Listen to the audio version of this post here.


It’s been years since marketing guru Seth Godin told us the key to business success was to put a Purple Cow into everything we create.

His Purple Cow is a widely quoted business classic full of good advice and stories that resonate.

The gist is this. Nobody driving through the country even notices all those pastures full of black and white cows. But what if you passed a purple cow? You couldn’t miss it. You wouldn’t want to miss it. You’d be eager for a closer look. A Purple Cow would be remarkable.

Seth’s advice for businesses: Make your products, services, and techniques so interesting, useful, and noteworthy—so remarkable—that your market wants to listen to what you have to say.

It was great advice in 2003. And it’s time for an update. Now, in the post-pandemic world, it’s not enough to put a Purple Cow into everything you build.

Today, you have to be the Purple Cow.

For business owners, professionals, and corporate employees who want to move up, being remarkable has become mandatory.

The truth is, no matter how you make your living, there are scores of other people doing the same thing. Many of them are doing it about as well as you are, for about the same price, or fee, or salary. And they’re doing it in about the same amount of time.

What, then, makes you stand out from the herd? What would make somebody choose you instead of all those others? What makes you remarkable?

What is your Purple?

If you can answer those questions easily, congratulations! If you’re sitting there scratching your head, thinking, “Gee, Catherine, I don’t know what my Purple is,” you have plenty of company.

Here are a couple ways to sort out how you can be remarkable doing whatever you do.

Look at what you’ve done in the past.

What is there in your experience that differs from others in your field? Could be a job you’ve held, but it might, instead, be something you’ve done for fun or for personal growth.

If you changed careers, served in the military, or went to yoga classes … what did you learn that you bring to your work now? How did babysitting or high school sports or entering a dance contest set you up for success?

Some of us (me, for instance) make the mistake of divorcing our present from our past.

I was looking at radio in the rearview mirror. I wanted to avoid yammering about yesterday. You know what Springsteen said about “boring stories of … glory days.”

Fortunately, some smart businesswomen set me straight. “You’re known for your radio career,” they said, rolling their eyes at my foolishness. “You’re a personality. You have name recognition. Capitalize on it, for heaven’s sake. Don’t pretend it never happened.”

Duh. So, broadcasting went back into my bio. The stories of glory days reappeared in my keynotes. And the lessons I learned in the studio are woven into workshops.

A lot of speakers offer programs about some aspect of business communication. And many of them are very good at it. Having been a news anchor, talk show host, and morning show side-chick—that’s my Purple.

Look to your friends.

Try this if you’re not sure what makes you special. Send an email to a couple dozen people and ask them for three words they’d use to describe you.

You’ll want a cross-section of contacts—some friends, maybe family. Current or former colleagues. Clients or customers. A mix of people you’ve known for years and some you met more recently. Professional associates and people who are part of your personal life.

Some people will not reply. Some will write paragraphs instead of three words. And most will use words they consider “positive.”

That’s all just fine. This isn’t about getting a balanced perspective on your personality. It’s about finding your Purple.

Look for the words or clusters of words that come up over and over. These will tell you a lot about how you show up in the world. Sometimes other people see us more clearly than we see ourselves.

When I did this exercise, a few themes stood out. A lot of people offered descriptions like powerful, commanding, leader, and strong. They used words like funny, witty, or clever. And a fair number saw me as extroverted, sociable, or outgoing.

You can see how all that fits in with the work I do, right? Keynotes and workshops about Leadership Presence, Speaking with Authority, and Magnetic Introductions that Have Them at Hello. I also coach clients to command a room and connect with an audience.

I’m surely not the only speaker who covers that kind of content. There are thousands of us! But my particular combination of personal qualities along with my broadcasting background shape my work. And those set me apart from the other perfectly fine speakers and coaches who have experience in finance, or an athletic background, or an academic history.

As for you …

  • How do your business and life experience, along with those three personal qualities come together to set you apart from the rest?
  • How can you add some oomph to your work (and your marketing) by consciously making the most of what you’ve done and who you are?
  • And how can you use what you’ve learned along the way to let other people know that you are remarkable?

Add those answers up and share your Purple with us. (We’re ready to applaud.)