By Suzanne Ross
Who would ever introduce themselves by saying what they are NOT?
It is a crazy proposition but it happens far more often than you might imagine. A discussion with my teenage daughter, about how she will stand apart as she starts considering highly competitive colleges and then the professional world, echoes business realities many face. Her dilemma is no different than that faced by large and small companies, clients and audience members where I’ve given presentations on communicating value: How do I differentiate myself, my product, my company?
Confusing perceptions fill the landscape as organizations and professionals lose focus or touch with the marketplace. Customers aren’t clear on what you do or how you, your product or business deliver value. Companies and individuals find themselves positioned to fill needs that no longer exist. Without immediately recognized value, relevance and credibility, others begin to define you, and their misinformation and opinions motivate behavior of your most important audiences.
Perceptions can be changed by reframing your situation and circumstances to help your audience understand your value in a new way. The ability to redefine your value and purpose is essential to effective communication so problems can be solved, lasting impressions made and objections overcome.
Budding performing and visual artists who understand the importance of first impressions, my kids are learning how framing the conversation in a positive way shapes perceptions. They proactively introduce themselves, sharing their surname as “Green like the color.” Though a subtle step in building their own personal brand equity, it’s a simple and memorable approach that reinforces an artistic/visual element and eliminates misspelling, rather than generating a first response that might dwell on a negative or position them as something they are not — “Green without an ‘E.’”
To reframe your value and build a more lasting personal, product or company brand:
Align passion and purpose with audience needs. While your value is based on how you solve problems, it becomes most tangible when aligned with what customers need and expect. Start by identifying how you, your product or organization uniquely serve your customers and help meet their goals and bottom line. Then restate your value or position within common audience interests.
Tell them what you ARE rather than what you are NOT. What you say is as important as how you say it. Demonstrate your value accentuating the positive and showcasing audience benefits. Reframe the discussion by clarifying facts and inviting people to see things in a different, more valuable way. This approach allows for better responses, new possibilities and opportunities for success.
Use associations. While my kids have the benefit of a colorful name, consider what associations you can leverage to make your value more vibrant and alive. Listen to what customers, peers and competitors say about you and maximize the most compelling attributes that solve problems and authentically make you stand apart.
Consider all encounters like a “point of purchase” opportunity. You have the chance to share your value everyday in all you do, whether your responsibility is for company image or focused on a personal career. Be consistent in how that value is framed in all your marketing, such as websites, brochures, digital communication and campaigns, sales presentations, social media, one-on-one, etc.
The person who sets the frame for value is the one who defines the playing field as well as the scope of the game. To soar to market leadership, that person should be you. Remember there is a difference between can and cannot. It is just three simple letters that can determine life’s direction.
Suzanne Ross, a market leadership strategist and president of The Aerie Co. in Evanston, collaborates with organizations and executives to identify and communicate their value. Ross also is a frequent speaker on communicating value, customer engagement and branding. Recently she was honored by the Hot Mommas Project at George Washington University School of Business Center for Entrepreneurial Excellence as a winner in its international case study program featuring female role models and mentors.