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Personal Branding

Be Distinct or Extinct

It was Tom Peters, the management/leadership guru who co-wrote In Search of Excellence and many other books who came up with the phrase “be distinct… or extinct!”

I really wish I’d thought of it and it conveys the same message as Jack Trout’s Differentiate Or Die.

It puts over the differentiation/branding issue very well although I don’t believe it is black and white.

If you don’t differentiate I don’t think you’ll die or become extinct.

At least not quickly.

It’s more like the death of one thousand cuts.

Your profit will disappear…

… one price cut at a time.

… one lost customer at a time.

… yet another interesting prospective customer you didn’t manage to convert.

Tom Peters was talking about personal branding when he say be distinct or extinct in the book The Brand You.

The same idea applies to businesses.

If you’re not distinct and memorable, you’ll create no impression on your target audience. Your touch points will be forgotten or even ignored.

In the book, Tom Peters gives five ideas to be distinct…

  • Ask yourself: What do I want to be known for? What do I want to stand for?
  • Perform a Personal Brand Equity Inventory – ask people you know to tell you three or four words or phrases they associate with you. Do you like what they say?
  • “Inc.” Yourself – see yourself as an independent contractor who only gets paid for work of value.
  • Develop a competence – be excellent at something
  • Develop a one-eighth page Yellow Pages advertisement for your personal brand.

Moving those ideas over to your business, you can ignore point 3 since you’re already in the world where you only eat what you kill.

The first two present an interesting comparison. You may never have stopped to think about the words you want others to think about you.

You may be shocked at how different what you want people to think and what they do think. It’s a clear indication of a positioning/branding problem. I was brought up on this when someone I liked said to me “Paul I don’t really know what you do” when I was promoting myself as a generalist business coach.

I’d prefer you to think of capability rather than competence when you think about your business. To me competence sounds such an ordinary word. The idea remains the same, your business needs to be superb at something.

For the second time today, I’m referring to the value disciplines – is your core strength in operational excellence, customer intimacy or product leadership?

Finally, I like the Yellow Pages test. Can you create a short, succinct marketing message which would be up to the job of attracting customers when all your competitors have the same opportunity? This is very much a return to the idea of the Unique Selling Proposition.

Are you ready to be distinct or face the risk of becoming extinct?

in 3 – Your Strategic Positioning

What Three Words Do You Want Customers To Think About You?

SEO expert Nikki Pilkington reminded me recently of the three words test.

The idea is simple and works for business branding and personal branding.

What three words do you want customers and clients to think of when they hear your name or think of you?

Three Word Branding Examples

When I challenged Nikki, her answer was “SEO, social media, helpful” – OK that’s four words including one acronym but you get the idea.

When I thought about it for me, I want you to think “profit from differentiation” or something similar – in particular I want you to think of profit and differentiation as a united concept.

If I think of Maserati, I think of “fast, stylish Italian car”. Lamborghini is similar with “fast, flamboyant Italian car”. Ferraris are “red Italian racing cars” to me because of their grand prix heritage.

Aston Martins are “luxurious British grand tourers”

Mercedes means “prestigious, German engineering” to me.

Or for Kylie Minogue I think “Australian singer with a nice bottom.”

Applying The Brand Concept To Your Business

This simple test shows how clearly your brand is positioned in the mind of your customers.

I suggest you stop for a few minutes and ask yourself what you want your customers to think about you in three words.

Then ask a few of them.

If what they say echoes what you want them to say, then you can be reassured that you’ve done a fine job of branding yourself.

But if what they say is radically different, then you have a problem.

You don’t see yourself in the same way that your market sees you.

What To Do If Your Branding Isn’t What You Want It To Be

You have a choice.

Either you adapt your self-image to match what the market thinks and focus on using that to its best advantage.

Or you have to try to change the perceptions of the market to match what you want.

If the market doesn’t have a clear view, then you need to reinforce your brand through constant repetition of a few key ideas. Branding expert Ben Mack calls these “verbatim vitamins” because they pep up your brand.

But if the market has a clear view and it is wrong, then you’ve got a tough time ahead.

Look at Skoda cars as an example.

They used to have a terrible brand image and were the butt of jokes like

“What do you call a Skoda with a sun-roof?”

“Answer: A skip”

Since the takeover by the Volkswagen group, quality is much improved and the brand is strengthening.

But I bet there are people who don’t buy Skoda cars because of the old image.And others who buy despite reservations about the image.

Alfa Romeos have a similar problem. I can’t justify buying a Maserati, Lamborghini or Ferrari but I can afford an Alfa Romeo. I’m drawn to the brand because they are “Italian fine driving cars” but I can’t shake the old “unreliable rust-buckets” out of my mind that was the reputation the brand earned from the 1970s. I think I might need a second car if/when the Alfa breaks down and that makes buying an Alfa prohibitively expensive in my mind.

Why is this clarity so important?

Because it works the other way around as well.

When I think of Nikki, I think of an SEO expert.

And when I am asked about experts in SEO, I think of Nikki and a few others.

That top of mind awareness is powerful.

