Friday, August 20, 2010

How to Position Yourself as the Answer

People use the Internet for one thing – and one thing only.

Pornography.

Just kidding. (Actually, not really.)

TRUTH IS: People use the Internet to solve a problem.

That’s it.

That’s the number one thing typed into Google: A question.

How do you hunt elk?
How do you write a book?
How do you start your own membership website?
How do you successfully stalk your ex-girlfriend on Facebook with her finding out?

Hypothetically, of course.

Besides, she ain’t going to find out. Stalking isn’t illegal if you change your name, right?

Anyway. People use the Internet to ask questions and solve problems. Got it.

WHAT I WANT TO KNOW IS: What are you the answer to? What pervasive, expensive, real and urgent problem does your business solve – better, faster, smarter and cheaper than the other guys?

Because if you can’t answer those questions, you lose.

When you’re the answer, you can name your price.
When you’re the answer, you enhance your referability.
When you’re the answer, you position yourself as a Thought Leader.

When you’re the answer, people come to you.
When you’re the answer, people talk about you.
When you’re the answer, people come back to you.

Today we’re going to talk about how to position yourself, your brand and your organization as such:
1. Ask people you trust. Find ten people you trust – whose opinions matter – and ask them to reflect your value back to you. Specifically ask them, “What do you think I’m the answer to?”

The cool part about running this exercise is, their impressions might not be what you think. That’s the tricky thing about self-awareness: It’s rare that you define your own value. You’re simply too close to the subject to make an objective assessment.

“Sit in the assembly of the honest,” as The Bhagavad-Gita instructs. Then, ask people to reveal what you’re too close, too in love, too blind or too proud to see. Are you standing on a whale fishing for minnows?

2. Nothing beats raw experience. If all you’ve done is read a few hundred books and morphed yourself into a walking vending machine of quotations from a bunch of dead white guys, you’re not the answer – you’re a parrot. A hack. A ditto.

The only thing you’ll ever be the answer to is the occasional question during a drunken game of Trivial Pursuit. Which is great for parties but useless for profits.

Instead, you need hit the streets. Walk the factory floors. Scour the company warehouse. Get into people’s living rooms. Whatever displacement strategy will school you in the ways of the world.

The point is: You can’t solve people’s problems sitting in your office all day. Poet John Lecarre was onto something when he said, “A desk is a dangerous place to rule the world.” Are you interactive, reactive and proactive – or just googling all day?

3. Focus groups are amateurs. Don’t just learn about your customers’ business – learn about their brain. Try their heads on. Learn to think like them and you’ll be able to provide more customized service.

Fortunately, social media provides you with an all-you-can-eat buffet of options for doing so. That’s the biggest misconception: People assume social media is for selling. It’s not – it’s for solving. It’s a perpetual listening platform that will give you more insight into people’s brains that a hundred focus groups combined.

The hard part is, using social media for that purpose forces you to face reality with an open mind and even more open heart. But that’s the only way to hear with clean ears.

Who knows? Maybe you’ll learn that you’re spending millions of dollars positioning yourself as the answer to a problem nobody’s trying to solve. Are you fulfilling a compelling need for your target market or projecting onto that market what you think they should want?

4. The speed of the response is the response. If you plan to position yourself as the answer, you need to get back to people quickly. Especially if their problem is expensive and urgent.

And, even if you don’t have the answer right away, ping people back anyway. Let them know you’ve taken ownership of the problem and they can relax.

If possible, do this personally. Give people no choice but to deal directly with you. Either in person, over the phone or via email. But not with some bullshit autoresponder that lies to people, informing them that their call is very important to you, and that you’ll get back to them in the order in which their call was received.

Instead, use their first name and tell people you’re personally on the case. Doing research, making calls, uncovering stones, kissing babies, licking toads – whatever it takes to find the answer.

Then, once you strike gold, don’t just reconnect – reinforce the fact that you kept your promise. This reminds people of your ability to deliver answers consistently. How many unread emails are currently sitting in your inbox, collecting virtual dust?

