The story of the Cyclops, for instance, sets forth an important concept in business – branding! As you may recall, Odysseus and his men visit the Cave of the Cyclops looking for supplies to replenish their dwindling stores aboard ship. Upon discovering them in his cave, the Cyclops used a boulder to seal Odysseus and his men in the cave. Odysseus was exceedingly clever. When the Cyclops asked him his name, Odysseus said his name was “Nobody.” Later on Odysseus and his men burned out the Cyclops’ eye. The giant let out a scream and threw himself about the cave, calling for help. The other monster giants who lived nearby came running to see what was causing this commotion. “What’s happening to you?” they called from outside the cave. “Nobody has hurt me,” cried the Cyclops. “Nobody came into my cave and did this to me.” The Cyclops words were slurred by the wine, and the other giants thought that he was having a drunken nightmare. Because he insisted that “Nobody” was harming him, the monsters went back to bed.
As solos and small business owners one of the first things we are taught about marketing is the value of branding – name association. Our product is only as good as our name. Our name is only as good as our product. Talk to any marketing specialist and they will tell you that word-of-mouth advertising is the most valuable marketing tool we have. Yet we are often slow to do those things which keep our name, or the name of our company, in the public eye. In doing so, we are effectively calling ourselves “Nobody.”
Think about it. When was the last time YOU hired a NOBODY? When you needed a plumber to fix your hot water heater, did you call Nobody? No, you asked friends and neighbors for a recommendation. When your furnace quit last winter did you trust Nobody to fix it? No, you either found a referral or called one of the BigFurnace names in the Yellow Pages. When you were told you had a heart problem did you trust your care to Dr. Nobody? I think not! You got referrals from your doctor and your friends and even did you research on the Internet. In short, big or small, we seldom trust “Nobody” with anything much in our lives.
As children we were taught to “be seen and not heard.” As we grew up bragging was frowned upon. “Don’t get a big head,” “Who do you think you are, Rockefeller?” . . . “Can you still get that head through the doorway?” All those remarks we heard growing up seem to stay with us throughout adulthood. While there is much wisdom in those words and it’s important to be mindful of others, the value of “making a name” for ourselves is a lesson to be learned. How will we ever become known in our field if we don’t tell people what we do? How will they ever put their trust in us if we do not let them feel our passion for what we do. It is that passion which most folks translate into experience. And it is experience which wins us their confidence.
One important way of connecting with folks is through business cards. Take time to design a business card which reflects your character and the type of work you do. Then be imaginative in your use of those cards. A good rule of thumb is to distribute at least 5 business cards every day. The backs can be used to leave a quick note for someone. Personalizing a card with a written message helps the person remember you the next time they see that card.
The Internet provides a wealth of ways to keep your name in the public eye. In today’s world, a website is nearly mandatory. Websites should be updated frequently so people have something new to read every time they visit. Otherwise, why would they bother to return? And make sure you establish a blog online. Your website/blog address(es) should be on your business card. Blogs are a great way to address topics which relate to your business and they give you a “voice” on the internet. Blogs give you a showcase for demonstrating your expertise and allow readers to become familiar with you. Blogs and websites are also great places for memorializing your successes and posting positive testimonials from existing clients.
Spend a few hours each week cruising the internet and checking on blogs and websites related to your particular field. Don’t just read these websites . . . leave comments. Leaving comments allows you to provide a link to your website or your blog address. These “trackbacks” from your comments will help build your reputation amongst peers and others interested in your field. Once you’ve done that, branch out and check out things of interest . . . I often comment on posts not directly related to my work . . . and frequently people will email me regarding my comments . . . which I am careful about responding to. Such a dialogue often leads to future work or referrals.
Join the local Chamber of Commerce or
Better Business Bureau. Volunteer to help with events in your area . .
. street fairs, benefits, charity auctions, local nonprofits, schools,
churches, hospitals . . . all of these events provide mutually
beneficial opportunities. In some cases you may be able to donate
services in exchange for free advertising. The fact is, people will
eventually associate your physical presence with a certain caliber of
performance and this will result in people seeking you out for your
Lastly, don’t be afraid to brag a bit now and then. There are a million ways to get your name before the public. I’ve only listed a few . . . put your thinking cap on and get busy. Let people know your areas of expertise. Mary Kay (Mary Kay Cosmetics) used to be fond of saying “Fake it til you make it.” While there is no substitute for experience, many of us are far more experienced than we let on. Standing back and waiting for someone else to toot your horn frequently just gives someone else a chance to step into the spotlight ahead of you . . . generally someone with less experience!