Standing out in a crowded marketplace. That's one of the biggest challenges most of us face today as freelancers and solopreneurs.
How do you cut through all the noise? How can you become the obvious choice?
We've addressed this issue a few times in the last few months. But in this week's episode, you'll learn a different way of looking at the problem.
My guest David Tyreman, founder of World Famous Company (yes, that’s his company's name!), will show you how to become the obvious choice in your field by forging an emotional connection with your audience.
David is an engaging speaker with a powerful rags-to-riches story. I think you'll really enjoy what he has to share. And you'll walk away with some actionable, game-changing ideas.
What follows is a condensed transcript of my conversation with David. If you prefer to listen to the full audio (38 minutes), you can listen to it (or download it) here:
Download MP3 Audio (right click and choose "Save As")
Ed Gandia: David, I’m really excited to be here today with you. We have a great topic ahead of us, and I know we’re going to have a super discussion on this. Welcome.
David Tyreman: Thank you, I’m delighted to be here.
Ed Gandia: So let’s jump right in because I'm intrigued by this whole idea of creating an emotional connection with an audience. What does it mean and why is it important for freelancers and solopreneurs to create that connection?
David Tyreman: Last night I was watching American Idol. You’ve got all these contestants, and there are literally thousands and thousands of people hoping to get their moment of fame and maybe become the next American Idol. You see this sea of people and wonder how could you possibly choose one of those people?
But then, once in a while, one of the candidates gets a chance to have a little video reel that shows something unique about them. They do a little story about where they came from, what’s important to them, what they care about, etcetera. And all of a sudden you’re rooting for that person.
So what American Idol is doing is creating an emotional connection between us (the audience) and that candidate. They stand out head and shoulders from the sea of others because now we know that person. Now we’ve almost become invested in that person being successful. You’re like, “Oh, I hope they can sing,” and then they try to sing but they can’t -- and then you feel bad.
In business, I meet people all the time who are excellent at what they do, but they feel invisible, they feel overlooked. They realize that the company down the street got the business and yet they know they’re better. So why didn’t they get it?
And so we have to put what we do, we have to put our products or services aside and understand what’s involved in creating that emotional connection, because that’s the secret to sales and the secret of building your brand. And why would we build a brand? We build a brand to improve our business. And the secret to all of it is creating an emotional connection with the marketplace.
Ed Gandia: You mentioned the word "brand." I wonder, first, how closely tied is this to creating a brand? And second, when it comes to a solo business, a solopreneur, consultant or freelancer, do we need a brand?
David Tyreman: I’m going to ask you (and everyone else reading or listening) a question. When you were a young boy, what was one of the very first brands you used to beg for from your parents, grandparents or whoever? It could have been toys, candy, a TV show -- what was it you just had to have?
Ed Gandia: Before you even said it, I thought of candy. I thought of M&M’S.
David Tyreman: M&M’S, okay. I speak in front of audiences quite regularly and when I ask this question, I get all sorts of answers, from Lego to Barbie dolls to Kit Kats.
David Tyreman: I’m going to mention mine, and most people might not have heard of it. The brand I just loved when I was a kid is called Branston Pickle. If you’ve been to Britain, you might have seen it. It’s a relish, and you have it with cheese, sandwiches, salads, pies. You can have it with pretty much everything. There’s a jingle that goes with that product: “Bring out the Branston!”
So as kids, we would sit at the dinner table and sing to mom, “Bring out the Branston!” and she’d bring out the Branston. One day, we ran out of Branston, so mom calls dad at the office and says, “Please pick up some Branston on the way home.” Of course, he forgets. As he’s getting close to the house, he realizes, “Damn it! I forgot the Branston.” So he stops at the local neighborhood store. They don’t have Branston, so he buys a generic brand. He comes home with a paper bag, and what does he pull out? Some other brand. “Where’s the Branston?” “They didn’t have any.” And we’re like, “No!” And we’re really upset.
The point of me sharing that story is that everybody chose a brand, whatever it was. Just look at mine. In an ocean of relish choices, there was one relish I just had to have.
So we’ve all known, ever since we were children, that in a sea of choices, there was one we truly wanted. For you it was M&M’s out of a sea of candy choices. It’s therefore possible to stand out as the one your customers want. And we have to start from that point of view, realizing, “Well, what goes into that? What do we have to do to stand out?”
