How We Solve

Marvin Liao

Podcast, Positioning

Ep 29: How to Position Yourself as a Professional or a Startup with Marvin Liao

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Ep 29: How to Position Yourself as a Professional or a Startup with Marvin Liao

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Problem: How to position yourself as a professional or a startup?

How do you make yourself stand out in the crowd, when there is a sea of competitors, vying for the attention of the same market as yourself? What makes you stand out in the crowd? 

When you’re trying to establish your position, you need to find out where you or your business stands in terms of the market you are seeking. Marvin compares this experience to be in a red ocean versus a blue ocean. 

  • Red Ocean

A red ocean is filled to the brim with the competition. In a situation like this, the market is clearly defined, as are the problems within that market. People in the industry and in the business world know where the parameters are.

If you’re in a red ocean versus a blue ocean, like, lots of competition. Usually, a situation like that, you’re usually talking about, like, everyone sort of knows what the problem is and everybody sort of knows what the market is and how big the market is and what you’re doing, right? 

  • Blue Ocean

In a blue ocean, there is no competition. As a professional or a startup, you’ll have to set the parameters and the landscape. You will have to define the market.

They were in a blue ocean, so, like, no competition. So they had to define, actually, what the market is. Right? Like, this is what the market is. This is what the comparable landscape is.

How to solve this problem:

1. Understand whether you’re in a red versus blue ocean environment.

Is the category known or is it unknown?

2. Describe who the customers are and what the product is.

Maybe about 20% of the companies I meet are in a blue ocean.

3. Observe what your customers are doing now

And, what are the tools and hacks they’re using to solve the problem [that your product solves]?

4. How do you define it as a category?

If it is an unknown category, how do you define it in a way that is easy to understand?

5. Do the investigative work to find out more about your market base.

The best entrepreneurs and the best startup founders are basically private investigators. You’re trying to use as many tactics and techniques as you can to figure out what the truth is. Or in this case, what the market truth is.  

Analysis Paralysis

There is a balance between doing the investigative work to make sure you know what to do and for who. However, don’t get stuck in analysis paralysis where you only do the research and feel as though you can’t make a decision. 

Manager vs. Maker

When we all first start, we’re basically makers. We build, we code, and we don’t like a lot of interruptions. However, as time goes on, your organization builds up around you. This is when you have to switch gears. You must turn into the manager. You must manage the team, customers, etc. When you are a manager, you won’t have as much time for the deep work, like you did when you were the maker. 

But you have to do both. Both are important, right? So how do you manage your calendar [to accommodate both types of tasks]?

As an entrepreneur, you must understand that you need to do both (be a maker and a manager). Schedule your time with that in mind. 

1. Be organized with these tasks. Schedule and build a routine.

2. Schedule large blocks of time for your manager and maker duties, so you don’t get interrupted.

3. Be respectful of other people’s time as well as your own.

Resources that Marvin recommends

Marvin Liao enthusiastically recommends a slew of books for entrepreneurs in all stages:

Different: Escaping the Competitive Herd, by Youngme Moon

This interview is part of the How We Solve podcast. To hear more from industry experts who are solving everyday business problems, check us out on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and on our website.

About the guest

Marvin Liao

Marvin was formerly a Partner at Venture Capital Fund 500 Startups, running the SF based accelerator program as well as investing in Seed stage startups. Marvin presently serves on the boards/advisory boards of several internet advertising and ad technology companies across the globe and is a frequent speaker at many Digital Marketing & Tech Startup Conferences.

How people can people reach Marvin:

Twitter: @MarvinLiao

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