How to Answer the Most Brutal Question in Business

You are here:
Module 1: How to Position Your Brand to Sell
Section 2: How to Create Messages That Sell
Post 4: How to Answer the Most Brutal Question in Business

You’re at a networking event. You just got introduced to a fellow entrepreneur. You exchange niceties.

And then you ask a simple question, “What do you do?”

How long will it take them to answer?

Too long – if they’re an average business owner.

But you’re not average. So when someone asks you what you do – the most brutal question in business – you’ll answer in seconds, not minutes.

It will take you exactly one sentence.

Attention spans are shorter than ever. People don’t read; they scan. They ask but often don’t listen.

Twitter built one of the most popular social networks on messages with 140 characters or less. Elections are often won (or lost) with a sound bite. We live in a sound bite world.

So think “sound bite” and people will vote for you with their dollars!

3 characteristics of a sound bite that sells

A great sound bite accomplishes three things in seconds:

  • Positions you

When crafted properly, your sound bite positions you in the mind of the recipient – they should clearly understand what you do. So avoid complex words and jargon.

  • Distinguishes you

We’re making an important distinction here – your sound bite doesn’t need to fully differentiate you. However, it does need to distinguish you.

Here’s what we mean: It needs to set you apart from your competition, but it doesn’t have to place you miles away from them. Which brings us to our third point…

  • Naturally arouses curiosity

Done well, your sound bite will leave the recipient wanting to know more. The best evidence is…

They ask you a question!

It’s the outcome you want. Because a question means they’ve “opted in” – they’ve given you permission to fill in the details.

You’ll respond naturally – by answering their question. You may answer their question with a question so you can fine tune your answer.

We call this the social connecting model of selling: Conversations create connections. Connections create customers. Customers create cash flow.

Business today aren’t built on presentations. They’re built on interactions!

Most people haven’t caught onto this yet. Sadly, many never will. But you will! Which means…

You don’t have to sell. Just have conversations that resonate. Then, a connection will form naturally. Build that relationship to gain a customer.

It’s money in the bank – and it comes in the best way possible:

You help people you love to serve by doing what you do best so they get what they want.

The sound bite formula

We just gave you the formula in the last paragraph. But let’s spell it out even more clearly – when asked, “What do you do,” use the following formula to craft your sound bite:

I help [who] [do what] so they [get what].

Note that you start with the word “I” which signals you’re answering the question directly. (You may use the word “we” if you’re not a solo entrepreneur.)

Then you use one of most powerful words in business: help. You don’t sell. You help. Helpers are heroes!

Next, you shift the focus – from “you” to “who” you serve. You’ll resonate better this way. It’s “what’s in it for me (WiiFM) to the recipient.

Now you’re ready for the core. Frame your “do what” as a benefit leading to the BIGG benefit. The BIGG benefit is your “get what.”

We’ll use ourselves as an example. Here’s our sound bite:

“In 90 days, we help business owners and professionals build a brand that sells so they achieve personal, professional and financial success.”

Let’s look at each of three blanks you need to fill in:

  • Who

While we’re sure some experts disagree with us, we recommend that you keep your “who” fairly general. Let the recipient form their own opinion at this point. You can clarify later in the conversation.

So in our example, “who” is obvious: “business owners and professionals.” We’ll soon talk about a powerful way to drill down further and when to do it. You’ll find it below.

  • Do what

This is the core of the answer to the question about what you do. But note how we distinguish ourselves.

The core is “build a brand”. It resonates with people by itself. But it doesn’t have the same punch without the distinguishing factors: “in 90 days” and “that sells”.

Those two things set us apart. “90 days” is tangible. “That sells” shows bottom-line results without working so hard – your brand sells for you.

  • Get what

Here’s where you put in your ultimate benefit. As you think about what you do for people, think about why you do it – from their point-of-view. Remember WiiFM!

What is it they really want? It’s what you really sell as we discussed in the last post. You’re just putting it into words which resonate.

Your sound bite on steroids

So far, we’ve discussed crafting a sound bite for the masses. But there’s a secret to making a BIGG impact with it.

Don’t wait for people to ask you what you do. Ask them first.

If they beat you to the punch, try tossing the question back. This must be done delicately or it will feel forced. Accept the fact you may not always be able to do it. But when you can, say something like…

“Well, before I tell you what I do, I’d really like to hear what you do. Would you mind going first?”

We’ve never known a person to turn down that offer. So now you can listen and learn. You’ll be able to classify them.

  • Category 1: Are they your ideal customer?
  • Category 2: Do they serve your ideal customer?
  • Category 3: Do they know your ideal customer?

If the answer is “None of the above,” you may have a new friend but don’t expect much business to come of it.

