What’s your Only statement? Is it time to Zag?

Photo by Stuck in Customs via Flickr

Photo by Stuck in Customs via Flickr

It is really noisy out there…and I’m not talking about the kids on your street…although that may be true as well.

I’m talking about the noise in the marketplace. You know the overwhelming avalanche of information that we’re all subjected to every single day. Being on the receiving end is difficult and we’ve mostly developed filtering strategies to keep us sane.

But if you’re a small business owner trying to be heard over all that noise, you’ve got an even bigger challenge. People won’t buy your stuff if they can’t hear you and don’t know what you’re doing.

And if you sound like everyone else, then you’re just part of the noise and it’s unlikely that you’re marketing is helping you.

That’s the premise of Marty Neumeier’s book ‘Zag – the #1 Strategy of High Performance Brands‘. You can summarize the idea to a simple thought – if everyone else is zigging, you should be zagging.

What’s your Brand?

Most entrepreneurs and business owners don’t think much about branding – they’re too busy running their business, but it’s critical to your success, especially as Marty Neumeier defines it:

“A Brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service or company.”

Your brand isn’t your logo or your latest ad campaign, your brand is what your customers or potential customers feel about you. They get to decide, all you can do is educate them – think of it more as your reputation. A great reputation can push you to new heights with little effort…a bad reputation (or brand) will make it impossible for you to succeed.

There’s a great infographic from the book that you may have seen before that really summarizes different aspects of marketing, including branding – which one seems most compelling to you.


Aspects of Marketing from Zag by Marty Neumeier

The problem that most business owners have is that they don’t really have a Brand…they don’t necessarily stand for anything or they sound like everyone else in their industry.

What do you stand for? What’s the promise you’re making? Are you fulfilling that promise?

One way to test this is to do an ONLY check…you need to be able to simply and concisely fill out the following sentence – the first blank is your industry / category and the second blank describes your Zag…what makes you different.

The ONLY ___________ that __________.

If you can’t come up with an ONLY that’s meaningful and fairly short, then you don’t have a Zag and you need to give it more thought (the majority of the book is a 17 step audit process that helps you think through how to develop your Zag).

Your potential customers want to understand you. They want to know what makes you different from others in your industry – and that difference has to be meaningful and radical.  Something like: “The Only Bank on the corner of College and Metcalf.” doesn’t cut it. It may technically be true, but it’s not meaningful and certainly not radical.  Compare that to: “The Only bank in Kansas City that is proactively helping small business owners succeed.” If you’re a small business owner, which of those is going to be more intriguing to you?

Note – having a great Only statement is critical, but it will backfire in a huge way if you don’t hold up the promise across all aspects of your business. It’s not just something you say, it must be what you do and who you are every single day.

Some other possible examples:

Chipotle – The Only fast food Mexican restaurant that uses organic, healthy ingredients and fresh food made right in front of you.

Southwest Airlines – The Only major airline that puts the customer first and makes it fun to fly.

ProCore Resources – The Only Salesforce.com consulting company that focuses on your business processes before considering the technology solution.

What’s your Only?

On the surface, it’s a simple exercise but for most it’s a huge challenge to come up with a meaningful Only statement…and without that you don’t have a Zag and you’re getting lost in the noise.

What Only statements can you think of? What’s the Only statement for your business? Have you thought about it before?

We’re still working on the Aspire Only statement (I don’t know that you’re ever completely done) but for now it’s something along the lines of:  “Aspire is the Only Business Consulting / Coaching firm that uses experienced, certified Professional Business Coaches to help Kansas City business owners win the game of business.

Share your thoughts and examples in the comments below – we’d love to hear them.

Shawn Kinkade  Kansas City Business Coach