- Who & Why?
All Posts Tagged Tag: ‘differentiation’
In Part I of this blog, we discussed the concept of signal versus noise and the questions to think about when you are seeking branding collaborative advice. Today, let’s look at what you can do to use noise to make sure your brand shines.
Growing up, I used to get frustrated when I was trying to communicate, what I felt was, a really important point. Someone would come along and interrupt me and start talking about a useless topic. I felt like I had to defend myself and my topic by getting louder and yelling. I was skinny and small and my front two teeth were missing for a couple of years (felt like an eternity). So who was going to take this little girl seriously? I felt brand-less!
As you probably guessed, my yelling never worked well. The person interrupting me (noise) drowned out my message and specialness (signal). Looking back, what I think I was missing was a way to really distinguish myself from the noise of the situation.
I see many professionals do the same things with their branding. They are trying to compete with the noise. What if instead, you chose to not compete with the noise? What if you instead stuck to your signal and message and really differentiated your brand?
How, you ask? Here’s what to avoid:
1. Talk about what you do for a living– while what you do for a living is important, it is not competitive, necessarily. In other words, everyone can tell us what a fantastic lawyer, dentist, (fill-in-the-blank professional) they are. Who cares? At the end of the day, we know you can get the job done. Don’t bore me with the “hows” until I ask. If you do, you just become part of the noise.
2. Thinking you’re not interesting as a person– most of us assume our boring lives are just that– boring. Why would others care about our stories of childhood, triumphs or failures? Don’t they want to hire us purely for our substantive know-how? I hear so many clients say this. Guess what? They all have personal stories that fascinate me. Let your audience be the judge as to how interesting you are as a person. Don’t fall for the trap. Don’t become part of the noise. Be the signal. Tell me about your personal stories.
3. Let your ego rule– Our ego plays games with us during our highs (“I’m so fantastic and smarter than others, I just beat out 3 other people for a high-paying job”) and our lows (“I am the worst lawyer, dentist, financial adviser, human in the world. I can’t seem to get prospects to become my fans and hire me. I stink”). Anytime you let your ego run away with your thoughts during your highs or your lows, your giving in to the noise and forgetting about your true signal. Your true signal is that you are a unique and fabulous human worthy of the best. You’re a top-notch brand. End of story.
If any part of this worked for you, please share this post with others and be a contribution to them!
The leaves keep changing in deliberate nature this October. So we, too, continue our Deliberate Brand Creation process this third week of October. As I’ve written in the past two blog posts, I’m continuing to put my own spin on Oprah’s October 2014, “What I Know For Sure” column in her O Magazine. I have a lot of appreciation and respect for Oprah’s presence.
This week, let’s explore how your quirks and oddities are the stuff of your deliberate brand. As Oprah wrote in her column noted above, when she was younger she would go to parties. She would feel compelled to stay at a party even if she had enough of being there and would rather go home. Why? In part, Oprah says it was because she considered herself quirky to want to run home and be alone.
Perhaps the biggest “why” question here is why we can’t “own” our quirks? I think the short answer is partly lack of self-awareness and partly fear.
No one wants to be different and stick out. We all strive to fit in. If I think back to a time when I really tried to fit it, I am taken back to high school. I hated high school. I was always so different and didn’t really fit in. It was hard being me.
I stuck out for so many reasons: I had olive complexion when it seemed everyone else had blonde hair and light eyes; my first and last name was hard to pronounce (it wasn’t like my name rolled off the American tongue like “Jane Smith”); while my parents were very flexible with me and tried to “go with” the culture and mentality of midwestern/Indiana thinking, we still had different customs and rituals; and we lived in the most affluent suburb of Indianapolis, making it harder to be “cool” and fit in. Most importantly, I always felt quirky because I could never ever understand why all those other high school kids rebelled all the time- drinking, smoking, sex, parties. Were they suffocating at home, somehow?
