Plenty of companies make noise – relatively few create a buzz.
A buzz is where you get other people talking about you. But to do that you’ve got to give them something worth commenting on. That’s what Seth Godin means by being ‘remarkable’, the theme of his landmark book Purple Cow – doing and saying something worth talking about. Simply telling more people you’re an accountancy firm with 3 offices, plenty of expertise and a personal service won’t cut it anymore.
Companies want to get across why they’re different but find it hard to communicate their distinctiveness. Lots of websites claim, “We’re different from the average ….” but then go on to list a range of things which are actually quite commonplace!
Ask yourself the question, “What makes you YOU?” It’s unlikely to be the product itself – someone can usually replicate it (often more cheaply). The answer lies closer to home; it’s all around you. Your true USP is a cocktail of many things which makes you what you are.
Here are some likely ingredients:
Have a ‘why’
Believe in something. Be on a bit of a mission to right a wrong. Pioneer a new approach. Tell us WHY you believe this (it might be rooted in your back-story, or some research you’ve done or a lesson you’ve learned from clients and customers over the years).
Tone of voice
Have a distinctive ‘tone’ to the way you communicate – serious and factual or light-hearted and slightly irreverent?
You wouldn’t confuse one colleague from another, so tell us who your people are – not just how many years’ experience they’ve got, but what’s important to them. Give us a feel for what they’re like to communicate with. Give THEM a voice to represent the business. Let THEM tell us why they love their work and what they’ve learned along the way.
Let your clients speak
Give your clients a voice – let THEM tell the world you’re good at what you do. People trust what your clients say more than what you say about yourself.
Tell some great stories – case studies, personal histories, lessons learned, people in the community. Southwest Airlines do this brilliantly with their blog and Chicago-based law firm Valorem Law interview interesting people in their circle and write about it (“Lunch with a Cool Person”).
Teach us useful things – establish authority in your field of technical expertise, but include other (connected) themes. For example, you might sell holidays online but some customer journalism about the hidden gems in a certain location would add value and interest.
Be a bit edgy, poke fun at yourself, share things that will bring a smile to people. Specsavers are doing just that with their “should have gone to Specsavers” campaign.
Put us in touch with interesting people, tell us about groups or events we might benefit from (not just your own).
Put something back
Show that you have an agenda beyond just making money. Do good deeds (like a community project), not because it makes you look good but because you think it’s the right thing to do. Let your employees share their experience – how did it affect them?
Companies find this kind of stuff challenging to say the least. It’s hard for them to go beyond the “we-just-sell-stuff” way of thinking. This more ‘human’ form of communication feels more exposed and F2F and online storytelling is a new skill for many.
Is there an answer?
The bad news…this isn’t easy or straightforward. The good news is that MOST of your rivals won’t be able or willing to pull this off. That’s your opportunity.
I currently work with a small number of clients on a consultative basis to help them craft and deliver their distinctive story, and pull in clients.
But I’m using this article to propose an alternative idea…
The Brand Builder Group (SMEs)
A collection of businesses in North West England who want to be seen as the ‘stand-out’ provider in their sector, not by making more noise but by getting people talking.
- Only ONE company per sector (SMEs only – preferably £1m turnover minimum).
- Meet for ONE full day (or two half days) per month.
- Peer-group learning and support, in a safe and facilitated environment.
- Support one another on the Brand Building journey, test-driving things, sharing experiences, training exercises, challenge, provoke and motivate.
- Build lasting relationships along the way.
- Developing your (multi-layered) story
- Blogging (getting started and making it worthwhile)
- Using video
- Using LinkedIn and other social media platforms
- Networking skills & strategy
- Presentation skills
- Getting your employees involved in Brand Building (and sales)