The first thing we have to do is understand it’s absolutely doable. And as a solopreneur, as someone who came to the states with a suitcase and an American dream, I’m here to say that building a brand isn’t just for the big boys. It’s not just for people with deep pockets. I’ve built my own very successful brands and separated myself from all the competitors so my customers knew, “I need David’s company; I need what they’ve got,” because we were totally differentiated. And that’s the name of the game, separating ourselves from others and presenting ourselves as valuable and connecting emotionally. So that’s the concept.
Ed Gandia: When I think of brand, I think the term is synonymous with consumer products. I expect a lot of people listening (we have a lot of marketers here at the Academy) also think in those terms. There's been this argument for years that if you’re a business-to-business company or you’re a solopreneur, forget about developing a brand. It takes years and years and billions of dollars to develop a brand, just look at Coke, Apple and so forth.
David Tyreman: Well, without being too cheeky, Ed, I would say, “Let’s flush that thought down the toilet for a second.” You’re right, all of us can walk into Sears and Best Buy and see a sign that says, “We carry the best brands.” For most people, you could replace "brand" with "type." What type of car did you get? What brand of car did you get? What type of washing machine? Did you get a Whirlpool? Did you get an LG? And then that type comes with certain feelings and ideas.
But building a brand is a very different thing. Most people think they know what a brand is, but most people don’t. I’ve had people come up to me and say, “David, I have a brand. I have a logo, a tag line, a slogan.” And that isn’t a brand.
I’m going to share with you the distinction between what we call branding and brand identity. I'll start with branding because that’s what most people are familiar with.
Branding is the packaging. Branding is also your website and your social media. Branding even includes the voicemail message you have on your phone. It includes any videos you post on your websites or in social media as well as your business cards and brochures.
So even if the kid down the street decides to do a yard service and creates a flyer saying, “Yard service available,” that’s branding. So anything we do as a business to get the attention of customers or potential customers is branding. And most people jump into branding without being clear about their brand identity. And the secret to all this is to understand your brand identity.
Brand identity is actually bigger and more important. No matter how great your product or services are, your brand identity is more important. It's who you are, what you represent and what you care about. It's who you honor and who your market is.
So we have to get really clear about our brand identity before we can have successful branding. If you think of branding as the icing on the cake, most people get really focused on the icing. But brand identity is the cake. So I joke, “How can you put icing on a cake when you haven’t made the cake yet?” We need to be really clear about the cake. What’s your brand identity? What makes you different?
Ultimately, a brand is what makes you unique and valuable in the hearts, minds and eyes of your customers, of your audience. It’s not about having 50 million to put into advertising. It’s about connecting with your customers, knowing who you are and what you represent, and knowing what you think is most important for them. And it really comes back to things like your story, your point of view, what you care about, why you're doing this, things along those lines.
Ed Gandia: So let’s go there because this really resonates. And I can see the power of a prospect coming across my website, for example, and really understanding what I stand for. So if I were to go through this process, what steps would I take to think through my brand identity.
David Tyreman: Let me just share a little bit about how I got to this place. Nobody is born knowing how to build a brand; it’s a learned process. I’m from England. I came to the United States with a suitcase 25 years ago.
One day I discovered I was down to my last $20 in the whole world. I had no credit. I had no credit cards, no overdraft facility, no friendly bank manager. And I’d been in the United States for six months. I had come here with a suitcase, a dream and a business partner with about $5,000 between us. Our big idea was to buy antiques and vintage things in England, bring them to the United States and sell them here the way people sell Tupperware. So our idea was "antique parties in people’s homes."
And I was so excited about my plan because it was a big adventure to get away from a boring corporate job in London to live this dream. So I told everybody. I told my parents, grandparents, brothers, sister, uncles, aunties, everybody. And every single person I told said, “David, that’s a crap idea.”
So after six months in the United States, we’re down to our last $20. I was proving them right, and I was really, really concerned. I put that $20 bill on the kitchen table, and we sat staring at it. I turn to my business partner and I was like, “Do you have any ideas?” And he said, “No, do you?” “Well,” I said, “It’s Tuesday, and there’s that bar on Main Street. On Tuesday nights, they do all the beer you can drink for $7.00 and all the nachos and cheese you can eat for $2.99 so let’s go out.”
And off we went. We slapped down the $20 on the bar. It was one of the most important nights of my life, but I didn’t know it at the time. We talked about our adventure, all the people who had tried to help us, all the people who tried to rip us off (and a lot of them had succeeded). And we talked, and we talked.
