“Marketing is no longer about the stuff that you make, but about the stories you tell” Seth Godin
Have you ever had the opportunity to visit a busy city market where there are buyers and sellers from all walks of life?
I have been to quite a few over the years, particular those in more exotic locations from Africa through to Nepal and South East Asia.
The sights, the sounds and of course the aromas!
Beautiful rolls of silk to be made into saris and wedding dresses, hand woven carpets that if rolled out, could cover complete conference centres, through to baskets full of the most exotic spices, or fish tanks where the unhappiest crabs in the world can be found!
But of course when you walk through these markets, shop after shop, stall after stall, they start to look and sound the same…
“Special price for you sir!”
“What do you want? – I get you what you want!”
“Come in, take your time… buy a present for your wife, your girlfriend…”
I have even made the common mistake to say to the store owner I will come back, then only becoming confused later as to which store I previously went into!
So how do you stand out from all that competition, let alone survive?
Well on the face of it, it appears you couldn’t, but if you start to unpack what you are experiencing, you actually start to see the fundamentals of brand positioning marketing 101!
Let me explain…
Know Your Niche
Firstly, most of the sellers in the market place specialise in one particular niche – there are no Aldi’s, or Kmart’s etc. In the markets, you are either selling spices, carpets, batteries, or eggs. There is no convenience store. For your customers it is also very clear what you do. They know if there are cages of hens in front of your shop – that is where you buy eggs… or fresh chicken!
Know Your Competition
Not only is your competition physically next door to you at the markets, but you will likely know them personally. If they introduce something new to their store, then you know about it straight away! If they get some customers coming into their store – there is the opportunity for you to get those same customers attention and visit your store!
There are no pleasantries when it comes to business competition at the markets!
Know What You Are Offering
Not all the stores at the market run on a low price strategy, even in the markets, every now and again, there is a “disrupter” amongst them where entrepreneurial store owners package up some extra value for you – maybe to offer to pack your purchase so it is safe for you to take it home, or they will even arrange shipping for you!
Build Relationships For The Long Term
There is a tailor in Bangkok that I first visited years ago. Bespoke suits and shirts within 48 hours. For the first few years I received an annual greeting card from them in the mail. Then I must have been travelling through Bangkok once again and stopped by their shop to get a new custom suit. Well now I am on their email list – no more greeting cards, but that doesn’t matter, because I have gone back to them perhaps now more than ten times!
The irony of course if you know Bangkok, there are literally thousands of tailors and each one is competing with each other, it is just this particular tailor I have developed a relationship with and now into the next generation as well!
As the Harvard Business Review sums it up…
“A business can outperform rivals only if it can establish a difference that it can preserve”
Of course there is a little bit more to it than what I have described, but hopefully these four fundamentals of brand positioning marketing 101 will assist you and your business.
Remember, be clear on your niche, know who your completion is and keep current with trends and new innovations, provide value beyond just price and build relationships for the long term – even when in the early stages it may not appear to be going anywhere.
After all, if a store holder in a busy city market can do them, why can’t you?
I am convinced that within us all, there are unique talents, skills and experiences that can really help others if we share them.
Whether that be your “talents” of bringing people together for specific causes, or your “skills” for designing custom software, or your “life experience” of managing your own career or business ups and downs, people want to know about it and believe it or not, they will pay for it!.
However sometimes it’s hard to identify this expertise within us as mostly we take it for granted. Or, worse, we may consider ourselves “not worthy” in sharing it.
A friend of mine for example, is an awesome organiser. She’s developed this talent the hard way as a single mum bringing up three young children. I always thought this and now she has a business where she helps others get their own lives in order. Though, she did have to first overcome some self-limiting beliefs as to what was possible.
What about you?
Would you like to know how you could tap into your unique talents, skills and experiences and be positioned as an expert or thought leader?
There Are Five Steps You Need To Learn…
Step 1 – Define Your Expertise
The very first thing you need to do is to identify you “expertise”. This may take some soul searching and also maybe working on some limiting beliefs, but perhaps another way is to simply ask yourself these five questions…
The first three questions help with the positioning or finding your expertise…
What do you love doing?
What are you good at?
What pays well? (for some of you this last question may not be as important depending upon your altruistic motivations)
While the next two questions serve as a reality check…
What you want to say?
What do they want to hear?
Once you have identified your expertise, now you need to brand yourself…
Step 2 – Brand Your Expertise
This is about how you want to be perceived by your audience. Your own unique style.
