Degrees of Separation

Published on
August 4, 2014
Chris Taylor
"Ideas are only valuable when applied."
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“It’s like Netflix for books.”
“Think of LinkedIn, but specifically for designers.”
“Basically PayPal with lower fees and a cleaner interface.”

When you explain a product, service or company in reference to another, well known brand, you not only provide a shortcut to mutual understanding, you also borrow credibility. If you think about it, this is how most “innovations” happen; companies borrow well established practices from well established brands, add their one or two degrees of separation (new market, new platform, new features, etc.) and go. the majority of us are comfortable with the familiar and, while willing to try something new from time to time, we want to it to be anchored in something already proven; something already understood.

When I first launched Actionable Workshops back in 2009, our first clients were in the Direct Sales Industry; an industry I knew well and could relate to comfortably. I’d basically say to them, “It’s like a key staff meeting, but inspired by top business books and ready to go in 15 minutes of prep.” They lined up like dominos. Let me explain.

Back when I was a sales manager, all the team leaders used to run something on a weekly basis called a “Key Staff Meeting”. This sixty-minute session was, effectively, an “advanced learning session” to the top 10-15% of our sales teams, where we would teach personal or professional development topics, advanced sales skills, or something equally valuable.

Here’s the interesting piece for me – now that I’ve explained it, you can understand (rationally) what a key staff meeting is. So, my sales line of “It’s like a key staff meeting, but inspired by top business books and ready to go in 15 minutes of prep.” makes sense logically. But I can pretty much guarantee it’s missing a good portion of the emotional punch that my direct sales friends felt. Because despite the knowledge of what a Key Staff meeting is, you have no sense of the emotional component of those sessions. The bonding feeling, the uplifting nature of guiding a bright group of young professionals through the sessions, seeing those lightbulb moments and experiencing the loyalty that came through each workshop. You don’t connect to the emotional part unless you’ve lived through it. Unless you’ve experienced it first hand. In other words, Actionable Workshops is made more valuable through your experience of a Key Staff Meeting. Or, perhaps, if you’ve developed content before and know how long it can take to do so. But even that’s a watered down value prop compared to the emotional impact of a strong Key Staff session.

The takeaway here is that the more you can relate your product, service or offering to something your intended audience has actually experienced the more you can connect with them on both a rational and emotional level. In my experience, it’s that personal resonance that helps you stand apart.

Image credit: Bart Speet