It’s where the money is.

Any other SEO expert who contacts me faces a big challenge.

He or she has to show me in great detail that they are worthy of being ranked alongside Nikki, Dan Thies, Leslie Rohde and Jerry West.

And it’s an even bigger challenge to create a preference because the space as SEO expert is filled in my mind. It would take a lot of time and it’s time I’m not ready to give willingly because I don’t feel any need to.

You have a simple choice.

You either stand for something and get remembered.

Or you stand for nothing and get forgotten and ignored.

What three words do you want customers to think about you?

It’s Your Turn

You’ve got the chance for a little self-promotion by leaving a short comment for your three words or phrase you want customers and clients to think when they hear your name.

No comment spam around keywords – it won’t be published.

in 3 – Your Strategic Positioning, 4 – Lead Generation

What Can Ted Nugent Teach You About Personal Branding?

I adore classic rock music from the late sixties and the seventies and Ted Nugent is one of the stars that burst onto the scenes in the mid seventies when I started liking my music loud and heavy.

Differentiation By Who

Although I’m currently working with a young soul singer in the UK who has released one album so far to develop a more distinctive sound, image and general presence, you don’t have to want to be a rock or pop star to benefit from developing a strong personal brand.

It’s what I call differentiation by who.

I see it in the world of business advice and self help but it’s also there with celebrity cooks who can build chains of restaurants based on personal celebrity.

In fact, differentiation by who in terms of personal branding is open to any business which can build a strong element of “know, like and trust” with the business owner or key staff members.

Ted Nugent Is A Great Example Of A Personal Brand

According to his website www.tednugent.com

“In the past 50 years, Ted Nugent has done things that most musicians could only ever dream of, including setting attendance records at venues worldwide in 2005 and ’06, was the top grossing act in the world in 1977, ’78 & ’79, and has sold over 30 million records worldwide.”

The Void In the Hard Rock World

In the mid seventies the big British hard rock bands of the early seventies were in decline – Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath had all peaked and while punk rock was the “in thing” in 1977 – there was a gap for someone to fill.

That someone was Ted Nugent with his blockbusting first three albums – Ted Nugent, Free For All and Cat Scratch Fever along with other acts like Kiss who are also worth talking about in terms of differentiation.

Ted Nugent – The Wild Man Of Rock’n’Roll

I always saw Ted Nugent as the wild man of rock’n’roll but his main nicknames were:

  • The Detroit Madman
  • The Motor City Mad Man
  • The Nuge

I think it’s time for an example of why – this is Stranglehold from 1976.

If It’s Too Loud, You’re Too Old

That’s Ted Nugent’s music philosophy summed up in a few words and the phrase was used to promote on of his mid seventies tours.

I must admit that I turn the volume down a few notches now but his music still gives me an adrenalin rush. His typical sound was fast, heavy and raw.

He’s still a top performer now as this video of  Cat Scratch Fever shows from 2010.

Ted Nugent Had A Strong Visual Image

A key element of the Ted Nugent personal brand was how he looked.

Long hair was a hard rock requirement and facial hair was common but no one else wore animal skins and loin cloths.

Ted Nugent And His Controversial Views

Another part of his personal brand was the way he courted controversy with some views that people found offensive while others lined up in support.

  • A strong anti-drugs and anti-alcohol stance
  • Pro-guns and the right to bear arms
  • Pro-hunting – he even owns a hunting lodge according to Wikipedia. I can’t agree with him on this as I believe canned hunting is sick. I can admire the bravery of the old Maasai warrior tradition of killing a lion on his own before he can become man because I know how big lions are and I wouldn’t do it but shooting a defenceless animal that can’t escape is wrong.
  • Right wing political views

In The World Of The Bland, Ted Nugent Stands Out

You don’t have to like Ted Nugent or his music but he does create a lasting impression and stands for something.

His enduring success show that what he does works.

in 3 – Your Strategic Positioning

Copywriting Alchemy by Ling Wong

The full title of this book by Ling Wong is

Copywriting Alchemy: Secrets To Turning a Powerful Personal Brand Into Content That Sells: Write Your Way To a Standout Personality-Driven Business

In my review posted on Amazon.co.uk, I gave it 2 Stars.

Here is my review.

An interesting idea to combine personal branding with copywriting

I thought it was an interesting idea to combine personal branding with copywriting. The personality of the owner or staff is a great way to help differentiate your from competitors. As people, we are all different. We have unique strengths, weaknesses and eccentricities. [continue reading…]

in Other Business Books

What Do You Want To Be Famous For?

Today I feature another excellent article from my good friend and mastermind partner Ian Brodie of IanBrodie.com who helps coaches and consultants get more clients. The article looks at your positioning or branding  in terms of what you want to be famous for?

What big idea, concept or expertise do you want people to link to your name? I’ve written before about the few words you want people to think of when they hear your name – What 3 Words Do You Want Customers To Think When They Hear Your Name

Over to Ian.

What Do You Want To Be Famous For?

