The Sound of Business – Part I I

Creating a ‘kick ass’ Sonic Personality© for your business requires that
your business have a personality in the first place. Of course every
business has one, whether you are aware of it or not, and this is a real
danger. Your customers’ understanding of who you are, and what you
do, as a business, may be very different from the vision you have of
yourself. This can be a very serious problem for owner-managed
businesses, where the personality of the entrepreneur oft times gets
substituted for the personality of the business – big mistake! So what’s
the first step in crafting a marketable business personality?

What Business Are you Really In?

OK kids, its story time. Back in the day, the railroad barons were the
most powerful business leaders in the country. They had the money, the
power, and the political ‘shlep’ (that’s drag for the uninitiated) to do pretty
much whatever they wanted. Today railroads are a depressed industry.
So what happened? Simple, they didn’t know what business they were
really in.

If you could have asked Leland Stanford or Collis P. Huntington, what
business they were in, they would have most likely answered, ‘the
railroad business’. And in the long run, that was their downfall. Instead,
they should have thought of themselves as being in ‘the transportation
business’ and if they did, they surely would have used their money,
power, and influence to control the emerging automobile, trucking, and
airline industries.

Before you can craft a Sonic Personality© you first must understand who
you are, what you do, and why you do it better than the other guy. If you
can answer those three questions clearly, then you have the beginning
of a coherent business personality that must exist before you can have a
Sonic Personality©.

Focus On One Core Value

One of the hardest things for entrepreneurial businesses to do is to
focus on one core value. This may sound, on the surface, to be contrary
to the lesson learned from the railroad barons, but it isn’t. Your core
value focus has to be broad enough to be able to sustain your business
through the onslaught of competition and fast moving technological
change. When the railroad barons focused on just one form of
transportation they let all the other transportation opportunities slip
through their fingers and ultimately overtake them.

Most accountants and bankers will tell you to ‘stick to your knitting’ and
not let yourself be spread too thin with secondary initiatives. This is
generally good advice, however there is a fundamental difference
between going off on a tangent and sticking to your core values.
Knowing who you are, what you do, and why you do it better than the
competition will help you keep your focus while at the same time allow
you to critically determine whether new opportunities are ones that you
should pursue.

Create Definition: Lift and Separate

So far I have managed to avoid using the term, brand, because it is
generally misunderstood and ignored by most owner-managed
businesses. Substituting ‘personality’ for ‘brand’ puts the notion of brand
in context. Think about it. You may have thought your business doesn’t
relate to branding concepts, but you’ve accepted, or at least are
intrigued by the idea, that your business needs a clearly defined
personality.

Al Ries and Jack Trout have written numerous books on branding and
marketing, including ‘The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing.” One of the
lessons to be learned from this book is ‘The Law of Opposites’. Simply
stated, unless you’re the ‘top dog’ in your industry, you have to define
who you are in contrast to the industry leader. This is not dissimilar to
The Theory of Contrary Thinking.

The example sometimes used to explain The Theory of Contrary
Thinking is Tulip Mania. When tulips were first introduced to Holland in
the middle to late sixteenth century, people fell in love with them. By the
early 1600s, an exchange market had been created that dealt with tulip
futures. Similar to what happen in the Roaring 20s, everyone got
involved in purchasing tulip futures for ridiculous prices, until some wise
guy yelled SELL! Panic set-in and like in the 1920s, the market
collapsed. The moral of the story is simple; if everyone is doing it, you
better do the opposite.

By defining your business in contrast to the industry leader, you create a
separate and distinct business personality that gives your audience an
alternative to the ‘big guy’. You no longer are a second banana ‘wannbe’
imitator, but rather a distinctive company with your own image,
strengths, advantages and of course, personality.

Customers Are An Audience

Finally, this distinctive personality needs to be communicated to your
audience, and you’ll notice I’ve called your customers an audience,
because that is exactly what they are. If you think in terms of audience, it
will open up a whole new understanding of communication techniques
and media, that will lead to better audience recognition, acceptance,
and ultimately sales. Now we have to give your finely crafted personality
a voice. Tune-in next time for ‘How to Give Good Sonic Personality©.’