Tuesday, December 11, 2018
Delray Beach, FL.- A colleague refers to himself in his publicity as “the world’s most ___-ed man.”
Good idea or bad idea?
Epithets have power when they are short and apt and memorable. Like Honest Abe. Or Tricky Dick.
In my colleague’s case, the tag came honestly – borrowed from a book jacket endorsement. And he’s been repeating it lately in what looks like a strategic effort to carve out a “niche” in his market.
It’s an old but still interesting approach: Find an unoccupied knoll in the landscape of your industry, claim it as your own, and then do everything you can to remain king of it. If you can gain the reputation of being the smartest or most honest or most reliable person in your neck of the marketplace, you’ve achieved something very valuable.
Likewise, gaining a reputation for being a master of a particular business skill is immensely valuable. You will always have more work than you can handle. And you’ll be able to charge more for your time than your competitors will be getting. In fact, if you are smart in choosing customers/clients, you could make twice or three times the amount others in your field typically make.
And once you have the reputation, using an epithet is a super-efficient tool for establishing a personal brand.
Building True Expertise
If the field you work in is crowded, it’s difficult to rise to the top. This is when it makes sense to narrow your brand to a small or neglected niche.
For example, 20 years ago, when I first started writing about business (in Early to Rise), there were all sorts of people out there claiming to be experts in internet marketing.
But within five years, the field had expanded so rapidly that it was no longer credible to position oneself as an Internet Marketing Master. So what happened then was a proliferation of people promoting themselves as gurus of particular aspects of internet marketing – like free-to-paid or VSLs or webinars or product launches. Dozens of individuals developed multimillion-dollar businesses by claiming the high ground in these niche areas.
To be successful as an internet marketer today, you have to get even more specific. You might, for example, develop expertise in product launch formulas for natural health products using YouTube as the medium. So if I were starting out now and wanted to enjoy the benefits of a personal brand, I’d certainly consider using the efficiency of an epithet. But I’d make sure that it would be a very, very narrow handle that I could justly claim for myself. Because if you claim to be what you are not, you will do the opposite of what you want to do.
Apples and Oranges
Everything I’ve just said applies primarily to consultants and to businesses that provide a service. But would it make sense for other sorts of businesses? Would an epithet help you in selling Vitamin C or used cars?
I don’t think so.
When you think about the biggest personalities in the world of selling products, they are not known by personal tags – as masters of this or the best at that. And they aren’t promoting themselves that way. They have very large and powerful reputations that are immensely valuable to them. But what they are known for cannot be boiled down to an epithet.
Richard Branson, for example, has long had a great reputation among his peers in every industry he’s been involved in. He’s greatly admired. But for what?
I couldn’t tell you. When I think of Branson, I think of Virgin Air and Virgin Records. In other words, I associate him with his businesses. And what do I think of his businesses? Something like smart and competent and playful. That’s pretty vague. A lot more vague than an epithet. But it works for him.
I could say the same about Jeff Bezos and Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg. They have strong and valuable personal brands. And they have used those brands to promote themselves and their businesses. But if they have tags, the tags are single words: Amazon, Apple, and Facebook.
What am I getting at?
I guess I’m saying a few things:
* If you are in the business of providing expertise, analysis, and/or advice, carving out a niche for yourself makes sense.
* And if you decide to carve out a niche, you should also figure out a way to claim expertise in that niche.
* And if you do develop some expertise in that particular niche, using an epithet to promote and distinguish yourself – i.e., to promote yourself as a brand – is a pretty-to-damn-good idea.
But if you have a business that sells products, it’s probably better to forget about developing a personal brand and, instead, focus on making your business brand personal.