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#4  To Own a Word is to Own a Whole Market

It’s time to take a page from the manual of the big consumer products companies.  For years, the big guys have spent millions on data that tells them not only the demographics (age, sex, marital status, income level, etc) of their customers but also on the psychographics (values, drivers, hot buttons, etc.).  What they found were patterns in specific groups of people that enabled them to create marketing messages that appeal directly to each group. 

 Did you know, for example, that most of the major laundry detergents were all the same formula?  The only differences are the name, the packaging and, what is known as, positioning.  That last is the most important concept upon which all else depends.  

 List three major brands of laundry detergent.  The first one that came to you mind is probably the one that most identify with.  Next, take a look at print ads for each of them.  Don’t just look at one ad for each.  Look at several.  And don’t just look at the obvious, i.e. the package.  Look instead at the way the spokesperson is dressed, what room of the home is shown, what is in that room, what colors are used, what is in the foreground, the background, etc.  All these things were specifically chosen to build a specific image in the viewer’s mind. 

 According to Al Ries and Jack Trout, “Positioning is what you do to the mind of a prospect” with regard to a product or service.  The position a person or product or service holds in a prospect’s mind will determine how, or even whether, the prospect thinks of it.  For example, what brand comes to mind when you see the word mayonnaise?  What vehicle comes to mind with the word luxury?  How about performance?  That means that in your mind those brands are positioned as owning those words.  The manufacturers have spent a lot of money to cement that positioning in your mind.

And that is what you want to do in your customer's mind – own a word or an idea such that whenever he or she thinks of that word - you or your company comes to mind.  For example, suppose you are a financial manager.  Well, you can't own the word "money." But you might be able to own the phrase "worry-free wealth."  

To do that, however, you have to develop your business around ensuring that your clients are in that enviable position.  Then you have to focus all your marketing efforts toward that concept.  That means that any written materials, any publicity you get, any speeches you give, your sales presentation, and even your casual networking conversation reinforces that concept.  And, of course, if your service doesn't provide that result, you won't own the concept for long.

A resume writer probably cannot own the word "resume."  But the words "career coach" may be up for grabs in your area or target market.  A graphic artist cannot own the words "graphic" or "commercial art."  But, perhaps, "traffic-stopping" or "warm and fuzzy" or "retro" might be applicable to your work. 

All this might seem limiting, but in fact the more limited your message is, the easier it is for your prospects to identify you and make the decision to work with you.  And that is the purpose of positioning - to get those prospects who are in the market for what makes you unique to contact you or be receptive to your message.  Remember, although we all may wish for a "luxury car," few of us will actually be interested in buying one.  The rest of us look for other words that meet our wants and needs - such as "sporty" or "safety" or "cute" or ...



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Revised: July 04, 2008 .