How to Find Undiscovered (Yet Profitable) Niches

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Louis: What do you say when you talk to founders, CEOs, who basically tell you that, you know, positioning is just a marketing thingy, exercise that they want to give to their marketing guy, marketing intern, marketing CMO, whatever.

Emily: I would tell them that they just don't fucking get it. It's like telling the nurse at the hospital to name your baby.

Like, you don't do that. If you're the CEO of a company, I mean, this is, it's not actually just the company's identity that you're going to be possibly changing and in a positioning exercise. This is part of your identity.

Louis: Bonjour, bonjour and welcome. To another episode of Everyone Hates Marketers. com, the no-fluff actionable marketing podcast for people sick of marketing bullshit, I'm your host, Louis Grenier.

In today's episode, you will learn the story of a positioning consultant who multiplied her fees by five, thanks to her unique specialization. My guest today has very curly hair. She speaks six languages and her late husband, Skeleton, is now at the Art Students League of New York. So the students can study artistic anatomy from its bones.

Yes. She's willing to show that publicly. I love it, but that's not why we're here. She helps a certain type of startup founders grow their businesses. And this is the story of how. She chose that positioning, Emily Omier, welcome aboard.

Emily: Thank you so much for having me.

Louis: Are you proud of the way I've pronounced your last name?

Emily: Yes, it was awesome.

Louis: Yeah, I made it the French as I could. So before we talk about your actual specialty, what do you say when you talk to founders, CEOs, who basically tell you that, you know, positioning, is just a marketing thingy exercise that they want to give to their marketing guy, marketing intern, CMO, whatever.

Emily: I would tell them that they just don't fucking get it. I mean, if you're the CEO of a company and you're telling like, it's like telling the nurse at the hospital to name your baby like you don't do that.

If you're the CEO of a company, I mean, this is, it's not actually just the company's identity that you're going to be possibly changing and in a positioning exercise, this is part of your identity, right? When you go to a cocktail party and somebody says like, Hey, this, this company that you're building, what's it all about?

Like, how are you going to answer them? Are you really going to just tell your marketing team that they're in charge of figuring that out? No, you're an idiot if you do. The other thing is that positioning isn't just, it's not just a marketing exercise. So if your marketing team decides on your positioning, do they have the authority to go tell your product team?

Hey guys, this is what we're doing now. Get on board. Can they go tell the sales team, Hey, this is what we're doing, go change your pitch deck. I want to review it and make sure that it's in line with our new positioning. So chances are that your marketing team is going to get laughed out of town if they try to do that.

So if you want to get positioning right, you need to, it's part of it is getting alignment between everybody that's in your company. And that means it needs to come from the CEO. And if we're talking startup land, which is where I work, it means all the founders have to be on board and they need to be the ones that are running the exercise.

Louis: I think that analogy you just gave is perfect. You don't ask the nurse to name your baby. That's actually probably, it needs to go in the title somewhat or in the thumbnail. And I'm already making notes because that's so true, right? So I'm going to share a quick story. When I was working for Hotjar, I was really into positioning differentiation and all of that already, like product marketing, whatever you want to call it, this is what happened multiple times.

So we had an initial positioning that worked extremely well, that was about all-in-one analytics and feedback. But, the analytics sort of started to become loaded with like analytics was web analytics was Google analytics. And it was quite confusing because Hotjar was a compliment to that, not a replacement.

And I think we did two or three times try to like repositioning and me spending a lot of time on it and doing research or whatever. But the CEO, even though he understood positioning and marketing better than anyone else and his business better than anyone else, wasn't that involved, right? It was kind of a weird fucking situation. And yes, the biggest struggle was to actually communicate that new positioning to the entire team. And it took us so, so long to be able to do it, but it worked, right? So we managed to reposition it from all-in-one analytics and feedback to be like behavior analytics. And to say that we basically give you data that Google Analytics can't give you, and so that works well, but fuck yeah, I wouldn't advise anyone to go that route.

The founder needs to own it for sure. And if they don't, you're giving a massive, massive headache to your, whoever is in charge, like it's just a fucking huge headache.

Emily: I mean, you're kind of setting them up to fail. If you're telling a marketing team to own the positioning because they can't, they don't have control over everything that goes into the company's positioning.

What can work is you have the CEO and the founders involved and you have the marketing person or team, usually like a person acting like a facilitator, almost like you're using your marketing person in the same way that somebody would work like a consultant with me, like work with me as a consultant.

That can work. Then it's just the marketing team. It's like, we're going through this exercise together. We've got everyone in our team together. I'm facilitating it, but we're doing this. As a team, what doesn't work is like, Hey, marketing people go figure this out and then like come back with the answer and yeah, come back with the answer and like design an email sequence sequence around it.

Like that's a failure.

