But so and so is already doing that…lessons on branding from Olympians

By Lori

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Have you ever thought something like this?  Business branding lessons from Olympians

“I can’t be the —– expert.
So and so is already the —– expert.”

When you hear those words in your brain, puh-lease stop and consider these two things:

1. You’re too close to see reality.

Because you spend hours each week, noting where your competitors are speaking, publishing and being featured, you are sure that the marketplace knows exactly what you know – that your competitor is the one who’s famous in your field. You see this other person in your industry as already “owning” a certain expertise, so you think you can’t claim expertise in the same topic.

Here’s a little story that shows how being too far inside the echo chamber could be distorting  your business reality.

Early this year, I was working with a women’s business and mindset coach. She’s incredibly talented at what she does – helping women business owners to discover their unique talents, along with what makes them happy and then to structure their business and life in a way that aligns with those values. She’s eerily intuitive and that plays a big role in the experience of working with her as a coach.
When we first began talking about growing her business by making her more visible, we focused on her positioning. In a nutshell, positioning is creating a certain identity in your target market’s mind for who you are and what you do. When I made a few suggestions as to how this business coach could position herself to attract her ideal client, her comment was, “I can’t be that…Blank is already that.”

Translation: she was saying that a competitor already owned that position in the marketplace.

My reaction? I didn’t know who Blank was. I’d never heard of her.
Obligatory Googling followed. I didn’t see any similarities between my client and this woman, other than they served the same very broad target market, women business owners.

Reality check: there are 8.3 million women-owned businesses in the U.S. More than enough for both of them.

Business branding lesson #1: even when you’re doing exactly the same thing – and face it, no one is doing exactly the same thing, unless you set out to imitate everything about the other person…if that’s the case, just stop it – your businesses, your marketing, your image, the way that you share your expertise, the experience of working with you…ev-er-y-thing is different.
Which brings me to Point #2…

2. Your brand sets you apart.
Business branding lessons from Olympians
Ever since this year’s Olympics, I’ve been aching to contrast Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte to illustrate the power of image and brand in the marketplace. While the media crowned Phelps the winner and Lochte as a disappointing failure, I think that ignores valuable business branding lessons.
The two swimmers created a great point-counterpoint. Are they similar? Practically identical. They are the two best swimmers in the world.
Different? Um, jeah!
First, let’s put the obvious front and center: Phelps is the much bigger star with more medals. He is the most decorated Olympian of all time. But despite one being clearly better, they are still the two best swimmers in the world.

What if Ryan Lochte said, “I can’t be an Olympic swimmer. Michael Phelps is already an Olympic swimmer.” Totally ridiculous, right? But that’s what you’re saying when you hold back because you think someone else already “owns” the expertise on a certain topic.

In a different Olympics, without Michael Phelps, Lochte would have been a stand out star. C’mon, the guy won five medals!

Now, that business branding lesson again: Lochte and Phelps, while being nearly identical in what they do, are different people with wildly different images.
And, they have different opportunities as a result of their different images. Wheaties box? Phelps all the way.
But, let’s say Hugo Boss is thinking an Olympian physique and a knockout grin is the association its brand needs…just call me Lochte.

There’s another branding lesson in the Phelps/Lochte brand-off that up-and-comers can apply, too. Don’t be fake.
I’d argue that Lochte’s publicity team went too far in trying to morph the laid back athlete into a media sensation.
The goofy catchphrase and cocky chatter made the swimming sensation seem immature compared to composed and focused Mr. Phelps. By trying too hard to create an in-your-face celebrity image for Lochte, it came off as harsh and fake. The Lochte of 2008 was much quieter, less flamboyant and generally more likeable.
Be yourself. When you’re not, it creates dissonance that repels people. Would morning radio disc jockeys have gleefully called five-medal winner Lochte a “loser douche” if he’d been more of himself in the media? I don’t think so.

The upshot is this: even when you do exactly the same thing as another business owner, who you are and how you do what you do is makes you unique.

Your fame boosting assignment:

This week, I want you to not do something. Don’t look at your competitors (people who provide a similar service to a similar target market.) Unsubscribe from their newsletters, don’t read their articles, don’t listen to their teleseminars or watch their webinars. Focus all your attention on your clients and how you can best help them. What you’ve got to share is valuable – the marketplace needs you.

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