I’m no scientist, but when it comes to the relative temperature of various foods, I am happy to share the following facts:
#1. Oatmeal is the hottest consumable substance on earth. If your castle walls are in the process of being scaled by hordes of blood-thirsty enemies, this is the (food)stuff to pour on them.
#2. Nothing heats up faster in the microwave than quinoa. Five seconds on “high” and these once benign pellets will melt the roof of your mouth like nobody’s business.
#3. Pancakes retain heat the longest. Go back to the remaining pile on the breakfast table – after you’ve finished your coffee; after you’ve gone through the entire Sunday paper; after you’ve read choice segments of this very newsletter out loud to your spouse – and the pancakes on the bottom will still be steaming.
Three foods, each with a different strength.
And yet, each of which could also truthfully make the broad claim of being, “a leading provider of consumable heat.”
And that is exactly what these foods would do, were they typical professional service providers.
Rather than use plain language to highlight a narrow, fact-based difference, they would pick something more general and try to make it sound important.
After all, as they might explain…
Oatmeal: “I don’t want to be pigeon-holed.”
Quinoa: “I’m good in many areas, not just rapid heating.”
Pancakes: “My brother-in-law (the waffle) has an MBA and he told me not to limit my options.”
But here’s the problem with this type of thinking…
- This is marketing, not reality.
We are not lying when we talk about our work, but we are not trying to describe the world as it is, either.
As Robert Cialdini says in book, Pre-Suasion: “The main purpose of speech is to direct a listener’s attention to a selected sector of reality.”
A selected sector – not everything you’ve ever done or potentially could do. Pick something to become known for.
- People don’t have problems “in general.”
At least not problems they are willing to pay to have fixed.
Using broad summary statements to describe your work – “I’m a financial planner,” “I help mid-size companies improve productivity and raise revenue,” “I’m a leading provider of consumable heat” – may be accurate, even impressive.
But it’s not specific enough. Instead, you want your descriptive language to be closely aligned with what’s keeping prospects up at night:
“I need to stop the invading hoards.” Oatmeal can help; it’s super-hot.
“I’m always late.” Quinoa is the solution, it heats up quickly.
“I’m going on a long car ride and I hate eating cold food.” Stop whining. And have you considered pancakes? They stay warm for hours.
- A narrow focus doesn’t limit your opportunities.
You know what does limit your opportunities? No clients.
And the solution to that existential problem is to be narrow, not broad. Particularly if you are just starting out and don’t yet have a reputation, brand or momentum.
As for your brother-in-law, the waffle, the best thing in the world that could happen to you would be for your name to become synonymous with the solution to a particular problem.
Whether that’s geeks who want to get in shape but are intimidated by traditional gyms; companies that need white papers written; or left-handed people who are tired of living in a world built for righties.
In all three cases, if you become known as the person or firm who specializes in solving these problems, you move to the front of the line.
Here’s the bottom line.
I understand the urge to be broad. It feels easier, smarter and less risky.
Unfortunately, it’s none of that.
The quickest way to jump-start your marketing is to get narrow by positioning yourself as the obvious solution to a specific – dare I say, burning – problem.
Don’t make me come over there and pour hot oatmeal on you.
- Who do you think would fare best in a street fight: Oatmeal, Quinoa or Pancakes?
- Do you think a waffle could really get an MBA? Become an attorney, sure, but MBA?
- Are you concerned with being too narrow in your work? Why or why not?