As social media is critical in all this, consider which platforms you will use.
There are no rules, only that once you start to identify your style, I would suggest keep working at being consistent. That way you will become more familiar and recognisable. However, a caveat would be to ask yourself whether your “branding” is aligned to your core values and is it for the “greater good”. A way to look at this is in the marketing and advertising of products. What brands do you like and why? What do they stand for? What do others think of when they see those brands as well? What do you stand for? What will others think of you?
Step 3 – Broadcast Your Expertise
When I think about my grandfather growing up as a young man, how few resources he had, though he lived a full life and made a huge impact in the circles he travelled.
What about us today? The resources we have at our hands right now that can share our expertise to all walks of life.
We are living in truly amazing times so let’s not take this for granted. Here are some things you can do…
Start a blog
Write a book
Get testimonials and endorsements
Get featured on authority sites
Give valuable insights
Have an opinion
Finally, become known as the expert or voice of your industry!
Step 4 – Expand Your Expertise
Once you have established an audience, whether that be on blog posts, YouTube subscribers or guest speaking at events or university classes – you need to now build a tribe and spread your voice (and impact) much wider.
If your message is currently being shared with your local community, you now need to take it to the state or national level. If it is currently at the national level, it is now time for global!
If you are currently connecting with academics – now take it to corporates etc.
Remember, you are an expert, people want and need to know about your expertise!
Step 5 – Refine Your Expertise
To be an expert you also need to be always learning.
Keep up to date of what is being discussed around your expertise.
Who are the other “thought leaders” in your industry? For example, I have a strong interest in outsourcing, automation and start-up entrepreneurs so I would list about then people in the world who are the global experts when it comes to academic research – who are your ten?
By keeping up to date, you are maintaining your relevancy – and when you are relevant, people want to listen to you.
Why The World Needs Experts Like You
I have been blessed with the opportunities in life that have been out of reach for many.
I know that and I am very grateful that for some reason I have had this.
I have also been humbled over the years in my travels to different corners of the World to see at first hand real life struggle and suffering.
It also saddens me to know that as I write this today, for many people, tomorrow is just another difficult day.
However, I have also seen with my own eyes the transformative power of expertise being applied in practical ways and taking it to places where it is most needed, to those lives who will be transformed.
A few years back, I was witness to see the bandages removed from a man’s eyes after a cataract operation. It was at a volunteer eye clinic supported by Rotary International at Rishikesh India, alongside the Ganges and the start of the Himalayas. After years of being blind and a short and relatively straight forward cataract operation, this man could now see. The joy in his new eyes and of his love ones around him was truly unforgettable.
We all have expertise that the World and humanity needs. I wish for you to find yours, but importantly for you share it with the World, for the World needs to discover you!
Do you remember the last function or event you went to?
How did you introduce yourself?
How did the people you met, introduce themselves?
Was it memorable?
What about just meeting people at a social function and the question comes around on “what do you do?”.
How did you answer it?
Well if you are like most people, the answer might be along the lines of “I’m a manager”, or “I have my own business” etc. But did that really convey the sentiment on what you do or what your business does? Did it connect with you as a person to your audience and connect you to your overall mission or purpose?
If you currently find it difficult to convey such a succinct message, a possible reason might be that you are still trying to define what you or your business does.
For example, if you said to me you’re a manager – then what type of manager? What outcomes do your seek? What are you trying to achieve etc.?
Although it may be useful to chunk and categorise because that’s an efficient way for our brain and our brain likes efficiency, what we lose with this abstraction is the depth of personality and authenticity.
You see, I consider authenticity these days a rare commodity. In fact as my public speaking mentor Andy Harrington says:
“why are you desperately trying to fit in, when you were born to stand out?
So what can you do about this?
Well I have always tried to have what I call an “elevator speech” in my back pocket ready to use when I need it. You know, that short sharp and succinct commentary that tells your story, or at least the message you are wanting to convey?
Back in my corporate days, I use to say to my mentees, they need to have their story with them all the time. So if they are ever in the real elevator and the CEO steps in, here is a great opportunity for them to introduce themselves and help the CEO by saying who they are, where they work in the company and what they are currently working on. In this situation, this helps the CEO relate to them as they now have context (note of warning – if the CEO frowns back, well my career suggestion would be to get out of the elevator at the next step!).
