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"A Single Word"

by Dave Balch, "The Stay-at-Home CEO"™

(c) 2001, A Few Good People, Inc.

There’s no denying it; words are powerful.  I’m talking P O W E R F U L!  A single word can change your entire perception of a situation.  A single word can completely change the effectiveness of a marketing or sales message to your market.  A single word can have an effect on your entire business.  Let me explain what I mean.

About 20 years ago I developed a software product for large mainframe computers.  Remember that there were no PC’s in those days; mainframes were the biggest computers normally used by businesses and those that had them typically had their own staff of programmers.  My software was a tool designed specifically for those programmers and helped them with testing and debugging.  Naturally, I had to clearly convey the functionality of my product to my market (corporate programming groups), but it was complicated to describe.  “…a tool that allows your programmers to manipulate data files and make quick changes and fixes for testing, debugging, and troubleshooting…”  What was that again?

Then one day, like a bolt of lightening, it hit me.  My product is an editor.  Period.   An “editor”.  What a concept!  Why didn’t I think of that before?  An editor.  Now it is crystal clear.  Programmers know what an “editor” is.  My software allows them to “edit” their data.  Bingo!  A single word changed my entire perception of my own product, and enabled me to clearly describe to my market exactly what it does.  It also allowed me to list it in directories and catalogs where the listings would be most effective.

Many years ago, the makers of Sweet ‘n Low were in a quandary.  How do they increase their sales when their product is everywhere already?  Being in the sweetener business, they tried to think of creative ways of selling more Sweet ‘n Low.  Then they realized that they were not in the “sweetener” business after all; they were in the “packaging” business.  Instead of selling more Sweet ‘n Low, why don’t they package other condiments?  Catsup, mayonnaise, relish, mustard, etc. could all be sold to their existing customer base.  A single word changed the direction of their entire organization.

At one time the train industry was trying to figure out how to attract more passengers.  Then they realized that they were in the “transportation” business, not the “passenger” business.  Suddenly they had an entirely new market, and began transporting freight, oil, coal, vehicles, etc.  A single word is all it took to change history.

What is it that you do?   Instead, maybe I should ask, “What is it that you think you do?”  Ponder that for a moment.  Here’s an exercise:  define what you do and write it down in twenty-five words or less.  Be very careful, concise, and clear in your description.  Expand your thinking for a moment:  are there any other words that could be used to describe what you do?  One of those new words just might give you a surprising insight into what you could be doing.

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