FS 258: Positioning, Outcomes, and States of Market Awareness

Panelists Philip Morgan, Jonathan Stark, and Reuven Lerner lead the discussion this week. They discuss Positioning, Outcomes, and States of Market Awareness. Tune in to learn more about these three topics!

What does this mean?

Jonathan explains the specifics of positioning outcomes by reading from an email he recently received. He talks about pitching to the wrong audience and using activities as key points instead of outcomes of the services offered. He uses the analogy of a website that sells drills and the headline. He points out that the headline on the website should not say, "So you need a drill?" Instead it should say, "So you need to hang a picture?" Sometimes buyers don't understand what outcomes a tool or service can provide and they are often looking for the outcomes. If they do not understand the tool, it's impossible for them to connect the availability of the tool to the outcome they are looking for. In some cases talking about the action or tool is valuable but in most cases, speaking in terms of how you are an input to a process helps sell. 

Technology specialists are bad at positioning the outcome. 

Many developers will sell themselves as developers with a particular language and results in commoditization. To sell yourself as an outlier, you have to talk about the business and outcomes of the work you do. Also, the life of specific technology can be short and selling yourself as an expert in a specific tech isn't as long lasting as selling yourself as someone who yields positive outcomes.  

Timing of the Technology can come into play. 

In some cases you'll want to describe yourself as a developer in a particular language or framework. If you notice a large demand for someone who is an expert developer for a language, then it would be appropriate to sell yourself as that person first and foremost. Many cases the employer isn't as concerned about the framework or language but is looking to have something done. Over time, emerging languages will create demand and over time will be in less demand. 

States of Market Awareness

Knowing what your audience is thinking in terms of what they are looking for helps to position yourself correctly. The states of market awareness describes the different awareness types that you may be in regards to your understanding of what the audience is thinking and your audiences knowledge of your product. There are five states to market awareness.

First State – “Most Aware”

Describes the customer knowing of your product, knowing what it does, and knowing that they want it. For example, something like a telephone, broom, or an air conditioner falls under this category. Customers that are “most Aware” will spend time comparative shopping but mostly know what they are going to get. Many people will positions themselves as if the customer knows exactly what they need to solve their issue.  

Second State – “Customer knows of your product but does not yet know they want it."

This describes awareness where marketing has successfully informed the client or customer what the product is but hasn't been told how well it does what it does. In some cases it's down to the conditions the customer is in. In those cases, something hasn't created a demand in their situation to want to approach this product. 

Third State – "Knows or recognizes immediately what the problem is, but doesn't know that there is a product that fixes it." 

Often a customer will have an issue, know it's an issue, and would want something to fix the issue, but doesn't know where to go to purchase that item or service. For example, a customer is running an ad campaign and knows that it is being run poorly, but the customer doesn't know whom to go to optimize it. Often this works out for the customer by either accidentally finding a solution or reaching out to find one. Finding someone who sells himself or herself as someone who solves that particular issue often creates an immediate connection. Sometimes with this state, the value of a diagnosis is as great if not greater than the service or product itself. 

Fourth State – "The prospect does not have a desire but has a need." 

This is when a person recognizes the need immediately and does not recognize the connection between the fulfillment of that need and your product. This is when a person does not know your product matches his needs.

Fifth State – "Is not aware of his desire or need or will not admit to it."

This category tends to be a red flag where the salesperson or marketing department spends most of his or her energy convincing the customer that they actually do want the product instead of the value of the product. The example of 'Pilling the dog' is brought up to illustrate the overall experience the customer or client has in this state of awareness. Often the salesperson or marketing will seemingly force their suggestion of need onto the customer and this generally leads to a bad experience. 

Marketing Successfully

If you pitch to the wrong state of awareness your marketing will be ineffective. The customer won’t know or understand how to evaluate their problem. Software developers usually talk over customers’ heads. HR Departments can be the blame for it being difficult to know how to market to customers. Resumes are a form of marketing, which causes people to think of themselves in terms of feature lists.

More opportunity exists in a middle state of awareness. A consumer knows the problem but they have not decided upon the solution already. Talk about yourself less in terms of outcomes in order to be the most successful. There needs to be a target market you know you are selling to first. It is difficult to understand how what you do is important unless you know whom you are selling to. A question to ask is, “how would their business be worse if they didn’t hire you?”


Worth is not objective: it is always within a context. In order to know your worth, you have to know your audience. Who are you selling your craft or product to? The value of something is different to people. The example of a car is used. Someone may ask, “how much is this car worth?” But the question that really is being asked is, “How much am I likely to get from a dealer for this?”

The Gardener Hype Cycle

When a technology is brand new, there is an increase in excitement and interest. While there is excitement, there is no demand. This is depicted by an image of a hockey stick pointing up and to the right. It eventually peaks because of the earlier hype. Then, early expectations are seen as being hyperbole. Eventually, there is a bounce back and excitement stabilizes as it becomes a mature technology and is viewed as more realistic. While it bounces back, excitement doesn’t ever reach the peak of the initial hype.


Some advice to freelancers is to know where you are in the states of awareness, know your market, and the clients you are selling to. You should be good at your craft. But you should be cautious and know that it does not take you far. Being good is only part of the package. In order to be successful, have to have more than skills. Need to be current with your craft (keep up with new tools), improve the client’s condition, and have an ability to create change for your clients.



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