Of course, if it is a complete stranger, one who does not know who you are, or for that matter anything about your company or your role, then you need to be more descriptive in the language that you use so that they are more likely to understand and relate to you.
Basically the real tip here is take responsibility for reaching out and building relationships. Do not wait to be engaged as it may never happen (please trust me on this, some people wait their whole lives and wonder why nothing happens).
You have to be pro-active!
But if you are naturally not the most outgoing individual then this can be a challenge. That’s why you need some prompts to help you so your message is always concise and you are true to your purpose and as a result, are being authentic and integral, or whole.
This is where the A,B, C’s come in…
I learned this technique from Brendon Burchard, founder of the Experts Academy. Its basically a formula and all you have to do is to add the words that makes sense for you and your business. While it appears very simple, do not let that fool you, it is extremely elegant and highly effective and here it is…
I help A
To Do B
So That C
Let’s use an example to see how it works for real, lets use my business in how I would respond, if you asked me what I do…
I help entrepreneurs and small to medium sized enterprises set up, scale up and sustain their startup or existing business, so that they can focus on the front end of their business – dreaming big, creating a vision and building awesome relationships
Now, no doubt I can further refine this, but can you see how this is much more powerful than just: “I have my own business” when you are being asked “what do you do?”?
Also, this ABC approach continually reinforces my whole mission, my targeted customers and what I do for them. If you go to my web page, you will also see that I have it on my home page and it is also an extension of my business tag line… to set up, scale up and sustain your startup.
Do you think this may be useful for you in your business, or even if you are a professional with a boss – as it is the same principle when conveying your message on what you are all about.
Now sometimes you may still need to pre-frame by providing more context depending upon your audience and you do this by using language that they can relate to or by using metaphors and analogies.
Regardless, next time when you are attending a function and somebody asks you “what do you do?” you need to pull out you ABC and respond by saying…
How many times have you heard that question being asked?
Perhaps you have said it yourself?
I certainly have.
I believe now after all these years, it’s the wrong question you need to ask yourself.
I will get to that in a moment, but first, I recall a conversation I had years ago with my sister.
I am not sure how it came about, but it was along the lines of wouldn’t it be great if suddenly a bolt of lightning hit us (metaphorically of course) that allowed us to be transformed in understanding why and what we are here for and it somehow empowered us to pursue that?
Like in John Travolta’s movie “Phenomenon”. Did you see it?
I won’t spoil it for you as you should see it for yourself, but in the film, he, as George Malley, becomes very clear as to who he is. That’s what I am talking about!
Being clear, being focused.
However possibly I am asking for too much. This instant gratification, if you call it that, only happens in the movies doesn’t it – or maybe not…
Perhaps it can happen to anyone at any time, but why it seems so hard is that we are either asleep or are looking in the wrong direction from where we should be.
As I said, asking ourselves the wrong questions.
In 1993 (yes if you were born in that year you would be 22 years old today with a life a head of you) by pure chance and random events, I came across a book that would have unforeseen future ramifications for me.
It was not my book, but I asked to borrow it as I was heading overseas. My friend Janet said “get your own” as she was still reading it. So with only a day before my flight’s departure, I managed to buy a copy.
That book captivated me.
Not only was I learning new ways to see the world, it started to challenge some of my perceived views about who I was and what I was capable of doing in my life.
However, it was the author’s words in the introduction of the book that resonated most with me…
We all have dreams… We all want to believe deep down in our souls that we have a special gift, that we can make a difference, that we can touch others in a special way, and that we can make the world a better place
While my trip through France, Switzerland, Germany and Poland was to see new places as my train journeyed across West and the newly opened East Europe (since the recent fall of the Berlin Wall), this book instead, had me travelling internally in my mind as I thought about the possibilities of my life in front of me – all at the “young” age of 31!
When I returned back home to Sydney, I caught up with my friend Janet and told her about how much of an impact this book had on me. She then told me that the author of the book would be in Sydney the next week running a seminar.
I had to be there and somehow, I managed to get a ticket, despite the late notice.
Well of course many of you would have put it together by now, the author was Tony Robins and his book was Awaken The Giant Within.
I attended his seminar and I went on to attend his advanced programs over the next two years. The experience certainly shaped me, but was it really the thunderbolt that I was seeking?
You see for me, I went back to sleep. I became comfortable. I had a good job. Life was OK. I stopped asking the important questions that I should have kept doing.
