I own two pairs of glasses: one for distance, one for reading.
The distance glasses are for driving and TV.
The reading glasses are for when I’m reading something in print for an extended period (for shorter things, squinting seems to work just fine).
Recently, though, I created a problem…
I buy my glasses at Warby Parker, a company whose simple web site makes it easy to narrow the choices and that will send you sample frames to try, for free, before you buy.
The problem I created is that when I bought a new pair of distance glasses last month, the only ones that both looked good and felt comfortable were the exact same frames as my other ones.
And yes, it quickly became a problem.
I tend to leave the glasses all over the house, and so each time I needed one, I had to try it on to know which pair I had. A simple task, but one that got old fast.
So I decided I would leave each pair in its own special spot in the house. That regimen fell apart by lunchtime.
Finally, in a flash of “D-uh,” it dawned on me that a much better solution was to just mark one of the pairs. A thin piece of masking tape on the back of one of the arms and my (admittedly first world) problem was solved.
Simple rules save time and remove confusion
We all do this kind of thing every day – streamlining the world with heuristics (SAT word!) and “pigeonholing” people and things to help us sort out what’s what and who’s who.
None of us has the time (or interest) to investigate or remember everything.
When it comes to marketing and selling, some fortunate companies have managed to take advantage of this human tendency to oversimplify, effectively owning certain words or ideas in the minds of the general population:
Starbucks owns coffee.
Google owns search.
Viagra owns erectile dysfunction (or so I am told).
This is enormously powerful for any business. It’s a mental shortcut, one that separates them from the pack and makes them easy to remember.
In a word of mouth world – the world that all small companies and solos live and die in – it’s particularly critical. If nobody associates you with a specific situation or problem, few of those word of mouthy words are coming your way.
So, what’s the solution? Well, here’s what it isn’t…
… devising, memorizing and regurgitating at every opportunity a complicated, benefit-laden “elevator statement” that tells the world why you are so capable, experienced and gosh-darn wonderful.
Not because you’re not all those things.
Rather, it’s because nobody – and I’m even going to throw your mom into this category – is going to bother remembering any of it.
Consider the example of Nike. This is how the company describes itself on its web site:
“Our mission is what drives us to do everything possible to expand human potential. We do that by creating groundbreaking sport innovations, by making our products more sustainably, by building a creative and diverse global team and by making a positive impact in communities where we live and work.”
(They left out the part about discriminating against female athletes and employees, but you know, you can’t include everything.)
As powerful as that statement may be, it’s not helpful to walk around saying it.
Instead, and if Nike, the company, were to suddenly take human form (looking, I’m guessing, like a cross between The Rock, a cheetah and a large container of fresh mountain air) and show up at a local business networking meeting, a better approach would be something like, “We specialize in making great sneakers.”
Is it an oversimplification? You bet it is.
Does it do justice to all that Nike has accomplished? Not even close.
But that’s not what matters. What matters is how you get and stick inside the head of all the mostly disinterested strangers you interact with every day. Your goal isn’t to impress them, it’s to be remembered.
Here’s the bottom line.
No matter how striking and comprehensive the description you provide of who you are and what you do may be, other people are going to boil it down to just a few words (if they remember it at all).
So why leave it to them to do the boiling? Why not just give them the hyper-condensed, oversimplified version that you want them to hold onto, right from the start?
At least then there’s a chance that when the time comes, they’ll reach for the right pair of glasses.
- Did you click that Viagra link? Now you’ll start getting targeted ads. You’re welcome.
- How many pairs of glasses do you own?
- What’s the handful of words that you want others to remember about you?