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How to win the game of positioning

Welcome to today’s issue of Conversion Alchemy Journal. If you received this from a friend and enjoy it, subscribe here.

Your prospects don’t want your product.

You might think that’s about the features and the benefits (and it is), but before they look at those, you’re likely missing a step.

It’s about positioning, but not the way most people think about it.

When your customers are considering you and the myriad of alternatives out there, especially in software, the first thing they think about is what category you belong to.

Are you a project management tool? An ERP? A CRM?

The category you identify with helps prospects narrow down their options. And the better you’re able to match their expectations of what your category is, the more of them you’ll convert into customers.

But often, identifying with a category is not enough. There’s never enough data or features that could help you stand out.

You have to define the game you’re playing, too.

Your ideal prospects are cheering for your brand

Scott Adams in his book “Reframe your brain” helped me understand this subtle but powerful idea with what he calls “Team instinct”:

As a civilization, we waste immense energy debating people who are not open to being persuaded. They probably have the same problem when debating you. Once people join a team, they will hallucinate any argument they need to help that team “win.”

Social media exacerbated the problem by gamifying team play. If you make a post that is popular with your followers, they reward you with reposts and likes. It’s addicting and pulls us away from reason and compromise. Once you see how powerful the team instinct is, you soon realize debate that appeals to reason and data is useless.

You’re in the wrong game. The other side is not trying to win the argument, they’re trying to win the game. And winning the game often means making ridiculous arguments that make your team clap like seals no matter how absurd you are.

In other words, your positioning and category should work together to clearly convey what your “team” is all about and what game you’re playing.

A few examples:

HR management:

  • Positioning: “The HR platform for remote teams”
  • Category: Beyond just being a tool for HR management, this SaaS positions itself as the essential solution for companies with remote or hybrid teams, emphasizing features like time zone synchronization, remote hiring integration, and virtual team-building activities.
  • Game: They are playing in the globalization of the workforce, helping companies to manage and engage employees regardless of location. This game is all about remote work culture and values.

Cybersecurity compliance:

  • Positioning: “Cybersecurity compliance made easy for fintech startups”
  • Category: Tailored specifically for fintech companies, this SaaS simplifies the complex landscape of cybersecurity regulations and compliance requirements, offering guided workflows and automated compliance tracking.
  • Game: The focus is on empowering fintech startups to navigate regulatory landscapes efficiently, positioning them to focus more on innovation and less on compliance logistics. This game is all about getting things done and no BS.

Financial analytics:

  • Positioning: “Real-time financial insights for non-finance founders”
  • Category: This product isn’t just another financial analytics tool; it is specifically designed for founders and entrepreneurs who lack a finance background, with simplified dashboards and jargon-free explanations.
  • Game: Their game is democratization of financial data, making complex financial insights accessible and actionable for non-experts. This game is about translating complex into simple.

See, when you think in terms of Positioning, Category and Game, you start seeing how often the idea of associating with your team and winning the game, is more compelling at first for prospects, than getting feature X or desired outcome Y.

Those are still important once you’re on their radar, but to lure them in you have to make them part of your team first.

It’s what cults do.

Just make sure you don’t create mass hysteria or put anyone in danger you know…

Do you have other examples that come to mind?

📚 3 things to get better at copywriting

Video: The clearest thinker I’ve heard

This episode of Lenny’s Podcast with Hubspot’s founder Dharmesh Shah is a goldmine of nuggets. I loved his approach to decision-making, how he communicates priorities with his “flashtags” and his super geeky system for improving public speaking skills. All fodder to become an overall world class communicator, thinker and yes, copywriter. I can honestly say Dharmesh is one of the clearest thinkers I’ve ever heard (maybe why he’s also a billionaire?).

video preview

Article: How to jailbreak AI

Recent studies show that the more LLMs context windows (the amount of data they can process and remember) expand, the more at risk these AIs are of being hacked. This article by the team behind Claude AI, goes into one of these vulnerabilities, “many-shot jailbreaking”.

It’s an even more prescient reminder that AI is subject to and gives us better results when we have a conversation with it. Think “conversation engineering”, not “prompt engineering”.

Just don’t use it for evil stuff.

Swipe file: Video ads that don’t feel like ads

This week I got hooked by the guys at One Peak Creative from one of their IG ads. Take a look at some of the other ones on their page, they’re so good, they’re addictive. What’s best, they don’t feel like ads.


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✅ Don’t miss it

Episode 10 of The Message-Market Fit podcast is out!

I had an amazing chat with Foti Panagiotakopoulos, founder at Growth Mentor. Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • How Foti transitioned from finance to growth marketing and founded Growth Mentor
  • The power of building relationships and learning from conversations with experienced mentors
  • The importance of reciprocity and mentorship in personal and professional growth
  • How adding friction can lead to better engagement and customer experiences
  • Personalized onboarding questions and how they enhance user engagement
  • How to set expectations and utilize microcopy to guide users through your product
  • Ways to leverage FAQs and user feedback for continuous product improvement
  • How to build a “Friend Factory”

And way way more.

Check it out here, wherever you listen to podcasts or on Youtube. And if you find it valuable, would you consider subscribing and leaving a rating? 🙏

Quick ask…

I’ve spent the past 3 months interviewing 30+ PMMs, CMOs, founders and agency owners for my podcast.

I’d love to share what I’ve learned on those chats and from my work with clients on everything messaging, copywriting and AI on other podcasts.

If you host one in B2B SaaS or know anyone who does, I’d love an intro 😊 (feel free to email chris@conversionalchemy.net).

🤔 Thought of the week

“The foundation of maturity: Just because it’s not your fault doesn’t mean it’s not your responsibility.”

Kevin Kelly, Excellent Advice for Living

Fixing someone else’s mess is never fun. But when you’re abundant enough to take ownership and carry that burden, something clicks. You’re no longer a slave to your ego.

Have a great weekend!

Chris Silvestri

Founder, Conversion Alchemy

🙌🏻 Let’s be friends (unless you’re a stalker)

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Every week I write about what I’m learning at my copywriting/UX desk ,with fun, insightful and quirky stories.

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