If a company wants its brand to stand out from the competition, differentiating it from its competitors is the place to start. Subaru has done this more successfully than most. Its customers give new meaning to brand loyalty. Many are passionate are downright fanatical in their allegiance.
According to Forbes, the Subaru brand has the most loyal customers in the industry, with its Forester model leading the way.
Talk about your brand ambassadors! Subaru customers are quick to say their cars are safer, handle flawlessly in all types of weather, and keep their value far better than other brands. All this flies in the face of what many people view as dated and stodgy styling.
It’s the same with anyone who has a job. Differentiation makes the difference if you want to be known as your company's most valuable employee.
Someone not afraid to take on new tasks, steps up in a pinch, solves problems and communicates clearly. That’s the type of employee that earns attention and fast-track advancement.
A plan and some conscious effort can help you get there. Figure out what creates value—what can set you apart from others? Here are some thoughts about personal differentiation:
1. Always be ready. Brand yourself as someone who comes through in the clutch. Be ready to step in. “Carl lost his voice,” “Tonya is trapped in traffic,” and “Max had a customer emergency.” These are daily occurrences—and most people put their head down and try to become invisible. Their first thought is thinking up some lame excuse to avoid having to be the one to pick up the slack. Be the one who’s always ready.
2. Make sense. Whether it’s in a sales meeting or a client presentation, making sense is essential. That’s not easy. Most people automatically think that what makes sense to them will make sense to others. It's both not true, and it can spell trouble. So, before saying anything, ask yourself how this would sound if someone else said it? Making sense makes a difference.
3. Never wing it. Winging it is all it takes to go down in flames. Sure, your co-workers will say, “Hey, you did great.” Don’t believe it; you didn’t. You probably embarrassed yourself and your company. To wing it is to blow it by saying things we don’t mean, are incorrect, and don’t make sense. Here's what to do when you're put on the spot: Say, "Give me three minutes." Then, jot down three main talking points. Add a sentence for an introduction, and one at the end as a close.
4. Come up with solutions. “I’ll work on that” are the magic words. Don’t hold back just because you don’t have an instant answer. Not knowing can be an advantage—no baggage. If you work at it, you can find a solution that’s a good fit, and that gets positive attention.
5. See situations as they are.A new sales manager arrives and starts a sales training program he had used elsewhere. It creates negative blowback and flops, all because he failed to take the time to understand and engage the sales team. This cost him needed credibility. The picture in your head always needs to match what’s going in the real world.
6. Share what you know. Even though teams are in, there are still way too many “hoarders” in business, those who blatantly play it close to the vest. That’s stupid; there’s nothing to protect since there are no secrets. Be known as one who welcomes opportunities to share their knowledge and experience.
7. Write it to get it right. Most business writing is horrible, whether emails, proposals, letters, or memos. Good writing gets attention. To write it right, ask and answer these four questions: 1) Why is this important? 2) What are the obstacles/problems? 3. How can they be overcome? 4. What action is needed?
8. Repurpose yourself. It’s quite simple. If others see you today the way you were two, five or more years ago, you’re expendable. Have you learned new skills that help you perform more efficiently? Have you taken on new tasks? How much has your knowledge base grown? What leadership opportunities have you taken? How often have you asked for additional responsibilities?
9. Develop a niche. Creating personal value is key and one of the best ways to do it is becoming a specialist in a particular area. Build a reputation so you're the “go-to person,” the one who has the answers and is always ready to help. Instead of finding leads, you can attract them.
Why don’t more people aspire to be the most valued employee? Why are they content to be something less? When I read the words of Robert Crais in The Last Detective, I knew I had found the answer. “People want you to be ordinary,” wrote Crais. They want us to be like them. If that’s true, then there are enormous opportunities for the few who strive to be their company’s most valued employee.
John Graham of GrahamComm is a marketing and sales strategy consultant and business writer. He is the creator of “Magnet Marketing,” and publishes a free monthly eBulletin, “No Nonsense Marketing & Sales Ideas.” Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, 617-774-9759 or johnrgraham.com.
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