Louis: Yeah, like usually what works the best is when you get people involved from the very beginning. And by people, I mean representatives from every single department, especially customer-facing ones. So if you have a sales team, if you have customer success or customer service or customer support, whatever you want to call it, anyone who's directly speaking to people every day alongside decision makers, like CEOs or whatever, and not coming in from, this is a marketing meeting or not coming in with answers that are already there.

But really coming in from a place of let's learn from each other. Like what do you hear the most? What do people love the most about us? What do they hate? How do they call? How do they describe the tool to others or whatever it is, etc, etc... And then, then it's easier, right?

Emily: Yep. So this is exactly what I tell people.

Because this is like when I'm talking to a potential client. Like the number one question, who has to be there? And two things, anybody who can sabotage the result.

Louis: Will.

Emily: This, this means all, all founders have to be there. But if you have like a really key person on your team who could sabotage the positioning, they must participate in the repositioning exercise.

Louis: How do you know, how do you recognize folks who might sabotage?

Emily: Well, there's a difference between somebody who might sabotage and somebody who could sabotage.

Louis: Okay. So let's do both.

Emily: Yeah. So honestly, if you have somebody who really, you really think is likely to sabotage this project, like, why are they still part of your team?

I mean, I guess if they're one of your founders, like that, that's a problem, but hopefully, you don't have anybody on your team who you think is likely to sabotage a new strategic initiative. However, there are certain people who could, if they wanted to sabotage the positioning. And those are people, well, they're all the founders.

If you have more than one founder, there are also people who are in charge of major areas. So like, if you have a, VP of marketing, for example, that person can be like, Hey, I fucking don't like, this new positioning is garbage. We're just like, fuck that. We're not, we're not doing that. And I'm going to tell everyone who's below me that, that this is bullshit.

That person, that means that they need to be part of the process so that they're bought in. Same with, you know, so a VP of marketing, or I should say a CMO, whoever's your top marketing person, whoever's your top sales person, whether it's VP of sales or whatever you call them, your product person in the type of companies that I work with, whoever's leading engineering is also really important.

So yeah, it's, it's really just like the top, the top person in the hierarchy of all your major business areas.

Louis: So this is clearly a strong opinion that you have a strong point of view about positioning and why the founder needs to have it and to own it and all the stuff we discuss. So is there a particular event story, in your career that created this, you know, the villain story almost like what, what created this point of view is so strong? What happened to you?

Emily: I will tell you that this thing that started pushing me, there, there was an event that pushed me to go from what I was doing before, which was more like, Content writing, marketing, communication, to working with companies on positioning.

And this is related because we had done this project, it was writing a white paper and designing this whole white, this whole campaign around this white paper. I had worked with the VP of marketing at this company and then she, we're like getting ready to finalize this project and she takes it to the CEO.

And the CEO was like, dude, this is not like, this is not what we want to say. And then he sends an email with like all the, you know, the company's point of view, and it's like a one 80 from what this marketing person had communicated. And I was like, holy shit. Your guy's problem is not about like, we need to do another marketing campaign.

Your guy's problem is the marketing person who is leading marketing at this company and the CEO have a completely different idea about what the company's point of view is, about what they're like, what's differentiated about their product, and in their ecosystem. And that was the moment when I was like, I need to get out of doing like taking orders to be like short order cook for writing marketing communications and start working with companies on like getting their ducks in order on, on like a much more deeper level.

Louis: Okay. So that's a nice, you know, teasing about what we're going to discuss about your own story. But before that, there's something else that you strongly, strongly believe in. And I completely agree with you. You said that like 90 percent of business is balls. So balls over is whatever else, right? Like is like, is gust and whatever, guts, right?

At least in the type of businesses we're in. So tell me more about this, what do you mean?

Emily: Okay, so when you're in business, and in fact, I actually think this applies to larger businesses as well, or even to managing a career. So when you're in business, what you're fundamentally doing is you're going out to the world and being like, Hey, I have an idea that's valuable, and you should listen to me. I have a service or I have a product that's awesome, and you should have a look at it. And in fact, you should pay me money to do this service for you, or you should pay me money to use this product. It's awesome. And people can feel really timid about this.

I mean, this is the core of business, but it is actually really scary because you're opening yourself up to rejection. I should say it's scary. It's scary for a lot of people because we're not rational, right? You're not gonna get hurt because somebody is like, Nah, you know, actually I think your product is shit.

Or, hey, like, now's not the right time for those services. Maybe I'll, maybe I'll come, like, we'll get back in touch in six months. Like, that does not actually physically hurt you. But, nonetheless, people can get really anxious, about doing this. And It's like the, it is what business is about. It's about like projecting that, that you are worth listening to, that whatever the thing you created is, is worth listening to you that are worth, worth trying out, worth checking out.

And this, it's sort of funny cause I, I almost hesitate to say that it takes balls or that it takes, it takes guts. But I think that's the feeling that a lot of people have is that it, it requires a lot of courage to go out there and say, Hey. Listen to me, I'm here.

