For entrepreneurs, the hardest part isn’t necessarily creating the idea. In fact, the hardest part is getting your idea noticed in a cluttered market. No matter the category, the competition is fierce, and it’s getting harder and harder to rise above the noise with traditional branding and marketing tactics.
I encourage you to take on a new mindset that treats your entire business like a thumbprint, not a product or service and a list of marketing tactics.
Let’s take the human thumbprint for a moment. Each person on this earth has a thumbprint unique to them, and wherever they go, whatever they touch, their thumbprint is there. It’s on the doorknob, the book you read, your computer? it’s everywhere and it identifies you and only you.
Your business operates in the exact same way. Every customer interaction, from your voicemail message to your shipping labels to your website, is part of your thumbprint, and you better make sure everything is unique and ownable to you. All too often I see entrepreneurs focus on their product and their websites but not their business cards or contract language or even how they dress. Their marketing is a list of brilliant tactics, but most of them simply add to the clutter instead of standing out.
You know the businesses that think in terms of thumbprints because overall you can articulate what they are about. TakeZappos.comas an example. The way their customer service people answer the phone laughing, their employees get to create an office environment that suits them, and the box your shoes come in scream excellent and intimate service. That is their thumbprint, and it’s in everything they do. Visitimaginibbles.comfor a minute. The thumbprint is innovative, surprising, fun, and accessible. If you call the imaginarium (aka offices) line you’ll hear a message that, while asking you to leave your number, also asks you to tell them who would play you in a movie about your life. When you buy a product on the Shoppe you sometimes get an extra dose of creativity with little cards they put in the box. The business cards look like mix tapes and take you to the web show imagi-NATION as well as giving you the contact information you need.
If you want to take your business to the next level, I suggest following the simple process below so that you can alter your thinking from branding to leaving your thumbprint everywhere.
First, it’s important to determine what you do that is unique and ownable to you. To do that, I suggest you answer these questions:
1. What do I deliver that no one else does? (Note: be careful of using phrases like implementation or service because I’m guessing your competition also says that.) I mean, what is that one-of-a-kind thing that you bring to the table?
2. What is the personality of your business? (Note: professional and reliable are not personality traits, they are how you do business.) Are you energetic, fun, or contemplative? These traits, which are often the personal traits of the entrepreneur as well, will help define your business in a way that can’t be copied in an authentic way. It’s tough to pretend playfulness if it’s not truly a part of your DNA.
Second, draw a circle in the center of a blank piece of paper. Inside the circle write the name of your business and the answers to the above questions. Then draw at least 20 lines leading out from the circle, each with their own smaller circle at the end. Now fill in those 20 smaller circles with all your customer touch points. If you can’t fill in 20 circles, you are missing something. Every business has at least 20 touch points. Finally, go back and answer these two questions:
1. Do all my touch points reflect my business thumbprint?
2. If not, what should I change to make sure my thumbprint is everywhere?
Let’s face it?the other side of this is that, as entrepreneurs, we have to learn to do more with less. We don’t have time or money to waste on inefficiency or tactics that are not only not serving us, but may even be working against us. Finding your thumbprint and leaving your mark everywhere leads to an ownable and unique business that is interacting with the world in a consistent manner. That leads to standing out in a sea of sameness that is your competition.