What are you known for?

As I mentioned before, I’ll be touching on a few marketing topics over the course of the next several weeks. Taking a top-down approach, I’m starting with the question, “What are you known for?”

I hang around the IndyCar paddock whenever I can, which isn’t nearly as often as I’d like. At the St. Pete race one year, I remember listening to one of the team PR people talking about how to get into her line of work. I think it might have actually been a Pirelli World Challenge team rep, Kelly Brouillet. She said something like, “Do one thing really well. If I have a go-to person for one thing, that’s worth a lot more to me than someone who knows a little about a lot of stuff.”

She’s right. As I’ve progressed in my career, I’ve noted who the experts are. I tried to do something in PowerShell a little while back, and turned to Mike Fal when I got stuck. When I’m trying to figure out the right direction to go with a columnstore issue, I look up what Niko Neugebauer has to say on it. The reason I was listening to Kelly that day in St. Pete is because she’s a lot more savvy about marketing and PR in the racing world than I am.

Brent Ozar, one of those high on my experts list, had a session at the Summit last year, on the Professional Development track. He called it a “500-Level Guide to Career Internals” but it was really a wonderfully personal “How did I get here?” talk. One of the things he stressed was a consistency in message:

  • His Twitter account says: “I make Microsoft SQL Server faster and more reliable.”
  • His blog says: “I co-founded Brent Ozar Unlimited, a boutique consulting firm that helps you make SQL Server faster and more reliable.”
  • His 2016 PASS Summit bio says: “Brent Ozar loves to make SQL Server faster and more reliable.”

See a trend? Being known for making SQL Server faster and more reliable is Brent’s desired brand identity. BrentOzar.com is where I go when I have general SQL Server performance or reliability questions. It’s often the first place I go. Once I gain a little insight there, I might dig deeper elsewhere. Brent is very good about pointing people to experts in the field, who have a deeper but more narrow focus than he does. As for myself, you’ll find the phrase “fast and efficient SQL code” peppered throughout my online activity. I’m competent at quite a few things, but I’d like to think I really shine at that.

As the communications director for the IndyCar Ministry, it’s my role to get the message out that we are “dedicated to providing spiritual support and counseling to the IndyCar Series drivers, teams, and staff.” But what are we known for? That’s a tough question, actually, and one I’ve been wrestling with. “Being there when needed,” has come to mind. I’ve often joked that IndyCar is a traveling circus. The paddock is very close-knit, and rightfully so. Having chaplains who are inside that paddock, not just logistically, but emotionally as well – that means a lot. It makes the difference between whether or not someone will open up about a problem in their life. In any case, I’m still working on this one. In part, it’s actually what prompted this post.

In a similar capacity, I help Blue River Soccer “provide recreational, competitive, and educational soccer opportunities for the youth of Shelby County, Indiana.” Our tagline, which plays on what we’re known for, is “Ignite the dream. Launch the evolution. Respect the match.” We recognize that soccer is still in a transition period, at least in our area. So we set our sights accordingly. We try to give kids a passion for the game, give them the fundamentals, and set them up to move the needle forward – be better prepared to pass the game on to their own kids. Frankly, we’re not one of those associations with thousands of kids, paid coaches, and a big-time travel program. We’re known for being a place to which parents can feel comfortable bringing their kids, regardless of what they know about the game coming in.

It all comes back to that question. If you’re promoting something – yourself, your company, your product or services – you have to answer that first. So… what are you known for?

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