Louis: What's the most uncomfortable event or thing in your business that's needed that courage?

You know, when did you need the most of this kind of advice?

Emily: When I was younger and I sucked at it.

Louis: So tell me more about that.

Emily: Okay. All right. So let's go like, like travel back in time. The first time that I really failed at this. I had an idea for like tour guides that you could ha, you could listen to on an iPad and, or no, sorry, on a, uh, an iPod.

That's what they were called.

Louis: Oh, Jesus, you're old.

Emily: And the idea was that like you, you're. You go to a new city, and you don't want to have your nose in a book all the time, but maybe you're like a nerd about architecture or something, so you put it on your iPod, and you go walk around and listen to somebody, recording telling you this, about the architecture or whatever.

So anyway, I had this idea. I actually, like, built a website, built out a bunch of these, like, a bunch of these, like, recordings. They didn't suck. But what did suck is my marketing efforts, which like didn't exist. So pretty much nobody knew that this thing existed except like my mom. So yeah, I think like if I could go back in time and tell myself like, Hey, You need to like have a little bit more guts and be like go out there and be like, Hey world, I've created something and it's, it's worth checking out.

Come, come look at it and actually like educate myself a little bit about how you go about doing that. Yeah. Maybe it would have been a success, but it was not a success.

Louis: So after that, what did you do? Like, when was the next step in your business journey?

Emily: Well, then I went to graduate school. Then I had another, another business that failed for exactly the same reasons.

I mean, but I say it's not really a business. Like it never had like a dollar of revenue. So it wasn't really a business.

Louis: What was it though?

Emily: It was a magazine for like an online magazine for learning English. Okay. Again, I think that it did not suck, but I do think like a complete failure in like a go-to-market effort.

Louis: So you learned that the hard way in your previous venture, and yet you did it again with that one. So what, why do you feel that even though rationally, I'm kind of answering my question with the way I'm phrasing it, but you knew rationally that this thing was needed, you needed to put words out there to grow it?

And yet the second time around, you didn't do it still.

Emily: Here's what I would say. I think I've actually always been really good about selling my services and selling a product is different. And I needed to have like multiple failures for that to really get in. In fact, in some ways, I've never built a successful product business.

I don't have a product business now. I have a services business. I help companies sell their products, but that is different from saying, this is a product that I built. Come look at it. Even before when I've always been fairly good at it like understanding that getting gigs is like selling your services as a numbers game.

You go out and you talk to a lot of people. I think I've always been pretty good about that, but really getting serious about niching down on a particular industry. Oh, we're leaving that ambiguous. That, it took time to get there, and also Now we'll get to a little bit more of my personal story.

So then I went to graduate school. I went to journalism school, which I do not recommend anyone do if they're interested in business because it will completely fuck up your relationship with money. This is why journalists are all poor. You'll go to journalism school and they'll be like, you're defending democracy.

Thus, you have to like, live in misery. Sorry, that's, it, it actually really did sort of like mess up my mentality about being able to make a living. So I tried to make, make it work as a freelance journalist for a while. Complete failure. From a financial standpoint, and then as you alluded to, my husband died, when it was two, two months after our daughter was born.

So I was like, I better get my shit together because like now, my husband was a fine artist, by the way, which may or may not have been obvious, but it's not like he was, you know, like supporting us financially either. But there's something about being on your own versus like being in a couple with somebody that you're really like, I got to get my, my shit together.

And like, if I'm not going to have another person that I can rely on, like I better have a bank account that I can rely on.

Louis: Just to pause here. So thanks for sharing this. I think this would connect with people more than you can imagine. I just want to say something when my daughter was born, less than two years ago, I did realize the power of being a family and being like to have support around you, and I would not have done it without my wife and I know it's vice versa.

So I applaud. Obviously, like, you didn't have a fucking choice, but you went through it regardless. Your daughter is now much older, but yeah, it is fucking tough on your own to take care of a baby, build a career, and stuff like that. So fucking well done for talking about it first and then for being where you are now.

Emily: Thank you. Thank you. So anyway, yeah, I was like, I better, I better get my shit together. Signed up for a coaching program with someone who helped writers in particular. So at that point, my main skill set was as a writer, I had been a journalist, which has a lot of very applicable skills to the commercial world as well.

But I didn't know how to translate that into money, but I took that, I signed up for this, this coaching course, and basically figured out how to match the skills that I already had to people who were willing to pay a pretty decent amount of money for them. And I still remember about a year after my husband died, I went to counseling for a little more than a year and I told her I had made like 1, 000 dollars the month before.

My daughter wasn't like in daycare. She was just like, I was just like working when she was asleep. And like I had is like 1, 000 dollars wasn't really enough to cover my expenses, but she was like, holy shit, that's amazing. Like you made 1, 000 dollars and like you're just working like at night. And I was like, yeah. And she was like, no, you don't realize.

