Focus: the first rule of branding

At a networking meeting this morning, I met a young gentleman and asked him what business he’s in. He told me he’s a photographer / videographer / Google marketer / dog trainer. I’m just kidding about the dog trainer part. But when he was telling me what he does, I heard that extra part in my head.

By offering up things that didn’t seem to fit, he came across as lacking both experience and focus. I stopped hearing the words and started hearing what my brain was saying about his expertise. And to my brain, the business he was describing sounded like this: “I’m a young person who likes to take pictures, have even more fun shooting video, know more than the average person about Google marketing, and I’m hoping to pay my rent by somehow charging people for whichever of these services I can sell them.” These aren’t the words he used, but they are the way his words were perceived.

I stopped hearing the words and started hearing what my brain was saying about his expertise.

I asked him what the connection was between photography and Google marketing. He came up with some explanation of how he was a Google photographer. I know a fair bit about Google and search engine optimization, and I have yet to see any case where the type of photography you provide has any real bearing on the search engine results you get. No doubt you want quality pictures, especially for Google Local, where the photos of your facilities will have an impression that could lead to business or turn people away. But any decent photographer will provide quality pictures of your facility. To lump Google marketing in with photography and videography is too much of a stretch and you only end up coming across as inexperienced and desperate.

Focus is key

We live in an over-communicated world. We’re assaulted with commercial messaging. There are too many messages hitting us from every direction: over the airwaves, online, in print and in person. Unless you are focused with a razor-sharp intensity, you have no hope of building awareness never mind credibility.

To be successful as a brand, you have to pick one specialty to put all your emphasis on. There is no room in today’s culture for hedging your bets by picking multiple areas of business expertise and hoping one sticks in the event that you meet people who don’t need one of your other services.

Not too long ago at another networking event, I met a guy who sold a hydroponic gardening product. Then he said, “and I also sell these nutrition supplements that are like fruit juice in a pill form.” This was another perfect example of a business that was spreading itself across unrelated categories and as a result losing all credibility. When I asked him about these unrelated things, he explained that not everyone needs a hydroponic garden, so this strategy gave him something else to offer.

This is not how marketing works! This is not how networking works. The only way that you can build credibility is to convince people that you do one thing better than anyone else. When you do multiple unrelated things, the perception is that you are not doing any of them well. If you were, you would not be offering those other things. You wouldn’t have to.

The only way that you can build credibility is to convince people that you do one thing better than anyone else.

I advised this young gentleman to pick one of the areas in which he does business and only talk about that one area in any business setting. Forget the fact that another area exists. It will only fragment the perception of your business and decrease any impact that you have.

Building trust

Another problem in today’s business climate is our general lack of trust. Everywhere we turn, people are trying to scam us. We have our lie detector meter cranked to maximum capacity. We’re suspicious of everyone! Again, the only hope you have to build trust in this environment is to be passionate about one thing and live that passion through your words and actions every single day and every single moment.

Of course, in real life you can be passionate about two things (or more), and they may be unrelated things. But you can’t market that way. From a branding perspective you must focus on one and only one area. There needs to be energy about that thing — what we in branding refer to as your platform. You have to talk about it relentlessly, letting nothing else get in the way. You need to live out your passion so that people can see that you are serious about it. You have to make that as much of your life as breathing, and as natural. This is impossible when your business interests cross over unrelated specialties.

Take a look at how you’re communicating your business. Are you focused on one thing and one thing only? Or are you hedging your bets by offering up unrelated services? If so, you are short-circuiting your brand.

George Pytlik

George Pytlik has been involved in the advertising industry for over 30 years and designed his first website when the Internet was one year old. He was an internationally recognized speaker on advertising and branding and served on a number of communication committees at various times throughout his career, as well as writing a regular column for Marketing magazine.

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