However, I continued to read and learn, particular biographies – Ghandi, Victor Frankl, Nelson Mandela, Lech Wałęsa, Aung San Suu Kyi and even just recently, Malala Yousafzai. All of their stories incredibly inspirational.
At the same time, life presented ups and downs, but these stories gave me the strength to keep moving forward, to keep searching, to keep stepping up.
The stories gave me new perspectives and new beliefs in what is possible for the human condition, despite the deepest depths we can all fall too.
Several years ago I even had the most humbling experience to visit Robin Island off Cape Town and stand in the same cell that Mandela had been kept in for all those years – just look at what he overcame!
So now after 22 years since reading Tony Robins’ book, I have “woken up” again. But this time it is different.
You see I was asking myself the wrong questions.
It’s not about “what I want to do in life”.
It has to be “how can I contribute and make a difference” – the very same words that Tony wrote which hooked me in the first place all those years ago – it is just that I did not really understand it then!
It is not about taking, it is about giving.
In my businesses today, it is about the value I can give and the role of my businesses play in all this that drives me. This is my purpose and life’s work now.
Being clear, being focused.
So do you need to take 22 years like me as well?
Well I can’t answer that. Maybe you need more time. It’s up to you.
My only wish for you, is for you to not sell out on yourself.
Maintain a higher expectation on you, than anyone would expect of you – a higher standard and then, hold yourself to account.
While you may never know whether long after you are gone, you are remembered because that does not matter. What is important is whether today, right now you are making a difference, a contribution and working towards making the world a better place.
Then, it is my belief you will find yourself in that place as I find myself today.
The family of four, had finished dinner and now the older teenaged daughter Katherine was in her room doing her homework while her sister Julia, was practicing her guitar lessons. In the kitchen, Shane was helping Claire putting away the dishes.
Perceiving something that Shane was not his jovial self, Claire asked “What’s wrong Shane?”
“Nothing!” Shane said as he frowned.
“Come on Shane, you have barely spoken all night, what is it?” Claire asked again.
“Well, you know that job promotion I was after? It did not happen. Apparently I am not the right fit. They think I am doing a good job at what I am doing now, but they have found somebody better. I know we had a lot of plans, but I guess that’s all fallen through now.”
“Look Shane, there will be other opportunities, don’t get all hung up about it”, Claire replies reassuringly.
“You know the sad thing is that when I was younger, I said to myself, I would never sell out. I had dreams. Like remember when we met?”
“Well you were a bit of a dreamer Shane, but I still married you didn’t I!”
“Yes Clare, but what happened? It’s like we are doing the same thing day by day.”
“Shane, we are no different to any other family like look at your sister’s family or your brother’s family? Even the neighbours.”
“But that’s my point, it just seems like everyone around us has chosen this life, but I still feel there has to be much much more.”
Do you know somebody like Shane, maybe somebody perhaps with similar traits as yourself? Living a comfortable life with a close family all around him, but for some reason he has lost his enthusiasm or direction. In many ways, he has lost his purpose.
If you knew Shane, what would you advise him? Would you say to him that this is life, this is as good as it gets? Just like with Jim Carrey in the movie The Truman Show?
Or would you suggest to Shane that perhaps it is for him to find a deeper sense of purpose or meaning, something that ignites his spirit, that connects him to others in a way that he has never experienced before? A way to fulfil his (and his families) six human needs as Tony Robbins defines – certainty, variety, connection, significance, contribution, growth?
Would Shane be ready to hear what you have to say?
A month later the Simon’s were attending a family barbeque. Shane’s brother Karl and his family were also there, as well as a friend of Karl’s, Tim. Tim had his own business that he had set up several years ago and after a difficult start, things were really going well for him now. As the afternoon went on, the conversation shifted from sports, to children to what’s happening at work.
“You were going have your own business weren’t you Shane? I thought by now you would of got tired of your job and went out on your own?” asked Karl.
“I was probably not as brave as you Karl! Besides, I have probably left it too late!” Shane says, as he reaches for his drink and tries to change the subject.
“Come on that’s got nothing to do with it. It’s about finding something you really want and then going for it. No matter what that is. Of course there are unknowns, but equally there is the big unknown that if you keep doing what you have already done you will get what you have always got!”
“Did you know Shane that, Ray Kroc started MacDonald’s in his 50’s, Colonial Sanders was in his 60’s and in fact Charles Darwin published his book the Origin Of The Species when he was 50? Even Samuel Jackson was 46 years old, recovering from cocaine and heroin addiction before got his break with John Travolta in Pulp Fiction!”
