By Michel Fortin
Today, it is an understatement to say that we are constantly bombarded with information of nuclear proportions. The roles of both the consumer and the entrepreneur have become so immensely challenging that choosing a business from which to buy -- let alone being and remaining in business -- has become a dizzying process. Therefore, how does one survive let alone thrive in today's explosive hypercompetitive, overcommunicated marketplace?
Unfortunately, many businesses still market themselves with institutional approaches (the kind that only says "I'm open for business"). These methods no longer work -- at least not as effectively as before. For instance, while some companies successfully generate a good response from their marketing efforts, it is one from which little or no business is produced.
The key, nowadays, is not to advertise that one is "in" business but that one is "the" business of choice. Where people used to ask "why should I buy this product?" today, that question has changed to "why should I buy this product FROM YOU?" Simply put, today's consumer will choose one company over another because the perceived value in their choice is greater.
The world is so full of raw, unstructured data that people no longer have the time to sift through all the information that is thrown at them let alone to make sense of it all. They no longer have the time or energy to shop around for the best product from the best company at the best price. They usually make a buying decision based on the kind of information that instantly communicates a specific benefit -- one in which there is an implicit added value.
Generating interest from one's marketing is one thing, but getting respondents to actually buy is another. So, how can a company communicate that it is the business of choice? What kind of information will get people to buy what it has to offer and do so instantly, especially in a hypercompetitive, highly marketed world? The answer is through positioning.
In today's world, top-of-mind awareness is the most effectively provocative form of marketing available. The idea is to create, within the subconscious minds of prospects, a psychological anchor that causes people to choose when a need presents itself a company over another instantaneously.
In reality, the goal is to market one's business in specific ways so that the name, product or service stays at the top of their minds at all times. In other words, since people no longer have the time to shop around, when they do have a certain need they will go to or look for the one company (or product) that happens to be at the top of their minds at that very moment.
Ries and Trout, the fathers of the positioning concept and authors of the bestsellers "Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind" and "The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing," state what I believe to be the most powerful notion in business, in that marketing is a battle of perceptions, not products. In fact, marketing is all about perception. You don't need to be the best company offering the best product at the best price in order to be known as the best. As long as people perceive you're the best there is, you have the upper hand.
However, there is a caveat: People want the best and that has never changed. But if you outright state that you are you then place yourself in a very fragile position, for people will think that you're either exaggerating at best. As an old mentor of mine once said, "Implication is more powerful than specification." If your marketing implies that you are the best without utterly claiming it, people will then perceive that you're the best and you will thus gain a winning edge over your competition. Top-of-mind awareness marketing is to be the best in the consumer's mind -- to win the battle for your clients' thoughts, not dollars.
Now, there are many steps that one can follow in order to effectively achieve top-of-mind awareness, but this deserves a book entirely on its own. So, let me share one of them with you, which is the first and most important step in top-of-mind awareness marketing: Names.
Does the name of your business, product or service intrinsically reflect the nature or benefit of that which you provide? Is it suggestive? I am astounded to see many businesses today that are still called by ordinary or blatantly unappealing names, or names that mean absolutely nothing, such as with acronyms like "MGF Technologies, Inc." I agree that some businesses may have notable or even catchy names. But if they don't create top-of-mind awareness they won't create more business.
Consider this example. Which investment company would come immediately to mind if you were in the market for one: "John Smith Investments" or "Wealth Wise, Inc."? What about "John Smith, Accountant" or "A Knack with Knumbers"? Would you choose "JSI Brokers, Ltd." or "Money Mastery"? You see, your name is extremely important in order to anchor your firm and position it above the competition in the minds of your prospects.
If your name does not tell people who you are and what advantage people have in choosing you (i.e., the added value you bring to the table), consider changing your name, especially to a brand name that reflects the benefits of choosing your firm. Choose a name that communicates your unique competitive edge and does so clearly, effectively, and efficiently.
