When I first started marketing on the Internet, nearly all the coaching websites looked alike. We had fewer coach training programs. You could tell that most coaches just applied the cookie-cutter templates they were given by their coaching programs.
I remember the infamous “riding a bicycle” analogy: A coach doesn’t teach you to ride, but runs alongside guiding you and cheering you on. Then there was the quiz: “Are you ready for coaching?”
Certain programs appeared everywhere, especially those encouraging participants to review their lives for excess baggage. Fortunately most coaches have grown beyond these standard offerings.
Yet when I meet with clients for a consultation, they often begin by wanting a website that looks just like everybody else’s. If you think about it, most lawyers have websites with just the basics. Real estate agents often are not allowed to be too creative: their sites fall under the umbrella of the parent company. But me-too marketing remains alive and well on the Internet.
Psychological research tells us that we have a zone of tolerance. Too similar to current offerings? We get bored. Too different? We don’t “get” it. But it IS possible to have a breakthrough presence that makes visitors sit up and take notice. Often these visitors aren’t thinking, “This site is different.” They’re thinking, This site seems to resonate with me.”
A lot of marketers go to the other extreme. They are so afraid of becoming cookie-cutters, they get so “out there” they scare their prospects.
For example, they don’t want to be seen as “just another coach.” So they invent titles for themselves, such as “Confidence Creator.”
The problem is, nobody has no idea what those titles are. As humans, we are hard-wired to categorize. When something seems too new, they wonder, “What’s going on?”
It’s like finding a new food: You want to know if it’s a vegetable or a dessert.
Small businesses need to walk a fine line between cookie-cuttter branding and being so “out there” nobody gets it.
The solution is to forget about being original with titles and clever phrases. Come up with a story that speaks to your audience…and create a story that will respond to them directly. You can learn more in my course, The Client Advantage.
In her book, Difference, Professor Youngme Moon of Harvard Business School writes about breakthrough brands, such as JetBlue and Ikea. These brands offer less than the usual amenities. JetBue doesn’t serve meals or provide a first class; Ikea originally provided no delivery service or furniture assembly. They were genuinely different in a meaningful way. They took away something but also gave customers something they hadn’t expected.
Her message might be, “Don’t waste time thinking of a cute slogan, a catchy logo or a website that makes you gasp. Think about a new way to serve your customers – responding to needs and wants they may not realize they have.” It’s not easy and not even essential for most service business owners who market on the Internet. You don’t need to offer a breakthrough. But often when we talk for awhile, I find my clients really do have something truly significant to share. They get to differentiate themselves from the inside out. That’s a goal worth shooting for.
If you’d like to learn more visit Strategic Storytelling Podcast Episode 44: MIddle Bear Branding.
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