You know the drill: it’s noon and you and your co-workers are planning lunch.
You: Where should we go?
Co-worker 1: Oh, I don’t know, where do you want to go? (turning to co-worker 2)
Co-worker 2: I don’t know, whatever, anything’s fine with me…
Suddenly, something as simple as grabbing lunch morphs into the Battle of the Clueless.
While ‘I don’t know, whatever’ is sometimes the sign of a genuine state of confusion, most of the time it is not. It’s just laziness.
Coming up with ideas, studying the options and, above all, making a decision, is hard work, so most people just put the burden on somebody else:
where do you want to go?
If you want to be a leader, it is your job to make decisions, and to ask the right questions so that other people can make them themselves.
To help others make decisions (and increase the odds that those decisions are the ones you want them to make) start by offering specific, but few, alternatives.
People are more likely to make a decision when faced with a small, manageable number of options.
‘what do you want to eat: Chinese or Italian?”
works better than:
‘what do you want to eat?’
and certainly much better than:
‘what do you want to eat? There is a Japanese place around the corner, next to a pizza place that’s also pretty good, and then next block there’s a good Chinese place, ah, wait, but we can also try this new sandwich shop, now, if you don’t mind, there’s the mall down the road, they have a food court you know, perhaps they have something there….’
Many small businesses make the mistake of trying to be all things to all people. Conventional wisdom tells us that if we limit our options or specialize we will lose business.
How many times have you heard:
‘Oh, we do it all! We can design your website, print your brochures, handle your PR, print your business cards and optimize your site for the search engines, whatever. You name it, we do it!’
Bad. Being all things to all people is lousy branding and it doesn’t work.
I also see this unfortunate trend in blogs. You look at the sidebar and see 45 different unrelated categories. There is no underlying theme, and the whole thing is a big, unfocused mess. And then the blogger in question wonders why his blog is not getting any traction…
‘Whatever’ is not a positioning strategy. It is a mistake at best and a lazy cop-out at worse.
People and businesses need to find the right niche, specialize, and be the best option (or even better, the only option) for their customers. You need to brand yourself. You will not lose business.
It may be a little more difficult at the beginning, but by choosing a differentiated position (and sticking to it) you’re more likely to achieve success than with an indiscriminate, shotgun approach.
Being a leader means making decisions, and helping others make decisions (usually by giving them specific, but few alternatives). Your biggest decision is to choose your brand identity.
You need to take the time and effort to assess your strengths and weaknesses, and the threats and opportunities in the marketplace, and chose only one activity where you can be the best. Then, stick with it.
Brian Jackson is the former owner of Shoestring Branding, a marketing and branding blog for entrepreneurs, with an emphasis on internet-based tools and strategies. It was recently acquired by BrandBlast.com