Creating a WHAT’S THAT MEAN? moment

My friend, Jeff, recently renamed his company. It was time. He’s in the insurance business. His Dad started the company and named it sensibly, for that time. Decades later, though, as Jeff and his partner fought to establish themselves as different in a world of sameness, they concluded that their company’s sensible name was confining them tightly in the ‘sameness’ trap. While they were feeling, acting and playing the insurance game differently, their name, which prospects heard as “blah, blah insurance services” had the world defining them as “ugh, we hate insurance” before they even had a chance to open their mouths.

That had to change.

Their solution. They created Vizance. Hmm, I thought, interesting name. It made me think. I didn’t know what to make of the word.

“What’s a Vizance?”

“We made it up,” Jeff told me. “It’s a combination of Vision & Guidance.”

He had my attention. “What’s it mean?” I asked.

“Moving Forward.” They made that up as well.

For me, the beauty of what Jeff and his partner did wasn’t that they made up a name, lots of people do that. It was that they also defined the name they made up. They created their own language. They made their name about who they are, not about who their industry thought they were. They did something few people do. They changed their game.

Create a What’s That Mean? Moment

When I was 10 years into the business I founded, Advanced Waste Services, it dawned on me that we, not unlike Jeff, were wallowing in a slop of sameness, playing the game the same way our competitors were playing the game, the way it had always been played. Inside the company, we knew we were different. Better. Outside, you couldn’t see or feel that, so the reality was that it didn’t matter.

When I named the company originally, I’d been dead set against using the word “environmental” in the name. Everyone was doing that, and it seemed ‘dot-comy’ to me (even though I didn’t know what dot com was at that time – visionary? Sorry, I digress).

I know what you’re thinking, ‘Advanced Waste Services’, not a brilliant name. OK, you got me there and, I’ll admit, I was never smart, or brave or creative enough to take a Vizance-like name change plunge, although in retrospect, that may have been exactly the right thing to do (I met Jeff too late in my life).

It’s not that we did nothing though. While our name stayed that same, the way we talked about ourselves changed. We wanted to get out of the industry jargon trap, the one that had us sounding the same as everyone else we thought we were better than and different from.

Our solution was to create our own, unique little language. Something that was only ours. Property that belonged only to us. Everything we could re-name, we did. Everything we could re-define, we did. Every experience we could change or improve, we did.

Gone were ‘sales reps,’ replaced by Results Advisors. The transactional ‘customer’ became the valued Client. We got rid of the sameness of ‘dispatch’ and replaced it with uniqueness of Results Delivery Group. ‘Customer Service’ folks became Client Specialists. We engaged clients and prospects in Earth Conversations instead of simply making a ‘sales call’. If you came to our office for a meeting, we greeted you with a framed welcome sign, not a ‘can I help you?’

Different in Sea of Sameness

You might be thinking, what’s the point.   In my mind, there are two.

First, in a world crowded with sameness, where “same” is rewarded by the client or prospect as ‘low-price wins’, a unique name or phrase that prompts a ‘what’s that mean’ moment is an opportunity to prove you’re different, before you’re defined. I realize a moment’s not much, but it’s an eternity compared to being defined before the meeting even starts.

Second, creating your own language builds a differentiation inside the company as well. As “industry experts” we can sometimes contribute to our sameness condition. We can forget how special what we do really is. Familiarity can harbor commoditization. It’s cool to work in an environment that sounds and feels a little different than what everyone else is feeling or sounding like. People rally around that. They bond with one another. They feel different and unique about what they’re doing.

How do I know this works? Simple, when clients start using our language, we’ve won the game.

Go ahead. Try it. Think about how you can be different in your sea of sameness. Change the way you play the game. Make your clients and prospects (and your team) think or pause for a moment. Take advantage of that pause and fill that moment with the value of your uniqueness.

Follow in Jeff’s footsteps. Be Brave. Vizance the moment!

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