Be Distinct or Extinct

by Paul Simister on August 9, 2011

It was Tom Peters, the management/leadership guru who co-wrote In Search of Excellence and many other books who came up with the phrase “be distinct… or extinct!”

I really wish I’d thought of it and it conveys the same message as Jack Trout’s Differentiate Or Die.

It puts over the differentiation/branding issue very well although I don’t believe it is black and white.

If you don’t differentiate I don’t think you’ll die or become extinct.

At least not quickly.

It’s more like the death of one thousand cuts.

Your profit will disappear…

… one price cut at a time.

… one lost customer at a time.

… yet another interesting prospective customer you didn’t manage to convert.

Tom Peters was talking about personal branding when he say be distinct or extinct in the book The Brand You.

The same idea applies to businesses.

If you’re not distinct and memorable, you’ll create no impression on your target audience. Your touch points will be forgotten or even ignored.

In the book, Tom Peters gives five ideas to be distinct…

  • Ask yourself: What do I want to be known for? What do I want to stand for?
  • Perform a Personal Brand Equity Inventory – ask people you know to tell you three or four words or phrases they associate with you. Do you like what they say?
  • “Inc.” Yourself – see yourself as an independent contractor who only gets paid for work of value.
  • Develop a competence – be particularly good at something
  • Develop a one-eighth page Yellow Pages advertisement for your personal brand.

Moving those ideas over to your business, you can ignore point 3 since you’re already in the world where you only eat what you kill.

The first two present an interesting comparison. You may never have stopped to think about the words you want others to think about you.

You may be shocked at how different what you want people to think and what they do think. It’s a clear indication of a positioning/branding problem. I was brought up on this when someone i liked said to me “Paul I don’t really know what you do” when I was promoting myself as a generalist business coach.

I’d prefer you to think of capability rather than competence when you think about your business. To me competence sounds such an ordinary word. The idea remains the same, your business needs to be particularly good at something.

For the second time today, I’m referring to the value disciplines – is your core strength in operational excellence, customer intimacy or product leadership?

Finally I like the Yellow Pages test. Can you create a short, succinct marketing message which would be up to the job of attracting customers when all your competitors have the same opportunity. This is very much a return to the idea of the Unique Selling Proposition.

Are you ready to be distinct or face the risk of becoming extinct?

Paul Simister is the business strategy coach who helps business owners to differentiate their businesses and develop winning strategies. Get your free copy of the ebook The Six Steps Profit Formula.

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