No matter what business you are in, it is your responsibility to separate yourself from your competitors. It’s really as simple as that. Macy’s vs. Gimbels, Coke vs. Pepsi, or Visa vs. MasterCard. If you look at these examples, there really aren’t monumental differences between them. And I am referring to reality, not perception. Pepsi – sugar, water, cola flavor. Coke – sugar, water, cola flavor. Because competitors are so close in reality, they need to find or create a mechanism to put some distance between them and other competitive brands. They need an edge, something to separate themselves from the rest of the pack.
Individuals face the same hurdles, only they do not have the powerhouse agencies behind them to cue the smoke and mirrors. But that doesn’t mean they cannot create their own distinct features that separate them from the rest of the pack. Whether you’re a company or an individual, the key is to create memorable moments that will be permanently ingrained in the mind of the individuals, consumers, business partners or fans you are trying to impress.
When I was with the Patriots, we used to entertain many partners and potential partners at the games. We had an entire game day agenda planned to ensure the people we entertained would never forget the day they spent with us. They would drive into a special parking lot, be greeted by a marketing representative, and escorted up to our suite, where they would be wined and dined. The guests in the suite were an appropriate mixture of current and potential partners (so we weren’t the only ones touting our organization), and typically we had a celebrity who would join us just to put the cherry on top of the Sunday (yeah, I spelled it right. We were football – it was Sunday).
Prior to kickoff, we took our guests down to the sideline for pregame warm-ups. We situated them just right, so that when we took photos of them with the owner, the players would be in the background. Just before the players lined up to be introduced, a select few guests, whom we were trying to close for big money, were walked into the tunnel (which was a huge inflatable Patriots helmet) and positioned at the side of the entrance. At this, point the crowd was working themselves into a frenzy, and the players were entering the tunnel, jumping up and down, slamming each other’s pads. The pump-up music was blasting and building up into a crescendo. You could see the goose bumps on the folks we brought into the helmet (I won’t lie, I had them too). The adrenaline in that helmet was at a fever pitch when Ozzy Osbourne screamed, “ALL ABOARD” – everyone in the stands was on their feet producing a deafening sound. The players then shot out of the helmet, some of them hand-slapping our guests, who at this point, had died and gone to sports fan heaven.
Voila… MEMORABLE MOMENT
No doubt. No question. We created such a memorable moment that there was no chance our guests would ever forget our names or that experience. And just to make sure they didn’t, that week they received a photo of it with a Patriots logo smack on the bottom of it. I promise you, we separated ourselves from the competition with that stunt. As you would imagine, our closure rate for those who entered the helmet was drastically higher than average.
If you want to beat out your competitor, you need to create memorable moments. You have to make certain that you and the memory are one. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture like the example above. It, and you, just has to stick in the mind of the recipient. My dad was the master of doing this. He was notorious for bringing food to his clients at lunchtime when he knew they were too busy to stop and run out to get a bite. He would bring it to them, lay it out, help serve it and clean up. Let me tell you, these hungry folks never forgot what he did, and it gave him an edge. Memorable moments are not just made of pomp and circumstance (although it definitely helps); they are defined by the impact they make at the time. I promise you, if you can create memorable moments, you will separate yourself from your competitors and be victorious.