You know how marketing guru Seth Godin told us the key to business success was to put a Purple Cow into everything we build?
His book Purple Cow is a widely-quoted business classic packed with good advice and stories that resonate.
Premise: nobody driving through the country even notices the standard-issue black and white cows. But what if you passed a purple one? You couldn’t miss it. You wouldn’t want to miss it. You’d be eager to check it out. A Purple Cow would be remarkable.
Seth’s advice for businesses: Make your products, services and techniques so useful, interesting, and noteworthy—so remarkable—that the 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 what’s often called the Experience Economy, 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 a requirement.
Because no matter what you do, there are scores of other people doing the same thing. And many of them are doing it about as well as you are. For about the same price or fee or salary. In about the same amount of time.
So what makes you stand out from the herd? What would make someone choose you over all those others? What makes you remarkable? What is your Purple?
If you can answer those questions easily, congratulations. And if you’re sitting there scratching your head, thinking, “Gee, Catherine, I don’t know what my Purple is,” you’re not alone.
Here are a couple ways to figure 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 as easily be something you’ve done for fun or for personal growth.
If you changed careers, ran a marathon or led a silent retreat…what did you learn that you bring to your work now? How did flipping burgers or your semester abroad or singing in a choir 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, embarrassed to yammer about yesterday. You know what Springsteen said about “boring stories of…glory days.”
Then 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, 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 talk about some aspect of business communication. Being 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 20-30 people and ask them for three words they’d use to describe you.
You’ll want a cross-section for this—some friends, maybe family. Colleagues. Clients or customers. A mix of people you’ve known for a long time 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 okay, 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. I got a lot of descriptions like powerful, commanding, leader, and strong. People often used words like funny or humorous, witty or clever. And a fair number saw me as extroverted, outgoing or sociable.
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. And I coach clients to command a room and connect with an audience.
I’m surely not the only speaker who covers that kind of content. But my particular combination of personal qualities along with my broadcasting background shape my work. And they make me different from the other perfectly fine speakers and coaches who have corporate experience or musical talent or an academic history.
As for you …
- How do your experience and those three personal qualities come together to set you apart?
- How can you add some juice to your work (and your marketing) by making the most of what you did and who you are?
- And how can you use what you’ve learned to let other people know that you’re remarkable?
Comment below to share your Purple with us. (We’re standing by with applause.)
I love the “be the purple cow” concept! It gives me a new perspective as I move forward – rather than focusing just on making our marketing stand out – what do I need to “be” to stand out. Thanks Catherine!!!
Yes. And…your Purple lies in the intersection of improv skills and your corporate background, Ellen. Plenty of speakers and trainers have one or the other, but they don’t have both. Add in Jim’s baseball background and ImprovTalk is a two-headed purple cow!