In the beginning, there was nothing, then you came along, as did all kinds of other startups, all fighting for a place under the sun, to grow, to mature, to overshadow those below. How exactly do you break through this rapidly ascending mass of vegetation when you’re just a feeble little thing?
It’s all about being relevant. No matter how tempted you are to think about that cherished place on top of the food chain, close to the warmth and the light and the rain of dollars, don’t succumb to the menial task of drafting big strategic frameworks and shiny diagrams and charts of where you want to be six years from now. This is not where you need to focus your energy. It doesn’t matter that you’re small. Those giants around you once were no more than seeds. Do you know how they got way up there? You guessed it. Let’s peel apart this interesting word "relevance."
Relevance means being relevant to the right people at the right time in the right place.
Let’s pretend you’re selling candied grasshoppers. Hey, nothing wrong with that. It might be a much sought after delicacy to be crunched on the teeth of those inclined to all kinds of exotic foods. Perhaps you even perfected the art of catching grasshoppers into melting sugar so that those who eat them can appreciate the artful posing of the insects. People like all kinds of weird stuff, if only you can find the right people.
Who are these people who eat candied grasshoppers? Where do you find them? How do you approach them so that you are relevant to them and don’t appear like some crazy fanatic who has nothing better to do than to collect grasshoppers instead of having a proper job? You have to be unique and crystal clear about what it is you do.
We are the only X that does Y for Z.
X could be anything, a wine shop, a sock factory, a boating school, a graphic studio. In a few words, you have to articulate who you are as a company.
Y is what you actually do. Do you make wine or sell wine or turn wine into candy? Do you knit socks or package socks that somebody else made? Have a one-line pitch that can explain what you do to a 3-year-old and to your elderly neighbor.
Our brand is the ONLY ___________ that ____________.
Find something that nobody else does. A few examples:
Google – we organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible.
Coca-Cola – we refresh the world.
Disney – we make people happy.
Z is the people you do Y for. If you have created personas for them, you’ll have an easier time identifying the places where you can find them and not show up at weddings with a tray of strange crunchy snacks that would send both the bride and the groom screaming. You would know better than that. You’d find customers who are open-minded and innovative and would embrace your product and rave about it to their friends.
No matter how carefully you are selecting your customers, if you show up at their door when their favorite dog has died, you’re likely to be chased away with not simple words of distress and indignant outrage, but maybe a couple kicks too.
Think of yourself as a hunter.
Established businesses can thrive on a farming culture (cultivating relationships) where existing customers lead to more customers and business as long as you attend to them well. Your startup needs a hunting culture (acquiring new clients). If you are a startup with zero clients, you’re a hunter by default. Know your customers well, and know what they look like. What time are they going to their watering holes? Understand when to approach them and to offer your goods. You need a unique value proposition. How are you different from other vendors? What about your website? Look at the competitors’ websites, see how they’re probably the same. Good looking, yes, but the same. None of them stand out. Ask yourself these questions:
- What makes you different from your competitors?
- What makes you stand out?
- What vertical are you really good at?
- What type of customers do you boast about?
- What type of customers boasts about you?
- What industry expertise do you have?
Once you have all this down, ask yourself the most important question.
- When is the right time to go hunt for your customers?
Where do you find them? Where are their watering holes? Where do they go for information? Who are their friends? Now that you know who you’re looking for and when, you’ve got to determine the places they go to, to find information. This is your fight in the jungle. All these green moving sprouting things around you are in the way. You have to be visible, to be different, to stand out, for the customer to notice you. First, you need to know where they look for you. Second, you have to get there. And third, you need to grab their attention and hold it.
How do you do that?
Be relevant. Be different. Have something special to say.
You have seconds to grab them until they’re gone, lured away by the multitude of distracting offerings all around them. If you have your pitch down, you’ll have no problem achieving it.
Let’s sum everything up.
From the moment your company is born, it has to be relevant. The only way to achieve it is to stay laser-focused: be relevant to the right people at the right time in the right place.
You are part of a struggling wriggling thicket of others like you, and you’re in the shadow of those who made it. In other words, you are in the long tail, and that is where sustainable business can be found, that is where relevancy lives. That is where you can utilize the long tail marketing with hundreds of tools and keywords. And little by little, crumb by crumb, you will achieve your goal. You will be relevant and stay relevant, which means, people will listen to you. Once people will listen to you, your next goal is to develop a reputation, for them to continue listening to you, and only after this comes the execution of that shiny impressive marketing plan that you were so tempted to draft from the very beginning.
Your to-do list:
- Write a one-line pitch about your company following this template: we are the only X that does Y for Z. Use this template from the branding strategy book ZAG.
- Research your competitors to make sure what you wrote is relevant and unique.
- Armed with your pitch, start hunting for customers.
- Check out one of the best books about being relevant, or better, being remarkable.