Boldness as a business strategy

A woman sitting at a desk with a laptop and a cup of coffee.

“I have a dream,” intoned Martin Luther King. “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed.”

When I sit down to write a sales page, blog post, media release or magazine article, I play this speech. Please know that I’m not deluding myself thinking I have anything as imperative or historically significant to say as Luther King did that fine day.

But I want to start big and bold. And if I stir up some controversy or invoke disagreement, mores the better.

When I write for business, I want to stir emotion. I look to question unconscious assumptions, to look at issues within a broader historical context, to explore the psychology behind transactional decisions, or address a trend I see as problematic. In business blog posts, I want to delve into the deeper issues behind things and, if I provoke negative feedback, I consider that a success.

Boldness is my business strategy.

Get noticed

The cornerstone of effective marketing is to be noticed – without this, your witty headlines, finely crafted prose and value-stuffed offerings will all come to naught.

But being noticed – especially for small businesses with limited marketing budgets – is becoming increasingly difficult, particularly in crowded marketplaces such as our Facebook news streams.

Know your values

Your company has values, regardless of whether you’re aware of these. Your corporate culture, your brand, and your internal communications all make up your values. It is your actions – not your words – that express your company values.

Articulating these values is the first step to be bold as a business strategy.

What do you value – and why are you insanely passionate about it? On the flip side – what do you find intolerable, abhorrent or ridiculously insane? This should be clear on your homepage, explored more deeply on your About page and ‘Our Values’ or ‘Our Mission’ pages, and peppered throughout your blog posts, your social media updates, your newsletters, media releases, advertising and other communications.

Name your adversaries

Making a public stand against the status quo will likely cause a bigger splash than declaring your positive values, though these are, or course, essential. Nobody respects a moaner with no plan to improve things.

Now before you write this off as radical and inappropriate, consider your clients and customers – at the point of purchase, are they more motivated by the negative or the positive? I’d suggest it’s the former.

A dieter who enrolls in Michelle Bridge’s 12-week Body Transformation is far more motivated to not feel humiliated during summer time at the beach. Avoiding humiliation, self-loathing, embarrassment or disaster is far more compelling to most people than feeling satisfied, proud, joyful or in control.

Think different

Apple’s ‘Think Different’ tagline worked because it went against the ‘sameness’ status quo, appealing to people who were keen to be seen as unique, innovative and creativity. That is, until Apples became ubiquitous.

The New York Times famous tagline ‘All the News That’s Fit to Print’, used since the late 1890s, was a public stance against the prevalent status quo – lurid news publications. This elevated the paper beyond a news publication, suggesting it was a platform representing credibility, trust and leadership. 

Repel people

Your values should be bold. They don’t need to sound like Luther King’s proclamation, but they do have to be rousing. Stating the bleeding obvious of what your clients expect is not a mission statement, it’s a waste of time and a missed opportunity.

When conceiving your mission statement, imagine yourself as Luther King giving a speech – not to your staff, who have a vested interest in clapping politely, but to a disinterested crowd rushing by, umbrellas fortified against the weather, running late for work and preoccupied with lists and worries.

Your mission statement seeks to engage, amuse, enthral, provoke and inspire.

Your ideal clients and your adversaries

Each business has ideal clients who stand to gain the most from your offerings, who will enthusiastically refer others to you, and who are a pleasure to do business with. Knowing your ideal client avatar and reaching out to them in all your marketing communications is imperative to your business success.

Your marketing should also actively repel others – people who don’t share the same values you do, who don’t appreciate or respect your process, and who don’t view your offerings as anything more than a commodity. Too many of these type of clients will suck the life force from your business – they sap your energy, destroy your staff’s enthusiasm and put pressure on your prices, terms and conditions.

Bold opinions will, in roughly equal measures, attract some, repeal others, and leave yet others unmoved. Haters on social media, your business blog or via email mean you’ve successfully pushed people’s buttons.

Ideally, you’ve identified a corner of your industry in sore need of reform. Not everyone will agree.

That’s a good thing.

Fight clean – engage in articulate debate, take complaints off-line and treat these as an opportunity to improve. But also recognise when debate is fruitless. Wish these people well and send them on their way. Delete, block and ban.

Be the business you want to use

We know that our clients and customers aren’t having wet dreams over our business. They’re thinking about their problems and worries, dreaming of better times ahead and carving out the ideal scenario for their lives and loved ones.

Our business is only of value when we help people negotiate their issues and experience their dreams. They love us for how we make them feel, and that includes the kudos from their association with our business. So move people – embrace your opinion, suggest a better way, write with passion and emotion and have fun with it.

A bold business highlights what’s noble, precious, transformative or empowering and what’s unhelpful, misleading, corrupt and in need of reform.

In so doing, you attract quality prospects, engender client loyalty and referrals, and better understand what’s coming up next – what the logical next step for your business offerings will be, which relevant trends will be insubstantial and which will be revolutionary and enduring.

Being bold in your communications is the first step towards becoming great.

8 Responses

  1. What I like most about this post is the absence of being anything other than authentic. Too many people spend too much time trying to place themselves at the centre of a business experience, as opposed to realising you need to hand it over to the customer.

    And a million times yes to having a solution. It is very annoying to see businesses and branding statements (politicians are famous for it) ride around on fear and worry. We generally know what the problems are- what we seek are the solutions.

    My feeling is if you disappear into your own navel, or conversely, treat customers like cardboard cut outs with no brain, no idea or no emotion, you lose. You also lose if you try to play some pretend game of business. It only gets you so far before people realise you’re not much more than a used car salesman.

    But I do have a question- how do you inspire people/businesses not to hear the sounds of their own knees knocking and feel the twitching in the stomach as they carve out a niche? Especially when the audience may allude them? Should there be some tips on how to actually finds the audience you seek before you stand to speak to them?

    1. Getting over fear is an essential part (in life and in business). I think you need to do some grassroots market research, do a minimum viable product, like a trial run with minimal overheads, and also to write a shortlist of dream clients that would be totally wonderful to work with, then get on the phone and actually ask for the business. A bit of trial-and-error, getting out there and talking to real people seeking solutions similar to yours is a great idea in the beginning.
      I have no easy answer to fear except that it doesn’t go away and that you have to get around it and get on with it. I try to call my nerves and angst ‘excitement’. That works.

  2. I really like the idea of actively repelling people/clients/businesses you wouldn’t want to work with or who wouldn’t value your services. It’s a simple shift in perspective but could have enormous impact. Thought provoking post, thanks Brooke!

    1. Sometimes we get fixated on ‘getting the business’ at all costs – when it costs us in time, energy and cash flow. Saying ‘yes’ to one client almost always involves saying ‘no’ to another if you’re a service-based business so it’s important that we discriminate who’s going to be a good match and who’s going to pull down our business, drain us and ultimately, leave bad blood because of a mismatch.

    2. I have a much better understanding of the businesses I don’t want to work with. Actually saying no is another kettle of beer.

      For now, I just explain that I’m not available for a long time and quote high. I suspect I should be a little clearer but I worry I would sound arrogant (turning a potential customer away so blatantly)

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