Branding expert and leading business thinker Peter Sheahan on how to turn your ideas into a viable business, and beat the competition in the marketplace.
So you have a great idea. Now what?
The world is not short of ideas. It’s not. It is short of people who can carry them out. It is short of people who know how to execute on their aspirations to make a real impact on the world. Whether you want to start a business, a social movement, or change the way the world thinks about the issues dearest to you, it takes more than desire and fidelity to a belief. It takes execution of those ideas – the blood, sweat and tears on the page to get it done.
There are five steps, or rather five competencies, that you can build to become someone who can make it happen. They are packaging, positioning, influence, acceleration and reinvention.
1. Packaging: Taking your idea and transforming it into something you can offer to the marketplace.
Packaging is what takes your idea and narrows it into a commercial offer – something someone can actually buy. It is the move from a broadly expressed aspiration (“I want to make money working for myself”), to firm concept (“I want to start a retail consultancy”), to viable offer (“I want to sell database solutions to retailers that will help to maximize average dollar sales in stores”).
One of the reasons ideas never get off the ground is because we fail to transform them from something we want and understand into something others want and understand. Everything is a market, so to achieve your goals you have to think about the process as an exchange of value. And in a market, people don’t buy your aspiration from you; they buy theirs. Your job is to package your aspiration in a way the market values.
2. Positioning: Aligning your offer to a market need.
Positioning continues the narrowing-down of an offer by shifting your attention away from the idea itself and onto the buyer. Positioning is a form of discrimination – and all good brands discriminate. The first step is to identify and accentuate what differentiates you and your offer from the rest of the pack – and make this an obsession. Seriously! What you are trying to hide may be your most potent point of difference. Narrow your market even further by making clear, succinct statements that describe your offer and the value it brings. The next step is to identify your buyer’s pain points and spin your language to align with these problems.
3. Influence: Convincing the buyer that he or she needs to buy it from you!
Quite possibly the most important competency to master, influence requires that you do three things extremely well: a) take the buyer from being interested in your offer to committed to acquiring it; b) convince the buyer to choose you over other sellers and; c) make the exchange as easy as possible.
People buy from people, period, and specifically, we buy from people we like or want to be like. As soon as you understand your buyer’s aspirations, you can understand the story that your buyer will tell themselves about why they want or need to buy from you, and can position yourself or your offer to serve that story. The facts and statistics that satisfy the rational side of the brain simply support the emotional drive behind a decision, so you then need to develop and communicate the features and benefits that would make it easy for a buyer to justify the decision to buy from you. This means tirelessly identifying and offering metrics for the value you bring and then packaging those metrics in the language of your buyer’s company or industry, so they are well-equipped to defend their decision should it come under scrutiny.
4. Acceleration: Getting the most out of the opportunity you have created and increasing the demand for what you have to offer.
If the enemy of “great” is “good enough,” the enemy of making it happen is self-satisfaction. Don’t let your early wins make you complacent; you are now in the buyer’s mental circle of trust and can leverage that standing to massively increase your success.
The best idea I have for getting a greater return on your time and effort: If you can find ways to bill for the value you create instead of just the hours you put in, you’ll remove the cap from your earnings.
Another would be to identify the other people or brands that have the exposure and recognition you need and align yourself with them, so you are increasingly seen swimming with the ‘big fish.’ Or, build your brand so you become the target partner or associate brand that others seek out.
5. Reinvention: Taking your brand and expertise and opening up entirely new opportunities.
The biggest learning here is to love the gap between who you are now and who you want to be, and realize you never really make it. That being said, don’t stop evolving! It is vitally important that you keep learning and expanding; take your capabilities into other areas and industries, and anticipate the need to reinvent or evolve long before it is essential to do so. Leverage off of the momentum and success you’re already enjoying, build on the trust you already have in the mind of the buyers. Beware the gravity of success and don’t get complacent – opportunity is everywhere!
Peter Sheahan is the author of Making It Happen: Turning Good Ideas Into Great Results.
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