5. Even when you say no, you’re still marketing. Let’s say someone approaches you with a problem. And you know you don’t have the solution. No worries. Respond by saying:

“I have no idea. This is outside of my scope of expertise. Fortunately, here are three people I trust who have answers for you.”

By doing so, you’re still the answer. Maybe not the answer people were looking for. But you still pointed them in the right direction. You still positioned yourself as a resource.

What’s more, your willingness to divulge your ignorance demonstrates honesty, character and approachability. People will notice. Are you willing to defer when you’ve surpassed the perimeter of your competence?

6. Audit the answer-ness of your platform. When I redesigned my website, I made a simple request to my web team, “The first thing I want users to feel when they arrive on my homepage is: They’ve to the right place. The search is over. My site is going to help them get unstuck.”

The result was beautiful. Seriously, if it were humanly possible to have sex with a website, I would totally bone www.hellomynameisscott.com.

For you, gather every marketing piece you have out there: Websites, collateral materials, social media profiles, business cards and the like. Then, ask yourself:

*Is it a website or a destination?
*Does it leave the impression of value or vanity?
*When people first arrive, does it scream, “Look at me!” or “This is for you!”

Ask these questions today. When was the last time you audited the answer-ness of your platform?

7. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. In Larry Winget’s book, The Idiot Factor, he makes a powerful point about being the answer:

“Don’t give me instructions on how to build a watch – just tell me what time it is.”

People screw this up all the time. They have no restraint when it comes to dispensing answers. And instead of cutting to the chase and solving the problem that was presented to them, they pontificate. The monologue. And they parade their storehouse of wisdom around the room like a trophy wife at ten-year reunion.

Meanwhile, the poor sucker who asked them the question in the first place thinks, “Dude, I just needed one letter – not the whole alphabet.”

Lesson learned: Brevity is eloquence. No need to deploy every weapon you have. Like my mentor says, “Pastors need to learn how to preach one sermon at a time.” Are you vomiting when spitting would suffice?

8. Publicize your ability to recognize patterns. That’s what makes you a recognized thought leader – not just a random expert. If you truly want to radiate usefulness, if you want be the answer, learn to recognize patterns before anyone else.

Notice things and give them names. Create a new glossary of terms to be melded into your industry’s lexicon. And then, sign your name to it and share it with the world.

That’s the missing piece for most people: They’re too selfish with our knowledge. And if you want people to remember you as being the answer, you’ve got to give yourself away.

Don’t worry: The greatest things given away always multiply. And the more you give away for free, the wealthier you will be. What patterns do you excel at recognizing?

FINAL NOTE: Positioning yourself as the answer only works if you commit to living up to that label consistently.

The most notable example comes from the world of basketball.

When Allen Iverson was traded to the Philadelphia 76er’s, his nickname became “The Answer.”

Why?

According to an ESPN article, Iverson was the answer to all of the 76er’s questions:

*When will we be good again?
*When will we have another superstar?
*When will we win another championship?

Now, according to a Sports Illustrated article, Iverson’s nickname of “The Answer” is a clear reflection of his many talents and dominating performances on the court.

In fact, he lived up to his moniker throughout the first year of his career, averaging 23.5 points per game for Philadelphia. And as a result, Iverson captured the Rookie of the Year.

Since then, he’s become an eleven-time all star. AI still averages 26.7 points a game, making him one of the most prolific scorers in NBA history.

LESSON LEARNED: If you want to position yourself as the answer – online or off – it requires a dedicated effort.

Otherwise your dominance will crumble.

In which case, pornography might actually end up being your next career move.

LET ME ASK YA THIS…
What problem do you solve?

LET ME SUGGEST THIS...
For the list called, "99 Questions Every Entrepreneur Should Ask," send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor
scott@hellomynameisscott.com

Never the same speech twice.
Always about approachability.

Watch The Nametag Guy in action here!