How awesome that is, like, that's actually really, really amazing. So, and it did, it did feel like it did feel at that point, like, okay, things are moving forward. And yeah, so then slowly I started to actually, I guess, not that slowly. I started to specialize in the cloud native worlds and Kubernetes.

Louis: So what does that mean for, sorry, you were about to say it.

Emily: What does that mean? So what that means is a very specific type of software development that is geared at building a platform that other software developers will use to actually build the applications that like me you use on our computer. So really technical stuff, but there's a pretty big ecosystem around it and it is, it continues to grow at this point.

And they really needed people like me who were able to take a really technical subject, talk about it in a way that a business person would understand, ask good questions, and translate that into good marketing copy. And then they also needed somebody who was just like. And here, we're going to come back to the part of the ball, not afraid, not intimidated by a really technical subject matter.

And it was funny because like, after, you know, I'd been working in this area for like six months, people would be like, Oh, can you write like a tutorial? And I'd be like, no, I can't write a tutorial, but they would assume that I had like a level of expertise in the actual, like actually being able to use Kubernetes.

That I did not have just because I, like, basically had learned the jargon and understood, like, in relatively broad terms, what the ecosystem was all about. And that did not take me, like, you don't have to do a university degree in order to, like, come up to speed in a particular area, and that, as you alluded to, allowed me to absolutely dramatically increase my fees because there wasn't, it's not that there was no competition, but especially at that time, there were very few other people who were good writers, who, who were able to translate stuff to like a business audience, and who had also taken the time to understand the like the ins and outs of this really technical ecosystem.

Louis: So what led you to that thing? Like, why did you start writing?

Emily: Why did I start writing that? That's a good question. So like, go back to this idea of thinking about the Venn diagram. Like, where are the skills that I already have? Where's my interest in things that I won't hate doing? And then where are people who are willing to pay me a lot of money for that? How can I find something, that overlaps where everything overlaps? And I actually had a pretty good idea from the beginning that this technology was going to be where that overlap was because, in the process of building my two extremely failed products, I had learned something about building websites. I had been not super involved, I would say, but I'd gotten to know a bit about open-source communities because I built my websites, and built websites using a fairly complicated CMS.

Louis: What was it?

Emily: Drupal.

Louis: Oh yeah. Fucking hell. You didn't pick the best one.

Emily: I know. It was, you know, somebody gave me super bad advice, but...

Louis: This person clearly hated you and wanted you to fail.

Emily: Well, you know what the interesting part about it is that I actually built the websites and they didn't suck except from a business standpoint.

Louis: But like, so it's very interesting here to reverse engineer this because that's. That's an advice I share as much as I can, which is to look at the past where you naturally started to do things out of.

You know, interest just because you wanted to, whatever, like, so this little experience you have building a website on Drupal, this little, you know, experience, I mean, not that little, but the journalism experience that you have, I mean, you know, it's easy to take it for granted. Most people do, right? We take what we do, our experience, and our passion for granted because it's us.

So it's, it's normal. But then when you think about it, the way you've done, which is you know, how can you, we, how can I kind of find the intersection of the things I love to do, where you can make money and all of that, then it becomes extremely interesting. So now you've actually drawn like, you know, the little drawing thing is for kids where you have the numbers and then you follow around and it creates a shape, you know, I think it's a bit like that, right?

It's like, don't take for granted those, those numbers, and don't think you can create the shape without them. Just like, honestly, it could be as simple as just that, you know, that's obviously this is it.

Emily: So I think that that's totally true. I also think it's only now that I started to see how everything was connected.

Like if you had done this interview with me even like three years ago, I would have told you like that the stuff that I did in my 20s was just like totally random shit, and like who knows how it was connected to anything else. I can see more of a throughline now than I could even a couple of years ago.

Louis: But it's so, and it's completely normal, right? And in three years' time, you listen back to this episode and feel like, Oh my God, I didn't know anything. But, you know, it's the best answer you have based on the context and the knowledge you have today. And it seems to be working out pretty well for you. So to give what your specialization is, let's you know, give people what they want to hear, which is like, so what is this?

What do you specialize in?

Emily: So I work with open source companies on positioning and their commercial strategy. And I think, yeah, what's open source? So technically open source is actually a legal definition. It's a software that has a license that's approved by the OSI, which is a. An organization that approves open-source licenses.

But basically, it means it's a piece of software that is open. So you can see what the code is, and what code has been used in order to create this software, you can modify that code, and you can incorporate it into your own project. Oh, and of course it's, it's free to use. So the other, and I talked about Drupal, Drupal is not quite as famous as WordPress.

WordPress is probably the most famous, most well-known open-source project out there. If I had been smarter, I would have used WordPress to build my websites.

Louis: Yeah, but then you wouldn't be here today.

Emily: That's probably true. So, but then the other interesting question is what is an open-source company or an open-source startup?