Back when I was a young(ish) consultant working for Gemini Consulting I was lucky enough that my personal mentor was a very experienced marketer and business developer. He eventually went on to become head of Marketing and BD for Gemini globally.

I remember very clearly a discussion I had with him a few years into my career.

We were reviewing my performance appraisal for that year. I’d kind of hit my stride – had done really well and got great reviews. I was feeling pretty pleased with myself, so I wasn’t expecting Kieron’s question:
“OK, that’s all fine. But what do you want to be famous for?”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, so far you’ve done a bit of everything. Strategy, marketing, supply chain work, change management. What are you going to focus on?”

“Can’t I keep doing a bit of everything? I like the variety. ”

“Not if you want to progress. You might have been the star in your previous company – but everyone is a star here. Everyone is a high performer. Unless you focus and really build up your skills, there’ll always be someone better than you at each of the things you do. You’ll never be the first choice when a project manager has a role to fill.”

And he was right. Although it took me a couple more years to finally bite the bullet and specialise in marketing and sales.

Once I’d specialised I was doing more marketing and sales work. So I got better faster. Soon I was pretty much the “first name on the team sheet” for marketing and sales in my chosen sector. Then I became the first person the firm turned to to sell and lead marketing and sales projects in that area.

And it’s the same with clients.

While we might enjoy variety, clients want the best person for the job. And that’s usually a specialist.

If you have a water leak you call a plumber, not a general handyman. If you have epilepsy, you need a neurologist or epileptologist, not a GP.

Later on, once you’ve established your expertise, the client may broaden the range of questions they ask you. You may establish enough credibility in wider areas that they come to see you as a trusted advisor.

But it starts with “earning your spurs” by doing a brilliant job at helping them with the initial problem they have.

And to do that job brilliantly, you need to focus so that you develop real expertise in that area.

Years later, I read a quote which really brought that point home to me. It was from magician David Devant – the leading turn-of-the-century conjurer and first ever president of the Magic Circle in London.

When approached backstage by a young magician who told him he knew about three hundred tricks and asked how many Devant knew, Devant’s answer was:

“I know only eight. But I know them very well”.

As Devant highlights, you can only be a true master of a small number of things. Be they magic tricks, business disciplines, areas of the law or client industry sectors.

It may be painful, but to be the greatest value to clients, to help them with the trickiest challenges (and therefore the most lucrative work) you must become a master. And in my mentor’s words – you must become famous for it.

So what are you going to be famous for?


Ian Brodie

You can learn more about Ian and his marketing and sales ideas at IanBrodie.com

Do you agree with Ian?

You even have the chance for a bit of self-promotion because you can tell me what you want to be famous for by leaving a comment – just no keyword spam comments because I won’t publish them.

in 3 – Your Strategic Positioning

Guru To The Internet Marketing Gurus

I was watching or listening to Rich Schefren recently and he talked about his positioning as the “guru to the Internet marketing gurus” which he picked up from someone.

I think that someone is me.

I did a quick search on “guru to the Internet marketing gurus” and many of the references come from my blogs.

You see Rich Schefren has been the business coach to many of the biggest names in Internet marketing, a place where the word guru is often used because of their mystical powers to make money.

It’s a very strong personal brand and positioning which no one else can claim.

It’s ironic really because while Rich has built this great personal positioning, I’d say his main product – the Business Growth System – is poorly branded.

It’s a great course if you’re a serious Internet marketer, rather than someone who plays at it to make a bit of pocket money. (Read my Business Growth System Review).

But the name is bland and I bet many people struggle to remember what Rich’s coaching system is called.

In contrast, look at what Jeff Walker has done with the Product Launch Formula. It’s a very tightly focused brand, even though the words are still generic.

Or Frank Kern and Mass Control, full of sneaky psychological tricks to get people to buy.

Or Mark Joyner and Simpleology. I wish I’d thought of that name although I’m not so keen on the book which carries it.

A quick check on Google for search volumes is revealing – exact matches for global search

Business Growth System – 36 per month (and 46 for Rich Schefren business growth system)

Product Launch Formula – 1,600 per month (and 320 for Jeff Walker product launch formula)

Mass Control – 1,000 (plus an extra 590 for Frank Kern mass control and 91 extra for mass control Frank Kern and 260 for mass control 2.0).

Rich Schefren, Jeff Walker and Frank Kern are three of the biggest names in Internet marketing in recent years. This is confirmed by the Alexa.com rankings (Alexa is an independent source of traffic rankings) and is a great way to check on the credibility of anyone who claims to be an expert in the Internet and social media.

Rich Schefren with StrategicProfits.com is ranked at 12,965

Jeff Walker with ProductLaunchFormula.com is ranked at 24,031 and Jeff has just finished another of his launches for PLF so traffic spikes sharply in the last couple of weeks.

Frank Kern with MassControlSite.com is down at 54,267.

Rich Schefren is getting more general traffic but it’s not brand related.

The problem is that his Business Growth System is a business growth system. Product Launch Formula is a business growth system and so is Mass Control.

A strong brand name can become a generic term – think hoover and xerox – but a generic name can’t become a strong brand name.

in Internet Marketing