Screaming in the Forest
By Anna Garleff - Founder of Garleff Coaching and Consulting Group (GCCG) | The Seeking Veritas Business and Leadership Column is an ongoing collaborative project between SG Productions & GCCG
What do a huge multinational, a startup, a non-profit, an entrepreneur, and a family-run business have in common with a job seeker? What they have in common is the need to articulate clearly what sets them apart from their competitors. Whether its personal branding or corporate branding, it’s all about your unique value proposition.
Before you can communicate effectively with your clients - let alone staff - your soundbites and key messages need to be clean, clear, accurate, and memorable. It’s not enough to be great at what you do. You also need to be great at talking about it and getting others excited about engaging with what you’re offering. In other words, closing a deal.
You could be sweating buckets in a job interview, dreading what they’re going to ask you next, or you could be as cool as a cucumber, and know exactly what you’re going to respond to any number of given - yet unknown - scenarios.
The problem is that many individuals and businesses alike believe that: “I can do a huge variety of things for an equal number of types of businesses / types of clients / types of problems - so it’s really hard for me to narrow it down to just one thing.”
No, it’s not. You’re just using the wrong languaging, and approaching the question from the wrong perspective. You don’t have to “find a niche” that’s so narrow that it sucks the life out of you and leaves you with no scope for flexibility or growth. Many a hand-rubbing consultant on LinkedIn would have you believe otherwise, since there’s a lot of money to be made in squeezing one ghastly, gasping sentence out of anyone previously bubbling with enthusiasm for the unexpected and the unknown.
But what you do have to do is catch the attention of that potential client or employer and have them immediately understand that what you’re communicating applies specifically to them.
Some of you will have seen the series “Mad Men” which took a deep, cynical dive into mass advertising world of the 1950s. The show revealed how obsessed we are with selling an image rather than tending to what lies underneath. What I’m saying is: whatever it is you’ve got to offer still needs to be marketed and sold. Psychology was a nascent science at the end of the 19th century, and by the mid 1950s, we had learned a lot about what makes people tick. Washing machines, toasters, and cars for the masses! Also, cigarettes for women! Which brand does your doctor recommend?!
The psychology behind advertising and marketing is a multi-zillion dollar business. After all, if you can unlock its secrets, it will reveal Aladdin’s cave. Yes, spend money to make money. It’s not enough to hang up your shingle / slap up a website / build it and they will come. After all, if a tree falls in the forest, does anybody hear? You’ve got wares or services to peddle. How is anyone supposed to find out?
Ironically, it’s mind-boggling the amount of sheer noise that’s produced for social media. Performative noise. The belief that it’s some kind of virtual pinboard located just between the company coffee galley and the washrooms. Put up a notice and pray to get noticed. The “social” part of social media is something that a few people (but very few businesses) do well.
And it starts with knowing your client base - it doesn’t even start with a carefully crafted message. What are the needs and problems that you can actually solve? I hate to tell you this, but literally no one cares what you have to say unless it in some way solves a problem, fills a need, satisfies a desire. And it’s a whole ‘nother blog post about how marketers create problems, needs and desires where there weren’t any before, just so they can sell you something that fixes the very problem they’ve created for you.
Running analytics on your data (assuming you’re gathering any), understanding your demographics, and doing even some fairly rudimentary market research will make a deep impact on your profits. You may be thinking that every business does this - but I assure you many are not. It is astonishing how many small businesses are flying by the seat of their pants; but even many larger enterprises have got patched together systems that are like some steampunk dystopia ready to explode. Lots of organizations have so many holes in their data that they can’t even mine it.
I’m going to draw on Marxist theory now to explain how you can be a better capitalist. What?!
Well, culture creates identity for individuals. Just think about it: Are you Nike or Adidas? VW or Toyota? RayBan or Oakley? Coke or Pepsi? Microsoft or Apple? Boeing or Airbus? DC or Marvel? Bud or Miller? In our branded world, you know where you stand. So if you want to attract a certain kind of customer to your product or services, you need to be very sure that they understand you’re talking directly to them. Your brand needs to “call out” that identity your potential client is cultivating: they are “this” and not “that”. That’s why brands are all about identity: wear this, drive this, and you will be an X person, too.
Any decent beer will slake your thirst, but everyone knows Republicans have “Miller Time” and Democrats go for the “King Of Beers”. Yet it needn’t be a dichotomy - perhaps you’re a craft beer type? Oh, you’re a whiskey drinker? Irish or Scotch?
What is it about your key messaging that leads your window-shopper straight to your door? That tells a potential employer “you’re the one”? They’re not just buying whatever you’re peddling. Today, it’s about far more that. We’re buying a little piece of ourselves.
So you’d better make it as short a route to “yes” as possible. To sum up, Just Do It.
About the Author: Anna Garleff is an Organizational Psychologist and Executive Coaching. She works with C-Suite clients around the world, focusing on scaling up and leading diverse teams through Garleff Coaching & Consulting Group. She has been a ghostwriter for KPMG, Deloitte and PwC; and a former Director of the Open University (UK) operations in Germany.
You can contact Anna at: https://www.linkedin.com/company/garleff-coaching-consulting-group/