Louis: Right. Because it's all well and good to give, you know, to have your code open and everyone can see it and it's free to use, but how the fuck do you make money?

Emily: Yes. It's actually, it's really funny because I just moved to France and I had to do this visa project and, or do this visa process and you have to prove that your business isn't bullshit.

And I had this moment where I was like trying to explain to my lawyer and she was like, wait, so you help companies that make free software with their commercial strategy? And I had this moment where I was like, Oh my God, I have a bullshit business. So anyway, it's not bullshit, neither my business nor their business model.

But, an open-source business has an open-source project that they maintain, and that provides real value to people who use it. So what that means is it's not just like an API to connect to their proprietary software. Like you have to be able to actually get real value from using this project on its own, and then they also have a commercial offering and the commercial offering could be services.

It could be a product that it could be a SaaS product. Like maybe they host the open-source project. And so you can use it as, as with a SaaS experience, it could be that they have. Like enterprise functionality. So the sort of stereotype here is you have your open-source project that has like a super shitty UI and it's really ugly.

And then you have your enterprise product that has like a very beautiful dashboard that like you're the CEO of a company who's not technical, could easily interact with it, that's like kind of the stereotype or the massive generalization. Basically, an open-source company has an open-source project that is real and substantial and provides value plus a commercial offering so that they can make money.

Louis: So you were writing for that industry for a bit, correct?

Emily: Sort of... So this is, this is where things get a little bit interesting. So in the industry that I was in before, there are a lot of open-source companies. I used to specialize in this, this industry around Kubernetes, which I know most people have no idea what the fuck that is, but anyway, we'll just, you don't need to know what it is.

So, there are a lot of companies that are open-source in that ecosystem. And what I realized is that, as soon as the interesting strategy distinction wasn't between companies in the Kubernetes ecosystem and those out of it. It was between the companies that were open source or not. And so I shifted the type of company that I worked with to, so that the criteria was no longer, you work in this, like, extremely technical domain.

But rather, are you open source or are you not? Because they have strategic issues that I think are interesting and different.

Louis: So how did you go on to this realization? Because it sounds like a little change, but it's not, right? It's a, it's a huge shift from the way you're being perceived. So what made you think this is, this is a better position?

Emily: I mean, you only make, you only figure this out by like working with clients. You work with clients, you figure out like, how did this project go? How did this other project go? What's the difference? You think like, how unique was the experience that I brought to this one client versus this other client?

You read others. People who in the industry like you, you read stuff by like April Dunford or there's a couple of other positioning consultants that I know out there as well and you think, okay, how different is the process that I use versus what April Dunford uses. For an open-source company or for a Kubernetes company.

So my take on it would be if you're a closed-source Kubernetes company, you can take April Dunford's process, use it with no modifications and it's fine. Like, I don't think the process is that different from if you have like HR software. For positioning.

Louis: So that means then if I'm reading between the lines, it means that you can't be the best in the world at this.

Because Apple Dunford is already the OG positioning for B2B tech. And those companies that are based on this technology basically are B2B tech companies. There's no change. Therefore, you can't win. Therefore, you don't want to be there.

Emily: Exactly. That's exactly what happened. And I'm not sure if all of my, like, if all the clients in that space would have had that same realization, but it certainly was what I felt like April Dunford could do this just as well as I can.

So I'm not going to win in this space.

Louis: So hold that thought. You know, what's interesting here? Because I went through this exact thought process. I mean, when I say exact, the exact same thought process. So, when I restarted my business three years ago, I doubled down on positioning as the key thing that I really wanted to do back based on the experience I had with Hotjar and my own project that I positioned and all of that. Standing The Fuck Out as the core idea behind all of this started to emerge after that. But only recently have I started to realize, you know, you can't be a positioning consultant for startups, B2B tech because there's already someone who owns that space and owns it very well.

And honestly, you know, I have no interest competing against her because it's, you know, I could make some money, but it's never going to be, you know, the place I want to be. And the second thing was. I was bored to death working with startups in general. I never felt it. It just wasn't as interesting to me as working with smaller folks who were maybe solopreneurs or agency owners who were very creative and taking some crazy risks and very artistic in their approach.

And that's when I realized. I could win there. I could become the go-to person for positioning for marketers, creatives, you know in running businesses. And so I haven't updated my LinkedIn or anything just yet, but I've made it super clear on my, in my newsletter for example. That's, that worked really well, right?

Like, because the vast majority of my clients anyway come from that world, the vast majority of people listening also kind of fit anyway. So I wanted to say, I can really understand exactly where you're coming from 'cause I had the exact same thought process about the exact same place. So it's fun to hear that you went through that as well.

Anyway, I interrupted you so you had another thought and hopefully, you didn't forget it.

Emily: Not at all. So actually it was just, but then I saw in the open-source companies. You could not take that process and just like apply it to an open-source company. There was, it just, it was a different, there were different variables that you had to take into account.