Then I turned to the barmaid and said, “We just spent our last $20 in the whole world in here.” And she said, “Why? This place sucks.” And I’m like, “Well, it’s the only place we could afford.” So she said, “Oh, I better buy you a shot.” She started pouring shots for us telling the other bartenders, “These two guys have just spent their last $20 in the whole world in here.” Then they started chatting with us and telling the locals, and we had this amazing night telling our stories of the last few months.
Then at the end of the night, I cried because I couldn’t tip them. And the girl said, “Don’t worry, you guys are great. You’re just broke. That’s all. Everybody behind this bar is broke and most of people in this bar are broke.”
And down the bar, there was a guy who owned a limousine company, and he drove us home in the back of his limousine. I'll never forget it because I realized I love this life, and I love doing what I’m doing.
So got home and went to bed. I had been dreading the next morning. I woke up penniless, but instead of feeling miserable, I was relieved. I had two eyes, two ears, a nose and I felt alive and I felt hope. I suddenly realized I was truly committed because I was not going to go back a failure to England.
So I jumped out of bed and went to the kitchen. There was my business partner, looking like a broken man. And I said, “You know something, I have no clue how, but somehow, someway, I’m going to make this work because I can’t go back. It’s going to happen.” And he looked at me, he goes, “Okay, I’m going to stay.”
I’m going to fast-forward quickly. We started off as so-called antique dealers. We had this vision, but as soon as we started, we started thinking, “Well, how do antique dealers behave? What are we supposed to do? How do antique dealers do business?” And we started trying to emulate what it meant, in our opinion, to be an antique dealer.
Now fast-forward seven years. We were in San Francisco and were now multimillionaires. We were doing business with some of the best known brands on the planet: Polo Ralph Lauren, Nike, Tommy Hilfiger, Nautica, Macy’s, Nordstrom, Land Rover, Citibank.
When I mention Polo for example, everybody who’s ever walked past Polo have seen what we did: all those old suitcases and trunk, sailboats, rugs that say Polo, dumbbells, you name it. Everything that makes the Polo brand look the way it does, we did that. We supplied every Polo store on the planet, Polo North America, Polo Japan, Polo Europe. And our journey of doing this had us on CNN, the front page of the Wall Street Journal and over a hundred TV shows, magazines and newspapers.
We got this media coverage not for being successful, but for how we did it. It dawned on us one day as we were trying to sell our antiques to Macy’s. The buyer kept saying, “We’re going to use these items to differentiate the men’s wear; we’re going to use these other items to differentiate the bedding department.”
He kept saying this word “differentiate.” And a light bulb went off: “They’re not buying antiques; they’re buying differentiation. I’m helping them build a brand, and I don’t even have a brand. I’m just any old antique dealer.”
So we started looking at who are we, what we're about, what we care about, what our customers need. They weren’t buying antiques, like I said. They were buying a story.
So what we ultimately did was transition. We built our own brand. We were famous in our market. We were very well known in that world of visual branding for retailers and had a world-famous brand. Our storyline was that we were on an adventure, we were going somewhere and we didn’t take ourselves too seriously. We took business seriously, but we didn’t take ourselves too seriously. And we were here to help our customers tell their brand story the best way possible. That differentiates us from all the other companies selling antiques.
Ed Gandia: They’re selling a commodity, in other words.
David Tyreman: They're selling a product and a commodity. We were selling an idea. So as I became more and more successful, people would ask me to speak around town and ask me, “How do you build a brand and how do you help these big brands?” And so I started creating the steps. And I got so into it and I finally realized my true love is entrepreneurs just like me.
So I sold that business in 2000 to specialize in helping people take the steps they need to take, just like I did, to build a brand that truly connects on an emotional level with their market. Because we’re transcending the products and services we were selling, because I was broke selling antiques and then I became a multimillionaire selling antiques.
So it wasn’t the antiques that changed, it was the brand I built, it was the relationship, it was the meaning that changed everything. And that’s what everybody can do and that’s why—especially freelancers, solopreneurs, we can get so caught up in what we do instead of what we represent, what we care about.
Ed Gandia: That’s an amazing story. And the great thing about what you just shared, David, is that all of us have a story. What you did is pretty remarkable, but when you sit down and think about it, everyone has something to share that really speaks to who they are, what they care about and what they stand for. And I guess that’s really the key, right?
David Tyreman: It’s a vital part of the process, absolutely.
Ed Gandia: So how do you do that? How do you go about kind of gathering those stories, and ideas and communicating in a way that’s going to resonate with a prospect?
