Company leaders often explain to me how their competitors are making untrue claims. I always assume that a client knows its industry and competition better than I ever will. But it’s been my experience that companies who focus on their competitors – what the competition is or isn’t doing, is or isn’t saying – are missing their best opportunity of all: the opportunity to truly differentiate.
That may sound contradictory. The word “differentiate” IMPLIES comparison to others. If you don’t pay attention to what the competition is doing, how can you do something different? How can you say something different? But there is another way – one that offers greater longevity and utter uniqueness. It goes deep inside rather than searching outside. I call it Essential Story.
Authenticity trumps creativity
The power of an Essential Story is … well, its essential-ness. Its ability to connect with an audience – with customers, members, subscribers, employees, stakeholders – in a genuine and authentic way. Over more than a decade of developing and honing the process, I’ve learned that the story is always “there”. It’s not a thing that has to be invented or innovated. It can’t be imagined, no matter how innovative or brilliant the imagining is. It needs to be uncovered. Most often, it’s buried under a bunch of “stuff”: pressures and opinions, layers of outside creative or technical guidance, and/ or a variety of internal perceptions that don’t align.
To uncover an Essential Story, I’ll admit to performing a bit of alchemy. I gather the many voices – internal and external; historical and current – that help to define a company, organization, or brand. And without fail, the essence is in there among that potpourri of ideas. It’s the one thing all those voices in some way share, reveal, or point to. The Essential Story process has a way of making it crystal-clear.
Permission to feel comfortable with your story
Not every organization or company is ready for it. Sometimes, individual leaders, entire management teams, or whole organizations are very attached to external stories about themselves. Sometimes, going inside to define a brand or organization means bucking trends, or taking a direction that’s so unique it requires a complete rethink of how an organization has come to look at itself. But, in my experience, when the Essential Story is tapped, it feels RIGHT. It feels comfortable – sometimes so much so that it feels too “easy”. But that’s how we know it’s right.
When was the last time you felt that way about your company’s positioning, messaging, differentiation, and overall direction? Let me give you permission to WANT to feel that way – to want to feel comfortable – with how you present your brand.
For those who recognize that current approaches to differentiation aren’t working – for those who feel like they’re on a hamster wheel and can never seem to rise above the competitive noise, or are exasperated with competitors finding success even though they make false claims, or who KNOW that there’s an untapped essence in their identities – Essential Story is a powerful catalyst.
Please talk to me about getting your story really right.
~ Maria Ford
“For every good reason there is to lie, there is a better reason to tell the truth.”