Be remarkable

Seth Godin is sort of a czar in the world of marketing. What I like about his approach is his ability to be forward-thinking yet grounded in the ‘here and now’. I had an opportunity to hear him speak two years ago and he said something that has stuck with me: “Stop being the last step in delivering average products and start being the first step in delivering something remarkable.”

What I love about this quote is that it is perfect for our industry! I wasn’t even working with United when I heard this, but it pertains so well to what we do. At the end of the day, we deliver products – many of them average (meaning not differentiated from the products that someone else can deliver). But what we need to focus on is being remarkable.

To truly digest this, let’s break down what the word means. To be ‘remarkable’ is to simply be/do something of which people want to ‘remark’. Simply put, people want to talk about you. And that’s huge in today’s marketing environment. So much of our marketing message is no longer controlled by what we say (the ‘we’ means us marketing folks – those of us schooled in the college of life on creating wonderful marketing messages and responsible for communicating the value of the product or brand) but by what they say. And who are ‘they’? Our customers… our prospects… our employees. And they are vocal – at least they CAN be vocal – if your brand is remarkable.

I often talk about one of the biggest concerns I have with our local resellers: their lack of brand awareness. I don’t mean brand awareness within a geography (although that, too, is worthy of attention), but I mean brand awareness within the office – the office with which they have a contract to be the supplier. Let’s face it. The order aggregator no longer controls the transaction. The internet has made it possible for just about every office associate to find and purchase what they need, when they need it. And if that associate (let’s call them a ‘chooser’ of their own office products) doesn’t know who the office supply provider is, they are more likely to simply purchase from a company that they DO know, like [insert name of any/all large office product supplier here].

It’s not that this chooser doesn’t WANT to buy from the local reseller – it is simply that they are unaware that this option exists. So the goal for the reseller is to develop brand awareness throughout the office – to all of those choosers.

And the easiest way to do this?

Be remarkable.

In my spare time, I am a runner (file this in the category of ‘stress reduction’). It is a fairly inexpensive hobby, but I do invest in good shoes which I go through about every three months. And I buy these shoes from my local independent in my town. They cost more there. I think most people would agree that this service/price is worth it for that initial purchase, when you are trying on various shoes, getting advice from the pros, taking test runs. But now, I could simply repurchase my brand/model online and save money.

But I don’t.

And that’s because I find my small local store to be remarkable. And I mean this literally as I talk about this store to all of my running friends. And for good reason. Whenever I visit, there is some sort of value-add awaiting me. It might be something small (like their database that helps me truly track the timing of my purchases) or an unexpected 10% discount because I just became an ‘ultra’ runner – meaning I spent more than $1,000 (yikes!). Or maybe it is simply that they greeted me by name or inquired about a recent race that I was in.  Whatever it is, they consistently deliver on it – and I, in turn, remark about them, in person AND on Facebook. And that’s golden.

So take a few minutes to think about what truly makes you remarkable. How do you demonstrate this? And more importantly, how do you get this message to penetrate to all of those ‘choosers’ throughout the office? Chances are you are already doing this, but have you harnessed the power of that message?

Give your order aggregator a remarkable experience and she will tell others. And then the choosers will choose you.

Author Dian Hund
Diane Hund is VP of Marketing for United Stationers. Her main areas of expertise centre on a deep understanding of customer needs, developing and deploying strategic marketing plans, creating and managing brands and effectively reaching the customer through all forms of communications. Her background includes both B2B and B2C companies, with six years in the office products industry.

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