David Tyreman: Okay. So everybody who is taking notes, make sure you’ve got your pad and your pen right now, because I’m going to give you three questions to answer. And by the way, if you ever want to see the distinction between a life with a brand and without a brand, go to a swap meet and look at all the vendors. That's how they're positioned—as vendors.
Don't get into that mindset. Vending is for vending machines. We need to be brand builders. We need to be committed. So it starts with intention. I’m not a vendor, I’m a brand builder, because building a brand is the most valuable thing you can do for yourself, because your brand is what attracts the business.
There’s a clothing company called Tap Out that specializes in the cage fighting type of arena. They started as a T-shirt vendor. In their first year of business, they did only $30,000 in sales. But they built a brand. They got really clear about their point of view, what they cared about, what they stood for. They sold their company 10 years later for about $200 million. So by being really clear, they weren’t trying to sell T-shirts, they were building a brand.
And so there’s a famous quote from Nick Graham, the guy who founded Joe Boxer. Nick says, “Your brand is the theme park and your product is the souvenir.” Write that down, because when you see it like that, when you go to Disney, for those of you who like Disney ... who doesn’t want to take a souvenir home?
So when you get clear about your brand, what you stand for, what you represent, your products sell themselves. I’m not saying you don’t have to have marketing plans and sales systems, but the brand is what makes all the difference. And one single individual can have a brand.
Solopreneurs need a brand because otherwise we’re invisible. We become the default brand and that’s what I call it. The more we emulate how things are done in our own industry, the more invisible we become.
So here are the questions you need to ask yourself:
1) Who are you? Easy for me to ask. Sometimes it takes a little time to answer, so don’t expect to have all the perfect answers the first time you write down your answer. Give yourself a little time.
2) What do you stand for? This is really important. If you think about politicians, for example, or think about different pop stars that you might like or well-known people, like Oprah or whatever; different people have got different things that they stand for. What do you stand for?
I'll tell you what I stand for, my tag line says it, “Fight brand conformity.” I get so bored by conformity. I’ve always rebelled against conformity. I hate doing what I’m told. I can’t stand it. And so I fight brand conformity. That’s what I stand for. That’s one of the things I stand for. So that’s the second question.
Ed Gandia: And by the way, David, on that second question, I'm assuming that it could be quite a few things, and it could be answered in paragraph form, or it could be a of bunch items that you just start jotting down?
David Tyreman: Yes, absolutely, just bullet-point your answers. Just start getting an idea that I am different from everybody else. This is how you start defining what makes you unique and valuable. So just think if you were the Ritz-Carlton versus Motel 6, they’re both successful organizations, but they’re very different when they talk about who are they and what do they stand for.
3) Finally, who do you honor? I see too many people trying to please everybody, and it’s just never going to work. You’ve got to be clear about who you really care about. Who do you really want to do business with?
If you could imagine the line of people at your actual door, even if you work out of your bedroom, customers lining up. And you open the door, who are you going to say, “Oh, no, I don’t want to work with you.” We’ve got to be clear about who we don’t want to work with as much as, “Well, oh my goodness, you’re exactly who I want to work with. I love working with people with your points of view and your beliefs and your types of personality.”
Be clear about who you honor, because it really will help you own your brand. We are not trying to please everybody. We are here to honor the customers we designed our business around. And a secret, a clue here, is that most businesses, most individuals, are looking to honor people who are similar to them.
So what I mean by that is, here I am, this guy who came from England with—I learned about America so long ago when I was—I was very inspired by the brand "America"; a place where you could truly be successful if you tried hard enough. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness did it for me. I packed my bags and came a long way away from my family to get "brand America."
So I honor people like me who are driven and motivated. They want to help people, they want to change the world. They just need to know the steps to get the brand that they’ve always wanted.
And sometimes, like you said, people think, “Oh, brand,” but what they really want is to stand apart from everybody else. They don’t want to be overwhelmed by this feeling of competition.
Ed Gandia: At the end of the day, that’s really what matters.
David Tyreman: It is. And I’ve never believed in competition. Even in dating, I would always be like, “Listen, I’m not competing with anybody. If you don’t want me, forget it.”
Ed Gandia: Yeah, you’re one of a kind, absolutely.
David Tyreman: I’m one of a kind. And it’s like I need to make sure I’m able to represent who I am and not be trying to please that person and pretend I’m something I’m not. Own it, get clear about who you are and then own it, because there’s an ocean of people waiting to do business with you when you inspire them.
