It’s doubtful that any small business owner sits down to compose a business plan and starts the list with a No. 1 priority such as: Get lost in the crowd.
Yet, it would almost seem that many people, when naming their companies or coming up with a tagline, actually adopt that as a goal! Therefore, here are the Top Five Rules for those who would prefer not to stand out—who’d like to be undistinguished, unremarkable, and easily ignored!
1. Come up with a business name that means nothing. Ah, yes, Global Strategic Business Solutions—that tells me a whole lot about what you do. Or perhaps A & B Associates—catchy, unique, truly memorable! Or, to memorialize the two partners who so brilliantly launched the enterprise, let’s go with Douganberry and Smith, that’s descriptive! Remember: The goal is to keep the audience guessing. We wouldn’t want those pesky potential clients to immediately understand what the business stands for, would we?
2. Describe your business in the most generic way possible, so everyone will think they need you. “We supply business improvement products and services to businesses all over.” “We’re striving to improve health care around the world.” “Our business is going about the business of helping your business gain more business.” So now, out of 50 million companies, you’re one of them.
3. Weave a less-than-meaningful tagline into your identity. Pass by any UPS delivery truck and see: Worldwide Services. I guess that clears that up! Here’s a brilliant law firm tagline: Commitment to Excellence. Why, I’d rather have attorneys committed to mediocrity myself! Hilton rolled a campaign under the ineffectual banner, Travel Should Take You Places (duh!). And how many companies have you seen adopting this ridiculously obvious and overused phrase: We Mean Business! Now there’s an original and unique thought.
4. Look at what all your competitors are offering and saying, and mimic them. Be sure that when potential clients are looking for something, you pro-actively blend in with the crowd, and thereby be considered on equal terms. If Company A is talking about offering “complete end-to-end enterprise solutions to enhance supply chain productivity,” be certain that you adopt that message also, so that you can stand out along with the rest of the lemmings. Never lead—it’s too dangerous. Follow!
5. Try to please everyone. Hey, it’s a complicated world, and lots of people get in on decision-making. So craft your message so that there isn’t a chance that a single person could possibly be offended, or (heaven forbid!) conclude that you have a different focus than what they’re looking for. Remember, all business is good business, so you don’t want to miss a single opportunity by narrowing your message to your unique core competencies. We do it all! is the safe bet.
On rare occasions, I forthrightly recommend that people not take my advice. This is one of those occasions!