Make an Impact With Your Image

Impact With Expertise

As we mentioned, Peter Montoya is an expert in personal branding. We know this because his 30-person company, Peter Montoya Inc., puts out a quarterly magazine called Personal Branding. He also wrote The Personal Branding Phenomenonand co-wrote The Brand Called You(both self-published), and he's produced audio CDs and delivered seminars on personal branding.

Just as Montoya, 33, has created an impact by branding himself the premiere personal brander, you can brand yourself-not just your company-as the go-to person in the industry you hope to dominate.

"It's hard to have instant credibility, especially in this era. We don't take anything at face value anymore," says Montoya, whose Santa Ana, California, company brings in more than $3 million a year. "Everything a person does builds their image and helps them make an impact. It's not just your slogan. It's everything that you do."

So let's say your company makes ice cube trays. You could publish Ice Cube Tray Quarterly. You could start a nonprofit foundation to help wayward ice cube tray manufacturers. You could hold an international ice cube tray conference once a year. You could publish a book about the history of ice cube trays. Pretty soon, you're known as the King Kong of the ice cube tray manufacturers, which means you've already made an impact. And if you want to make an even bigger one, your international image will make it that much easier.

Impact With Others
Peter Abruzzo knew his $10 million company, Modern Tuxedo, a chain of 27 rental stores predominantly in the Indiana and Chicago areas, didn't have the visibility to compete with big national chains. So he formed the Tuxedo America Group, which brings together like-sized and like-minded tuxedo companies across the country. Because the companies are located in different regions, they don't compete with each other. The group provides, among other things, lower costs and better training for its members. For example, Abruzzo and his staff train member companies in the minutiae of measuring. And Abruzzo hand-picked each chain in the organization to keep out any weak links.

No longer is Modern Tuxedo a cute little chain with little impact. In a sense, Abruzzo has formed an entrepreneur's union. Tuxedo America Group now represents what he believes are 13 of the best smaller regional formalwear companies in the country, which collectively own more than 500 stores. The proverbial little guy is now big.

"It's helped with national recognition," says Abruzzo, 45. "We can share ideas with each other, and we have clout with buyers. Our purchasing power is tremendous; it gives us a national presence."

Make a Name for Yourself
If you want to make an impact, you have to give people a way to remember you, and a good way to do that is to give them one simple thing to keep in mind. Seattle marketing consultant David Kinard echoes thoughts from the 1981 classic Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Al Ries and Jack Trout. "Volvo owns safety. Wal-Mart owns low prices. Nordstrom, customer service. If you can find a concept you can deliver in the customer's mind, that's going to help you become number one," says Kinard.

If you're wondering how to find your concept, Kinard offers an analytical exercise. "I call it the boyfriend/girlfriend list," explains Kinard. "You know how you'll list all the reasons why you hate or love a boyfriend or girlfriend? Do the same thing with your company and your competitors. Write down all the qualities your company has and all the qualities your competitor has. Then cross out everything that is the same. If you have any words left over, that may be your concept."

Geoff Williams has written for numerous publications, including Entrepreneur, Consumer Reports, LIFE and Entertainment Weekly. He also is the author of Living Well with Bad Credit.

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This article was originally published in the October 2002 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Impact!.

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