Ed Gandia: So David, I guess to take that one step further, where should people start incorporating those messages and those ideas they come up with as they answer these three questions?
David Tyreman: That’s a great question. So I’m going to take us back to what we talked about earlier about the distinction between branding and brand identity. And on your piece of paper, if you imagine drawing a flat image of a cartwheel. So a big circle with a little circle in the middle that represents the hub and then all the spokes.
In the hub, write down "brand identity." And on each of the spokes, we’ll call them branding spokes, write down all the different extensions from that hub. So one spoke could be your tagline, one spoke could be your website, another spoke could be your voicemail message.
So first, we have to get clear about our brand identity; who are you, what do you stand for, what’s important to you, who do you honor. That’s going to give you a clue about what you’re trying to say, what tagline is going to engage people in the possibilities that they can expect when they work with you. So we first get clear about who we are, we get clear about our brand identity, and then we apply it through all of our branding spokes.
And I’m going to give you a really silly example, Ed. Take a voicemail message. How many times have you made a call and you hear a message and it says something like, “I’m either on the phone or away from my desk.” I mean, we hear it every day.
And so this is my joke—and for everybody who’s listening, if you happen to have that message or something like it, here’s my joke: In the whole history of you having that message, has anyone ever asked you when they actually got to speak with you, “Which one was it? Were you on the phone or away from your desk? It’s driving me crazy!”
This is the thing, even your voicemail message is an opportunity to inspire people when you know what it is you need to ask them, when you know what it is you want to share, without being all salesy. So I’m not telling you that if you have the right voicemail message, it’s going to change everything and that’s all you have to do, but I have landed business because of my voicemail messages over the years.
So that’s why I want you to really look at those branding spokes. When you are clear about your brand and what you stand for and what you care about, you’re in a position to inspire people. And that’s how you create an emotional connection, even including your voicemail message. And sometimes I'll call somebody and they have such a good voicemail message, I already know, “Oh, I can’t wait to speak to this person. I can’t wait to hear what they have to say. I think I want to work with this person.”
So the opportunities that we are missing by conforming, by doing what’s expected, I’m here to say, “Look at how you're acting and speaking just like the 'default' brand in your industry and give yourself an opportunity to express your brand and connect with your market differently.”
Don’t just do Facebook posts just because everyone else is. How about points of view? Don’t just publish boring newsletters—and how many times do we get newsletters that are so generic and boring? We’re never going to read them. Dare to have people that don’t like what you’re doing if they’re not your customers.
Your mom doesn’t have to like your brand. My mom doesn’t like my brands. But I always say if my mom doesn’t like it, I’m on to a winner!
David Tyreman: I’ve enjoyed staying at the Ritz-Carlton, but I’ve also enjoyed staying at other less expensive properties that are clear about their brand, too. So we don’t have to be the Rolls-Royce in order to deliver a great real, honest, authentic brand experience.
One of my favorite brands is Virgin Atlantic, and they are not the most expensive airline out there. But they are one of the most successful airline brands ever in the history of aviation. So I take a lot of cues. I think Richard Branson is a genius. And if you ever get to fly virgin, you’ll experience something very different than the average, everyday airlines.
So when I say 85% of businesses don’t understand, I’m including big companies like airlines. A lot of them, they’ve got a generic brand. They’ve got the default brand. They’re looking over their shoulder of what everyone else is doing, instead of looking to the vision of where they want to be and being true to who they really are.
Ed Gandia: Yeah. David, this has been fantastic. I mean, you really got me thinking about some of this stuff. And I’ve heard some of these concepts before, but what you’ve done a really good job of is kind of tie it altogether and give us some sort of framework where we can start thinking through this and actually putting it into practice. So thank you for that. So for our listeners who want to learn more about you, where can they go?
David Tyreman: Okay, well, the first place I’m going to send everybody is to a free webinar. We do it three times a week for the time being. It’s going to be coming down soon, so I recommend going sooner rather than later. The best way to do it is to go to Facebook.com/worldfamouscompany (my company is called World Famous Company). And on my World Famous Company page, you’ll see a big button that says "free webinar." Click on that to register for the next one. This webinar is packed with steps on how to start getting your teeth into creating your brand and getting clear about what makes you unique and valuable in your market immediately. You'll get a lot of value out of it.
Also, you can visit my website: www.worldfamouscompany.com. We have actually been going through our own rebranding process ourselves, so we have a brand-spanking new website going up very soon.
Ed Gandia: Perfect. Well, David, thanks again. It was really a pleasure having you.