When I hear the word psychology, I think of Dr. Phil.
When I hear the word motivation, I think of Tony Robbins.
When I hear the word marketing, I think of Seth Godin.
And when I hear the word closeout, I think of my Dad.
Because each of those people are individuals who, in MY mind, have the most expertise about, and most association with a particular word. That’s called word ownership.
In terms of personal branding, however, word ownership is a great advantage to your business. It differentiates you from your competitors, keeps you in the minds of the people you serve and positions you an expert. Ultimately, it’s a fundamental key to entrepreneurial success.
In Al Ries’s famous book, 22 Immutable Laws of Branding, he explains that if you want to build a brand, you must ‘focus your branding efforts on owning a word in the prospect’s mind. A word that nobody else owns.’
He also and said, ‘Forget about the laundry list of wonderful attributes your product has. You can’t possibly associate them all with your brand name in a human mind. The key to getting into the consumer’s mind is sacrifice. You have to reduce the essence of your brand to a single thought or attribute. An attribute that nobody else already owns in your category.’
With that in mind, the first question to ask yourself is, ‘Do I already own a word?’
If so, congrats! You’re way ahead of the crowd. If not, that’s cool too. You’re reading the right article. (Odds are, you already DO own a word, you just don’t know it yet!)
To discover which word you own, ask yourself the following questions:
*If you looked up the word _______________ in the dictionary, you’d see a picture of my company
*If you googled the word ________________, the first ten pages would be my company’s website
*If was about to give a speech to 10,000 people and one of the audience members came back stage and asked, ‘So, what’s your speech about?’ I’d probably say ____________________
*In my marketing materials, the one word you will find that no other company uses is ______________________
*If CNN called me for an interview, they’d want my expert opinion on _________________
*After people get to know me, they’ll never think about the word ________________ the same way again
*The reason my customers love me so much is because I always help them with _________________
*If people were talking about me behind my back, they’d probably call me ‘The ____________ Guy’
Obviously, the goal of this exercise is to arrive at the same answer for every question. Now, if can’t do that yet, here’s what to do. Ask those same questions to 20 of your closest friends, family members, customers and coworkers. They might match with some of your answers, they might be way off, they might even think of words that never occurred to you! But at least it will give you an objective perspective on your degree of word ownership.
Hey! That’s My Word!
Ok, now that you’ve explored some possibilities as to which word you own, you need to maintain that ownership. After all, that word is yours, baby! Nobody else in the world deserves to own it besides you! Here are some suggestions to make sure you keep it.
REGISTER IT: just for kicks, see if www.yourword.com is already taken. If not, get it! Domain names are like currency these days! If not, register a name with your word in the URL, i.e., www.thebotanyexpert.com or www.perfectfamilyphotos.com. This will better position you in search engines.
RESEARCH IT: find out everything you possibly can about your word. Search for books on Amazon with your word in the title. Go on Google, type in your word and spend an hour a week reading every entry you can. Look up the etymology of your word’s origin. Do anything you can to increase your knowledge because, after all, you’re the expert on that word!
RECORD IT: write and publish articles related to your word. Think of yourself as a syndicated columnist, whose weekly articles always have something to do with your word. And if you don’t like or have trouble writing, don’t worry. Just go online and search ‘article’ + ‘your word.’ Thousands of articles on your word will come up and that will stimulate your creativity.
REVEAL IT: once you’ve developed and positioned your expertise on your word, tell everyone! Use it your lateral materials, website, newsletter, public appearances, client meetings, face-to-face networking or any of your other marketing channels. Shout it from the rooftops! Over time, customers and prospects will recognize the connection between YOU and your word. And they will know that whenever they need help on (insert your word here,) there is no person in the world they’d rather call than you!
Ok. You now own a word. The world knows it. Your customers know it. Even Google knows it! So the next question is: how will this word change your business?
I’m glad you asked.
Here’s a personal example of word ownership at its finest. It all started with a voicemail waiting on my cell phone as I walked off the airplane into the St. Louis terminal.
‘Yes, Mr. Ginsberg, I’m one of the editors of Cosmopolitan Magazine. I’d like to set up an interview with you for an upcoming piece. Please call me back at the following number…’
When I returned her call, she enthusiastically replied, ‘Oh great! I’m so glad you got right back to me – my deadline is tomorrow!’
‘So, what can I do for you?’ I asked.
‘Well, have you ever seen those little ‘quizzes’ that Cosmo runs every month?’
‘Oh, right. My girlfriend used to take those things in college.’ I replied.
‘Exactly! Well, as the editor of the section, it’s my job to seek out experts to help create those quizzes. And in our upcoming issue for January 2006, we’ll be running a quiz called ‘How Approachable Are You?’’
‘Reeeeeely,’ I said.
‘Yes. And in my research for possible contributors, I went on Amazon to search for books about approachability. And guess what? Your book was the first and only title that came up! So, we’d like for YOU to write the quiz. After all, you are the expert. Would you be interested?’
Um, are you kidding?! Me, write a quiz for one of the most widely read publications in the word?! I thought.
‘Yes. Yes I would,’ I said.