Louis: What's the biggest difference between the two?

Emily: So the biggest difference between the two is that an open-source company has two products. They have an open source project and they have a commercial offering and they have this way earlier in their company's maturity. Then a proprietary software. And so you have a much more complex positioning challenge because you have to manage the relationship between those two things.

You also have to then have a positioning for the entire company. It's also a different relationship. The relationship between a project and a product is different than the relationship between like a suite of product of products. It's not the same relationship in every company either. So it's just dramatically more complex and it gets into the positioning and managing this relationship between product and project, gets into, like, what's your monetization strategy? What's your business model? I think it's even more fundamental for open-source startups and also just dramatically more complex than a straight SaaS.

Louis: Straight SaaS, as we call it. So when did you make the switch?

Emily: This is a good question. I think it was about two years ago.

But it might've been longer. It might've been like closer to three years ago.

Louis: And what happened? So you made the switch. How nervous were you? Were you nervous? Did you feel like you were taking a risk? What was your feeling then?

Emily: It's a good question. I didn't really feel like I was taking a huge risk. I think that the thing that felt like more of a risk was actually going from being a marketing communicator, so being like a hands person to being a strategy person.

Louis: Okay.

Emily: That was more of a scary risk because it involved people coming to me with work that they wanted me to do and me telling them no. And that, every time that that happened, it was scary.

Louis: How scary?

Emily: Yeah, I mean, it's dependent on the moment.

If I'd like just, just signed a big strategy contract the previous day, it's like, meh, then it's not scary at all. But if it's one of the things that I noticed when I, as I made the switch to strategy is that my revenue got a lot bumpier. So each contract is more expensive it's larger, but I'm not signing new contracts every week.

And if it's been one day since I signed a strategy contract, I'm like, yeah, I don't want to do that, that writing work. But if it's been like a month. Then you're like, Oh, I know, I gotta say no to this, but it's, you know, it's not always easy.

Louis: Yeah, I get you. Like the diversification, like the fact that, yeah, it's a bigger contract, longer sales cycles, there's more at stake.

So, therefore, you have the benefits as well as the inconvenience of it. So you had this kind of feast and famine fear, right? So what about the results of this move? Right. Tell me more about what changed for you then.

Emily: Oh man, it has definitely allowed me to be, to get really famous in a very small niche.

I'm keynoting at a conference in December and, yeah, I'm like next to the other keynoters at this conference are like, like, I'm not going to delude myself. I am not on their level. Like, I don't know. I don't know what the organizers of this conference were thinking.

Louis: No, no, no. That's your fucking imposter syndrome talking.

You're also a, you're also a guest on that fabulous podcast.

Emily: Yes, yes. It's true. So it's allowed me to get like, I mean, I got, I've got lots of inbound leads, but also just the, the level of relationship building has, has been incredible. Obviously, like also this. This leads to having sales and increasing my revenue, which is important.

But I think what's, what's really happened is that I can sort of see myself progressing in status, I think is probably the right word, and like people really listening to, to what I have to say. And yeah, I think in, in there's really just nobody else that's talking a lot about the kind of things that I'm talking about.

And yeah, I don't know.

Louis: Is there a risk you think that you're the only one talking about like positioning for open-source companies? Do you feel like maybe the market is too small and one day it's going to shrink to a point where you can't pay the bills?

Emily: Oh yeah. I mean, I'd be lying if I said I don't worry about that.

I often think like, is it possible that the market is too small? Will there be a time when I've like reached, especially because positioning isn't something that you do like every month, right? You work with a client and then like you're done. So I do sometimes wonder, like, is there going to be a time when I've like.

Saturated the market with my services. I don't think that time has arrived. And actually, quite honestly, when I put my more like logical hat on my less fear-based hat, I don't think that time will come.

Louis: Why not?

Emily: The reason, the reason is there's actually been kind of an explosion of open source startups.

So I think the industry, I think. The niche that I'm in is getting bigger. And I also think there are more and more people who are talking, not specifically about positioning, but about business and open source and, you know, managing.

Louis: Product marketing as well, you know, like the wider stuff. I agree. I can see it as well.

How is the category, like the open-source thing growing? Like why is there such a drive at the minute you think?

Emily: I'm not sure if I have a good answer to why. I will tell you there've recently been a couple of venture funds started that focus like explicitly, exclusively on, on open source companies on funding open source companies.

There's a lot of, like some people think that open source is eating software. This is the theory of some, well, of one person in particular who runs one of these ventures. Venture funds, just that the way to be successful in the future is going to be by having an open source component to your software.

I'm a little bit cynical, isn't the right word. I'd say pragmatic in the way I think about open-source companies. I don't think they're morally better. You will encounter people who do. I don't think they're by definition more likely to succeed than a closed-source company. I think that there are really concrete business benefits that you can get from having an open-source approach, but you have to manage the tension that's going to be inherent in an open-source company, and you have to know what business benefits you're getting out of your open-source project. Because if you don't, like you're not going to be able to evaluate if you're actually getting them or not, you're not going to be able to iterate.

