." And for Littlefield, it happens to bewhere they are doing that great work that is making them so successful. It is their point of difference.

This isn't intermediate school anymore where conformity is the goal. At this stage in the game, sameness is like the plague. It also gets back to my point a few weeks ago that being everything to everyone gets you nowhere; you've got to know who you are and design your strategy around it. What you are hiding could be your most compelling point of difference, so it's time to really figure out what makes you stand out from the rest. When it comes down to it, what makes you so special?

The concept seems basic, but it is oh so crucial, and honestly one of the hardest segments on our journey to making it happen. So ask yourself:

- How is your offer truly different?
- How can you communicate this difference to the market?
- Better still, how can you communicate this difference to the market in way that itself is unique and shows off that difference?

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and Peter Sheahan on the topic of Making It Happen in Small Business, focused on turning those with the ideas into those with the influence.

About Littlefield
Based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Littlefield Agency has been helping regional and national companies grow their brands and businesses since 1980.