This is a guest post by Wayne Mullins. He is the founder of Ugly Mug Marketing, and he blogs about business at Marketing Confessions.
There are hundreds of companies that sell computers, but what is it that makes Apple so successful?
There are thousands of chocolatiers around the world, but what is it that makes Godiva stand out?
There are thousands of coffee shops around the world, but what allowed Starbucks to dominate the coffee world?
Every day you likely face hundreds (maybe thousands) of competitors, so what can you possibly do to stand out from the crowd? And, more importantly, how can you become the success story in your field?
I’d like to share a principle that works every time, but yet I can only remember once in my life hearing someone talk about this principle. I’m going to give you six specific steps you can easily take today to implement this principle.
But first, here is a story for you…
The Joshua Bell story
It was 7:51 am on a brisk January morning in downtown Washington, D.C. The L’Enfant Plaza Station was bustling with mid-level managers getting on and off the metro, heading to yet another day at the office.
A man dressed in jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt and a baseball cap exited the metro, entered the main lobby of the station and quietly opened a violin case. Opening the case, he gently removed the violin and slid the open case in front of him. He appeared ready to play, but then he reached into his pocket, pulled out a couple of crumpled dollars and dropped them into the case as seed money.
To the people passing by, his setup went unnoticed. After all, this is D.C., where street musicians are the norm.
The musician began with “Chaconne” from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Partita No. 2 in D Minor. Most classical music aficionados believe it to be one of the greatest violin pieces ever written. But that did not seem to help the street musician attract a crowd.
Sixty-three people passed before anyone even seemed to notice there was a street musician playing a violin. For a full 43 minutes, this musician masterfully played some of the greatest classical pieces of all time. After the last note was played, the musician, Josh Bell, stooped down to count his earnings.
After 43 minutes of work and over 1,000 people passing by, Josh had earned $32.17. This doesn’t seem too bad until you consider that just three nights before, he brought in over $115,000.00 per hour.
You see, Joshua Bell is an internationally acclaimed virtuoso, who three nights before had sold out all 2,300+ seats at Boston’s Symphony Hall. The tickets at Boston’s Symphony Hall were $100.00 for an average seat. The “best” seats sold for far more.
So, how is it possible that this highly acclaimed virtuoso can go from bringing in over $115,000.00 to less than $33.00 in one hour? More importantly, why is it that some businesses enjoy remarkable success, ridiculous profit margins, and tremendous accolades, while their competitors with the same quality of product struggle to survive?
The experiment with Josh Bell was conducted a few years back by the Washington Post, and what it revealed was the power of having a “frame.” With a “frame,” Josh is worth over $100,000.00 per hour. Same musician with the same $3.5 million violin, same songs and similar audience size, but without the “frame,” he’s only worth $33.00 per hour.
So, what exactly is the frame, and how can you create one?
A frame is the underlying structure and/or beliefs that shape and form others’ perceptions about you or your organization.
The reason the “frame” is often overlooked is because most people don’t believe they can control what others think. I disagree. I believe that most successful people and businesses are masters at using a frame.
So let’s look at a few examples:
Building a frame with Godiva
When you think about Godiva Chocolate, what comes to mind? Expensive, decadent, delicious, the best chocolate? Godiva has spent the past 85 years building a frame that helps shape perception, and they built it successfully without ever airing a single television commercial.
They’ve constructed their “frame” by carefully designing stores, elegant packaging, great sales associate training, premium ingredients, and great product presentation. Each of their “frame” ingredients compliments the others and builds onto the perception people have about Godiva products.
Look at each of their “frame” components, and you’ll discover that none of them are proprietary. All chocolatiers have control over these same “frame” building ingredients, and all chocolatiers use them to build a “frame” for themselves. However, only a few have spent this much time, money, and effort to ensure that each part of their “frame” complements the next and helps control people’s perception.
I’m a Mac. And I’m a PC.
When you think about the “I’m a Mac and I’m a PC” commercials, what’s your perception of Apple? Creative, clean lines, iPhone, iPod, iPad, cool products, and the best technology, right? Apple, and particularly the recently deceased Steve Jobs, are masters at controlling others’ perceptions. Because of their skillful use of the “frame,” they have built a cult-like following.
There are hundreds of other computer, mp3 player, and cell phone companies, yet most look to Apple and only dream of having such a loyal following. So, how in the world did Apple become the envy of its industry, with over $70 billion in cash reserves?
Sure, there are a lot of factors involved. But they skillfully used these factors to build a strong “frame,” while most of their competitors sat by and watched them do it.
I made the switch from PC to Mac about a year ago. There are two things I remember about the day my Mac arrived via UPS. First, I remember the amazing packaging. I felt like I was opening an exquisite treasure. Second, I remember how quickly the computer started. Don’t for a second believe that these two factors aren’t part of Apple’s carefully crafted “frame.”
So, now that you know why a frame is important, here is how you can build a better one.
6 Steps to Building a Better “Frame”
- Admit It! – the first step is that you have to admit that you have access to the same “frame” building materials as your competitors. Unfortunately, most who read this are likely thinking at this point, “Yeah, but I don’t blah, blah, blah….” If you’re going to make radical transitions in your life or organization, you first have to stop making excuses and admit you control the same ingredients as others.
- Vision It! – once you admit you can control, and build, a better frame, next you have to have a clear vision of what it will look like. The best way to do this is to look from the perspective of your prospects or clients. What perception do you want them to have?
- Draw It! – if you can see the “frame” in your mind, now it’s time to draw the blueprints. These blueprints will serve as a trusted reference as you begin constructing your “frame.”
- Build It! – with detailed blueprints in hand, it’s now time to start construction. Don’t get overwhelmed by all the individual pieces involved in the process. Refer back to your blueprints regularly to keep you on track.
- Live It! – once you’ve completed building your frame, it’s time to start living it. Embrace it! Allow your frame to work. Stay within your frame.
- Review It! – set aside time each month to review your “frame” and each of its components. You want to review it to be sure that each of the components are still working together and helping shape others’ perceptions of you and your organization.
Want to see what happened when Josh Bell removed his “frame”?
Don’t become overwhelmed, trying to figure out how to create your “frame”. A great starting place could be as simple as dressing to impress. It’s also important to continually learn from others who’ve mastered the art of creating “frames” and personal brands.
What else can you do to start creating your own “frame” and controlling others’ perceptions of you and your brand?