And like, see what the result of your, of the changes you make, see what they are. And so I think my take on the industry is like open source startups are, they're not morally better. They're not more or less likely to succeed, but they are definitely attracting a lot more interest. And there are some real benefits to doing an open-source strategy.

Louis: I think we are at the time we're recording this episode, there is, it's definitely like a pendulum, like, you know, switch back and forth. And now the minute we are definitely at the efficiency stage of business and startup where startups are waking up to the fact that they need to make money. That's one, but they're also waking up to the fact that distribution marketing like eyeballs, unfortunately, like just being seen is absolutely key. You can have the best fucking product and open source, I think, marries well with that because it's, you're using that as your beachhead to be seen by a lot of people, to be used by a lot of people for free. And then you also have the second layer, which is like the pay layer that you explained very well before.

So I think this is why potentially there's this, this huge wave. And it's interesting for you. And if we reverse engineer that for folks listening in terms of their positioning, their own positioning, or for their own clients, one of the criteria I like to use is the energy of the category. Like is there something buzzing here?

Like, is it, do you feel like it's, you know, as you said, investment for now talking about it more like, do you feel it's growing or is it stagnating or even worse shrinking? Right. And sometimes it's as simple as picking the market that is growing like that because you don't even need to convince people that they'd come to you.

And so it's at the minute, for example, another thing is the creator economy. It's sexy as fuck right now, like LinkedIn as a, you know, as a, as a topic as well. There are so many little things that are growing so fast.

Emily: AI.

Louis: I mean, that's like, but like, it's true, right? And it's not a trend. It's not something that is going to disappear.

You can definitely bet on it. Now you shouldn't necessarily bet on specific tools or whatever, because things evolve so fast, but fuck yeah, it's a massive, like, it's a gigantic wave, probably the biggest we've ever seen in our world. So, absolutely. Like leaning on something like this that exists, that is in demand is already a big thing.

So I agree. I don't think you'll ever go out of business with that. And then you said that positioning, you know, you do positioning and you're done. You can also definitely sell complementary products on the line. You know that, right? Like maybe a messaging update, whatever. And then you can do, you can sell, you can sell stuff like selling the same thing, but instead of doing it with you, doing it for you, you can do it yourself so you can sell.

Courses, writing books, you know, there are thousands of different ways you can apply your same knowledge. But I know you know that, but I wanted to mention that as well.

Emily: And in fact, I'm, I'm organizing, organizing a conference. So yeah, there's, I've, there's a lot of ways that you can sort of package your, the expertise.

I wanted to say actually another thing about why I was attracted to working with open-source founders. Which is that in a lot of open source companies, so even though I'm not going to go into the whole, like, I don't think open source is morally superior, but I do think there's, you know, open source is all about building a community around your software.

And the thing that I find a lot of open-source founders feel is a tension inside themselves about how to manage, like, nurturing a community, being a hippie. And also like building a billion-dollar company and being like a hardcore capitalist. And I think that one of the reasons that I really like working in this space is because I also feel that tension in myself of like, I have some, I definitely have some like hippie tendencies.

Louis: Really?

Emily: Yeah. I don't know. Is it noticeable? I don't know. But you know, like I used to volunteer at an all-volunteer food co-op it definitely is like exists in me, but then I also have the obviously really interested in business and have the same like capitalist, let's, let's increase our prices as high as we can tendency as well.

And so I think I see some, there's something about the, like the need to manage that tension. That's almost like a psychological tension. that I find really attractive because I see that tension in myself too.

Louis: Yeah. I love like, that's a very deep thought about your market and yourself. And I, again, completely relate.

It's the same thing for the type of people I love working with, where they have this very like creative artistic way and they want to fucking take some risk and play and, and have fun. But then, on the other hand, they want to. obviously have money so that they can fucking leave properly, which is the exact same for me.

Like, you know, so it's always this balance between the two and I completely connect with that as well. And so that makes us, that makes you a, even though you position yourself as a positioning consultant for open-source software, I would say even more so a therapist, coach slash psychologist, all of those things, because yes, it's the, the biggest struggle is really in their mind, right?

Like this navigating that tension.

Emily: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, there are different models of consulting and one of them is the psychotherapist model where people have to be awake during the process. That's how I sometimes describe the work that I do because I'm acting as a moderator. I'm not like, I don't like reviewing your website and then like writing a document and being like, here's the answer for what you should do.

It's a process. It's a journey that we go on together. So there's definitely, yeah, there's, there's definitely the psychotherapist approach.

Louis: Great. Okay. Emily, thank you so much for sharing your story like that in a lot of detail and transparency. I appreciate it. I really do. Before I let you go, what are the top three resources you would recommend to listeners today?

