Principle 2: Tilt the Odds

Book Discussion:
“Sticky Branding” by Jeremy Miller

And the journey continues. But before I jump into Principle 2 – have you thought about the chapter on “Simple Clarity”? Did it give you pause? Did it bring up memories of situations in which you got blank looks when talking about your business or a friendly smile but no reaction? Or have you reached the “proficient level” with your pitch?

Let me know and add your comment in this thread.

Off to the next principle. “Tilt the Odds”

In the introduction to this principle Miller writes: Sticky Brands […] “they are not all things to all people.” A deceivingly simple statement that I believe rings true for most entrepreneurs, but in practice is hard to do for several reasons.

Reason number one is you haven’t defined your niche or specialty yet. This is quite common at the beginning of an entrepreneur’s journey because we evolve and discover what we are really good at and what we are really passionate about and what sells. It’s a process in which we learn, going from the general to the specific. Take, for example, a photographer. In the beginning she may say she’s a photographer for events, portraits, and weddings. Over time she may find out that she is particularly good at catching the special moments at events and specializes only in that. Or she may find out that instead of events, portraits, and weddings she is an excellent photographer of food.

Reason number two is the “problem” of saying no to opportunities that don’t fit. For me this is a big one if you need the money and feel you can’t afford to decline work. Miller calls this time “sales purgatory” (page 45), the time you don’t sell a lot or don’t have a lot of clients. He refers to companies that change their brand, but I believe it is equally relevant when you start a new business. If you present yourself as the expert for xyz, this is what people will know and remember you for. It just takes time to get over the hump from nobody to somebody. It is the time during which you must focus and optimize your marketing efforts. What is it that you need to do in order to reach your audience, aka prospective clients? Do you have a website, or do you need to create one? Do you need to be present on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram… or any other social media channel for that matter? What other opportunities do you have to make people aware of your products or services?

Which brings us to reason number three: money. It doesn’t really matter where you’re at in your business endeavor; you will need money to pay your bills. I don’t want to dampen your enthusiasm, but it will always take longer than you think to get over the hump from nobody to somebody. As we have learned in Principle 1, we need to hit the right chord with our pitch, which may take time and some experimentation, but we also need to get known. Some entrepreneurs already have a network that supports their marketing efforts. That’s a big advantage, but some may have to build it first. The key is communicating, communicating, communicating what we do. 

Since we’re talking about communication… It is equally important if you work with a team. Spirits may run low at times if you have experienced some setbacks. Keeping your team in the loop will ensure that they are still on board and understand what’s going on. Instead of allowing doubt to grow, you’ll include them, and they will play an active role in the process of reaching your and also their goal. 

If you’re a solopreneur like me, a great support system can take this role instead, and I find it invaluable. I’m not telling you anything new if I say building your own business, no matter how big or small, is a rollercoaster ride. Along the way we encounter many ups and downs. The downs are much easier to deal with if someone has some encouraging words for us, serves as a sounding board, or helps us come up with new ideas. The ups are far more fun if we can celebrate them with trusted supporters and friends (even if we have to do this virtually right now).  

I have a couple of trusted business owners I can turn to with questions, a coach who helps me with whatever problem I’m struggling with at the moment, and my very supportive ex-business partner who doesn’t shy away from saying things candidly. Not that I always want to hear them, at least not at the moment, but more often than not they started a process that, over time, brought me closer to where I want to go with my business and also who I want to become as a person.

I took the liberty of focusing my view more on solopreneurs to make Principle 2 more relevant and applicable to you. But here are a couple of closing thoughts about it that, no matter your business size, I find important to mention. 

According to Miller, the alternative to a niche or sticky brand is the generalist that often competes on price and availability alone which is particularly difficult in a downturn economy. Creating your niche provides you with the luxury to own it and be the big fish, even if you are a comparably small company. It’s your expertise, your in-depth knowledge about the industry, and your continuous effort to serve your clients better that protect you from a price race to the bottom.

An aspect that I believe is vital for us solopreneurs is playing “off your strengths” (page 50) which, in turn, will help you use your resources more effectively and efficiently. As a solopreneur or entrepreneur, you wear many hats, and your resources, especially time, are limited. Miller calls it “rigor in sales and delivery” (page 50) and working off of guidelines. These guidelines will help you qualify prospective customers with a few questions and weed out the ones that are better served by someone else. At LEAPJob, Miller’s recruiting company, the three guiding questions are around position, location, and salary. If a prospect is no fit, he refers them to another recruiting company.

What is your takeaway from Principle 2? Are you ready to say no? What are your criteria to determine if a prospect is a good fit? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

See you next week,

2 thoughts on “Principle 2: Tilt the Odds

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