Regardless of what I thought and how hard I tried, I was hiding who I really was. I wasn’t even self-aware enough to know why I was hiding. Looking back at my list above, I’m now really relishing my olive complexion, my first and last name and my background and nationality. I use it as part of my unique selling proposition and story to stand out and be genuine and different. It works!
However why do we, even as adults, try so hard to deny our quirks and eccentricities? What if you decided for just one day to really “own” your quirks, be proud of the eccentricities and not deny any of it? Would the world stop? Who cares if someone doesn’t “like” or “accept” you? Do they matter more in this world than you (and your happiness) do? I doubt it.
I get the fear factor. I lived it and live it every day. However, our personal brand growth is grounded in being self-aware enough to feel the fear and doing “it” anyway- whatever your “it” is.
So just for one day, I ask you to be self-aware, own your quirks and see what happens. If you love to eat licorice, go for it! If you like to decipher license plates, go for it! If you love the Smurfs, go for it! Just remember to tell us all about it so we can be your biggest champ, respect you and get to know your real personal brand.
I always preach that if you are not quirky and unique, it becomes hard to develop a really optimal and effective (and fun!) personal brand for you. Truth is that everyone has quirks and eccentricities. Trouble is that none of us wants to own them because then we are the “oddball” and perhaps “weird” and by extrapolation— unlikeable and yes, un-loveable.
But how do we really know if this will be the way our brand is perceived by others? Have you ever taken a poll? Odds are- no.
I had a meeting with someone just the other day where this person claimed that if she did X, Y or Z, then she may be seen as “too out there”. I had to interject (as I often have to do with clients. Hey, that’s my job!) that in fact, she was not being “too out there” if she did X, Y or Z with her brand. In fact, she would be seen as memorable AND credible if she did X, Y or Z, much less all three.
In reality, you see yourself way more “crazy” or “out there” than others do. That’s just a part of being a self-conscious and fearful human. My goal is to get you to see yourself as a self-confident, happy person and personal brand that can be self-expressed doing X, Y, and Z and be loved and loving.
So if I had one piece of advice it is: your goal should be to stay within the rules, yet always be pushing the envelope just outside your comfort zone. As with everything in life, you have to seek balance. That usually means being “crazy” or “out there” because odds are you will barely be crazy enough, but you’ll likely be happy, memorable, have higher recall value and generate business.
I think the hardest part of our work with clients is on the topic of unique selling proposition. Clients have a very difficult time believing they are unique. Sadly, not many people ever really believe they are truly unique and can stand out and be memorable in the sea of sameness of their profession. Once we convince them they are unique the problem becomes how we communicate that uniqueness to our target market and how we sell that differentiation.
Most people tend to want to differentiate based on price. Price differentiation rarely works. People tend to buy a product or service based on price only when there is nothing else to help them make their buying decision- ie, there is no differentiating factor that grabs them emotionally. At that point, they settle for the cheapest. Is that what you want for your personal and business brand- to be settled on because you are the cheapest, but not necessarily the best? I hope not.
Here’s a good example of this price differentiation at work. I know of a regional CPA firm. One of their employees was telling me one day how the CPA firm keeps losing bids for services when they go into meeting to present their proposal. He said they often lower their prices to come in cheaper and get the business and guess what- they rarely do. This person was extremely frustrated and upset.
I explained to him that the prospects shopping for CPA firms were not looking at cheaper to be better. However the CPA firm was coming across in the proposal meetings was not an optimal personal brand. I told him that the CPA firm needed to find their unique-ness when they go into these proposal meetings and stop making it about price. By coming in so cheap, odds are the prospects are thinking the CPA firm is either: a) desperate or b) not very good at what they claim to do. None of which are good personal brand builders that lead to long lasting relationships with a strong referral base.
So ask yourself- do you really differentiate on your unique-ness or are you just following the crowd by saying something like, “we are prompt” or “we are reliable” or “we are knowledgeable”. All I have to say about the latter three statements is that every business better be prompt, reliable and knowledgeable….!