Emily: Okay. So I have three. One of them is a book called Improvisation and the Theater by Keith Johnstone. I know you had, Jonathan Stark on recently. I wonder if he recommended this book because that's where I got the recommendation from.

Louis: Oh, nice, I don't think he did.

Emily: Okay, then I will, I will go forward with my, with my pitch for this book.

So it's a theater book about improv and there, the specific chapter in the book that's really useful for consultants is about, I'm going to say, not just consultants for everybody who's out there living their life is about managing and controlling power relationships or power dynamics. So, if you want to, like, in a theater context, role play somebody who's more powerful than another, than the other, there's like a certain demeanor that each one will take.

But if you're aware of that and how that works, you can control the way that you're, you're acting in any given situation so that the other person understands, Oh, this person is my peer, or, Oh, this person is my superior. Or conversely, you can also, you know, you can also behave in a way that makes people think, Oh, this person is below me and they will thus treat you in a certain way.

And that's really important because you know, there's so many things in life that are about power relationships, but I think particularly if you're in business, the ability to communicate to other people that you are their peer or possibly even that like they should be like so lucky to work with you because.

Like you're such so in demand and you're so awesome. It was really important. So anyway, that's the theater book. It's awesome.

Louis: It's it's not on Kindle, unfortunately. I can see it's only paperback and hardcover, which is a shame. I would have bought it straight away. Yeah.

Emily: And it's from like the eighties. So it's, uh,

Louis: 1999.

Emily: Oh, shoot. Yeah. Okay. It's, it's less old than I thought, but yeah,

Louis: Maybe that's the re-edition of it.

Emily: Maybe, maybe. And in fact, you know, I'm my, the second resource here is going to be related because I'm going to recommend that people take an improv class.

Louis: Nice. Have you taken one recently?

Emily: I just started taking one in September and I think it has, so back to this idea of business being about balls.

So taking an improv class is basically about like humiliating yourself in front of other people.

Louis: And getting used to the feeling.

Emily: And getting used to it. Yeah. And a lot of business is about. Although hopefully you aren't actually humiliating yourself is feeling like you might be humiliating yourself in front of other people and I think that I think getting used to that experience is really good.

Also, quite honestly, it helps with your like public speaking. I really think that it's helped me. I speak at conferences and I think it's already helped my speaking at conferences.

Louis: Nice. And what's the third one?

Emily: Okay. So the third one, see, I had three books written down, which one am I going to choose?

I'm going to choose one that I haven't actually read, but who's let's see. I'm just, I'll just say Annie Duke. Cause I heard her on a podcast recently and I was like blown away. So Annie Duke's written a book called Thinking In Bets, I think she has written another book recently too, but I only just heard her on a podcast and the reason I'm bringing this up is because I've been thinking about it a lot, and the importance of having kill criteria in whatever it is that you're doing.

So you're trying it, you're trying something out, deciding ahead of time, I'm going to abandon this project if. XYZ does or does not happen at a certain point. And anyway, I actually, I haven't actually read her books. I've just heard her on podcasts, but I was like, Oh my God, that seems like such a valuable thing.

It's like, you know, I'm sure you've had this experience where you're like, why didn't I think of that before? Like, this is such an obvious, obvious idea, but I never incorporated it into my business.

Louis: The unknown unknowns, which is a double-edged sword because when you're focused on your mission and you know what you want to do, you need to be careful with those because then it might derail you from it.

But then on the other hand, if it's so interesting that it could help you, you need to pay attention. So I've chosen like, just, just to close that thing, by the way, that's probably the most thorough answer I've got to this question ever. So thank you for sharing those three resources, but it's, it's, that's why I don't read books for fun anymore or business books, just because someone recommended it to me, I do it the opposite way.

If I have a deep question or a challenge, something, I read things on purpose to answer them, but I try not to read things just to get those unknown unknowns, or else it derails me. I find it fucks me up a bit in terms of what I know now, you know, so I purposely put the blinders on a bit sometimes.

Emily: Yeah, that makes sense.

Louis: Yeah, you disagree with this, but hey, we don't have time to know why. So anyway, where can listeners connect with you and learn more from you?

Emily: So I am on LinkedIn. I have a website. If you're French, then I'm Emilie Omier. If you're not French, then I can be Emilie Omier. It's kind of like having two identities.

It's cool. Anyway, my last name ends in an er. You can find me on LinkedIn. I'm pretty sure there's no one else with my name and my website is just I have an ebook that's free on my website about positioning for open-source projects. You can check that out. That's about it.

Louis: Well, thank you so much.

It's been a blast.

Emily: Likewise.

Creators and Guests

Louis Grenier
Louis Grenier
The French guy behind Everyone Hates Marketers
Emily Omier
Emily Omier
Positioning consultant
How to Find Undiscovered (Yet Profitable) Niches
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