Today, with their very limited time people would love to skip the inconvenience of searching for that one company that offers exactly what they want. If they've heard of your business and want to know more, however, many will attempt a to go directly to you even before thinking about searching for the appropriate solution. But if they did not hear of you, their search will be vastly more simplified if your name conveys a specific, unique, and direct benefit.
Another tip is to add taglines to your business, product, and service names. A tagline is a small sentence, preferably five words or less, that says all that you are in one single swoop. I'm sure you've heard of "The Midas Touch," "Kills Bugs Dead", "Just Do It," or "You deserve a break today." More than likely you know from which company these taglines derive.
Taglines are extremely effective, particularly in casting an aura of superiority or exclusivity without stating it outright. They usually complement business or product names and help to anchor them in the mind more effectively. Taglines are particularly beneficial when one is self-employed, running a home-based business, or limited in making claims due to the type of industry in which one operates. Through a tagline, one can create the perception of superiority and anchor one's firm or product effectively in the minds of prospective clients.
Here are some examples. Rather than saying "John Smith, Business Etiquette Consultant," say "John Smith, Where Protocol Meets Profits." Instead of saying "Jane Smith, Graphic Designer," say "Jane Smith, Great Graphics Guaranteed." Other than saying "John Doe, Fashion Consultant," say "John Doe, Flat-Out Fabulous Fashions." Remember that the more top-of-mind awareness it creates, the simpler the search for your business becomes.
For instance, if you were to put two products from two separate companies side by side, two products that are of the same kind, quality, and price, which one would you buy? Naturally, you would have a tendency to gravitate towards the one whose package is such that it makes the product appear as if there is more value added to its purchase.
This added value may be in the form of guarantees, lower prices, better quality, additional features, faster results, etc. Essentially, put a special name and possibly a tagline on your product or service that communicates this added value. If your product seems ordinary or is similar to that of your competitor's, make it appear extraordinary through its name.
A typical or even nameless product or service may be easier to sell when face-to-face with a consumer. But in the impersonal world of highly competitive marketing, however, the lack of human interaction takes away the emotional element as well as the ability to persuade or overcome objections. Therefore, a name must communicate that emotion. By doing so, it positions the product or service in the prospect's mind and empowers them to buy.
The object of names and taglines is not to claim superiority or to make one "look good." It is simply to turn the assumed into the assured in the minds of people (i.e., to make their choice a simpler and more confident one). If they don't have to assume that your firm or product offers a specific process, result, or benefit, they will likely choose you first.
For instance, most mechanics and garages offer free estimates these days. Not only do people assume that most of them do, they also expect it. This once extraordinary service has now become but a cliché. However, let's say you've heard of a garage offering "Free Fee Finders" or "No Guesstimate Estimates," or one whose tagline says "Where Estimates and Smiles are Free." And let's say you had to choose a mechanic and you specifically wanted one that offers free estimates. Let me ask you: Would you go to one you think that offers them or to the one you know that does?
Everybody Can Do It!
This process is amazingly simple yet so remarkably effective. If people don't have to assume that your company, product, or service offers a certain benefit, or in other words if you take the guess work out your prospects' mind, you instantly place it head above your competition. You might think this process is a little silly or even meaningless, but people have made fortunes by simply packaging ordinary companies or products -- even those that are identical to that of their competition -- a little differently. Remember the "pet rock"?
In the beginning, my consulting practice was dedicated to doctors. And during my work I often heard this silliness objection time and time again. But I still say that the above techniques can be applied even in these situations. For example, a dentist offers traditional general anesthesia and nitrous oxide sedation in order to make the process of dental work a pleasant and more comfortable experience. Many if not all dentists in his area offer the very same thing. However, he markets it with two simple words: "Dream Dentistry."
In essence, in today's hypercompetitive, overcommunicated world, top-of-mind-awareness is probably the best marketing tool now available. Through packaging, an ordinary company, product, or service can become irresistibly compelling. This is what I call "Glue for the Mind." So, make the ordinary extraordinary. Make yourself outstanding by making yourself stand out!