“I mean these are people who made it big, but there are also thousands more who are unsung heroes who are making it every day in all circumstances”
“Its not about having left it too late Shane. Its about you figuring out what you want to do – what your life is going to be. There is nobody else but yourself that can figure that one out”
“Perhaps you just need a wakeup call to get on with it?” Karl said.
Little did Shane realise but the conversion with Karl that afternoon burned inside Shane’s deeper consciousness. It hurt bad. But it was good as well. Like it’s what Shane’s teenage daughters would say, you know what I mean bad is good and good is bad etc!
That evening, Shane was not his usual jovial self again…
He was different.
In fact it was as though something had awakened from a very deep sleep. Something Shane had forgotten about, or had given up on.
Bear with me for a moment, but do you think it is possible to learn new things?
Do you think it is possible to learn new things regardless of your age, your gender, your culture, your abilities, your location, your financial status, your health status? Do you think this is possible?
Perhaps somethings we can learn, are relatively straight forward and others are more complex. Maybe you want to learn how to fold a shirt in less than five seconds, well there is a YouTube video on that. Maybe you want to learn about quantum physics, yes another YouTube video.
But maybe somewhere in between those two examples we hear ourselves saying: “I could never do that”. To me that is worse than: “You could never do that”.
This is why having a sense of purpose is so important.
So if you are contemplating starting a business, or you are in the process of setting one up, or are well on your way with an established business, it is critically important for you to have a clear understanding of why you are doing this.
In corporations, Mission, Vision and Values Statements are used:
Mission – what are we (the business) about?
Vision – what are we (the business) going to ultimately accomplish?
Values – how will we (the business) accomplish goals?
Mission The mission statement of a business justifies and explains its reason for existence. As the business’s purpose, the mission should guide everything the business. At every organizational level, individuals can use the mission to evaluate priorities. If a proposed course of action doesn’t further the mission, it shouldn’t be pursued.
Vision A business’s vision is its ultimate goal, its interpretation what success will look like in the future when the company accomplishes its purpose. The vision statement translates the mission’s statement of purpose into a specific destination that implies or explicitly states action. The business’s vision shapes the business’s long term or strategic goals or objectives.
Values Values are the defined principles in how the business will go about conducting itself in order to achieve its Mission and Vision. In all my businesses, the core values are Learn Lead Legacy. These are also underpinned by my Ethical Principles and Sustainability Practices (some businesses may have similar but is written as a Code of Conduct). I have written them because they are important to me and re-inforce my Mission and Vision.
Goals Then and only then, once we are clear on our purpose (our Mission, Vision and Values) then we can define our strategic objectives or goals. The goals fulfil the business’s strategic plan. They take at least a year — often several years.
Short-term goals, the business’s tactical objectives, take up to a year to achieve. Every tactical objective that is completed brings the business closer to fulfilling its strategic goals.
Operational goals deal with day-to-day operations, carrying out tactics on the front line. Employees bring them to completion in a single day, a week or a month.
Now in talking to many of my clients and other entrepreneurs and business owners, I see that we often jump straight into operational goals. However I think the more time you spend figuring out your Mission, Vision and Values, you will be more energised to drive the required outcomes from your goals at a later stage. You will be more empowered and focused to make better decisions in the longer term. Considering many of these decisions are financial, getting it wrong could be catastrophic for you – something you definitely do not want to do.
So how can you do this?
Well I would suggest the following…
First, find time and a space that you will not be disturbed. In fact perhaps a space where you may feel inspired. It is essential that you are in your optimal emotional state for this.
Second, get hold of what every writing or capturing instrument that you enjoy – for me I use the Moleskine coloured note books (different colours for different themes) and one of my favourite pens.
Third, write and keep writing. Start with your purpose and then keep adding to it. Do not be judgemental at this stage. The objective is to get your thoughts down and then you can start to organise them further.
Fourth, be patient – this does take time, may be months. However the outcome will be linking you emotionally to your purpose of why you are wanting to set up or scale up or sustain your business – perhaps one that will be your legacy.
Finally, if you are still struggling and find that voice inside you says: “I could never do this”, well make sure you learn how to fold a shirt in five seconds, then if you have to, progress to quantum physics. Because I am convinced that somewhere in between you will be up and running!