If they’re a Category 3, then use the sound bite we just discussed to explain what you do. You’ll often find they get curious because they know someone who needs your product or service right now.

But if it’s either one of the other two, you’re in a really good place. (And by they way, meeting Category 2 people is one of the most effective, least expensive ways to build your business. We’ll talk about this more in the final module.)

So let’s talk about how a conversation might go with a Category 1 person. Since you know what we do, we’ll use ourselves as an example.

We ask, “What do you do?”

“I’m an author,” they reply. “I write non-fiction books about business. What do you do?”

“We help non-fiction authors build a brand that sells more books!” We say this with a BIGG smile!

They laugh. And then they start asking us questions!

As we said before, they don’t usually answer in such a concise way. They go on and on. They often don’t ever really say exactly what they do. So in those cases…

We say, “So you write books about business?”


[BIGG smile] “Well, we’re so glad we met – because we help business authors build a brand that sells more books!”

What if they’re in Category 2 – they serve your ideal customers? Running with a similar example, let’s say we learn they serve authors.

We confirm, “So you work with authors?”


“It’s kinda funny – we work with people who work with authors!”

You’re seeing our style here. We like to keep it light, have fun and make people laugh.

But it’s just an example. You’ll have your own style, one which shows your authenticity.

Before we move on, we just want to point out one more thing. Perhaps you noticed – we didn’t exactly follow our own formula!

The suggested formula is: I help [who] [do what] so they [get what].

But we actually put part of our “do what” upfront: “In 90 days, we help business owners and professionals build a brand that sells…”

The timeframe packs more punch upfront. Plus it causes confusion when placed at the end of the phrase: “build a brand that sells in 90 days.” So we put it at the front and it resonated.

The point is: bend the formula if you need to! Just remember – it needs to be clear, distinguish you and arouse curiosity.

Sherlock Holmes will put you in your place

We’re BIGG fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. We enjoy the classic versions, of course. But we also love the adaptations where Sherlock lives in the 21st century, including the BBC’s Sherlock, which runs on PBS.

Holmes meets his famous sidekick, Dr. Watson, in the first episode. Watson has witnessed Scotland Yard seeking Holmes’ help.

Watson says to Holmes: “So you’re a private detective?”

Holmes responds, “No, I’m a consulting detective.”

Holmes differentiates himself just by the title he uses!

He’s not one of the many private detectives. He’s one of a few consulting detectives. He may even be the only one!

Sherlock Holmes will put you in your place, if you just follow his lead:

You can be “the one” instead of “one of many.”

Here’s the good news: It’s easier to do now than ever before.

Why? Because you can reach small niches easier than ever thanks to the internet and social media.

Like Holmes, it often pays to think about two-businesses-in-one. He combines “consulting” with “detective”.

When people think about detectives, they think of one of two occupations: a crime-solving employee of a police department or a private detective.

Holmes doesn’t fit the first category, so Watson naturally defaulted to the second one. But as an industry, private detectives don’t have the best reputation. Plus, there’s no differentiation in calling yourself a “private detective.”

On the other hand, consultants are generally seen as valuable. They’re experts. So Holmes puts the two together to make himself stand apart.

We call what Holmes did the “[this] meets [that]” method. In his case, “consultant” meets “private detective”. The end result is “consulting detective.”

Another way to find your place is to use the “like [this] for [them]” method. You help people frame what you do by providing them with two familiar cues.

For example – if you wanted to start a social network for kids, you might describe your place as “like Facebook for kids.”

You have to be careful with this one – you want to help your audience gain perspective without stretching your credibility. So we would quickly add: “Our users are the people who Facebook excludes, kids under 13. We give them a safe social network where they can interact with their friends.”

But whatever you do, don’t describe yourself as “the next Facebook”, or “the next Google”, or any other well-known brand.

The third way to establish your place in a unique way is the “specialist” method. For example, you may be a home remodeler. You describe yourself as “the 3-day kitchen remodeling specialist.”

Of course, you have to be able to deliver on the promise. We’ll talk more about this in the final section of this module.

But if you can deliver, you instantly spark interest because you’re taking away the biggest pain for your customers – the inconvenience of being without a fully-functional kitchen for weeks.

Now that you know the three methods, here are a few things to keep in mind as you think about how to describe your place:

  • Try all three methods on for size
    Don’t limit yourself to trying on just one of the three methods. Try each one of them as you think about your business. Then pick the one you like best.
  • Don’t force it
    Don’t sweat it if you can’t come up with a unique description of your place. If you force it, it will just create confusion. There are plenty of other ways to differentiate yourself.
  • Test it
    We suggest two tests. First – Do you see yourself actually saying it to someone? Some things look good in print, but sound terrible when spoken. If that’s the case, move on to another one – because even if it’s being read, the reader is speaking it in their head!Second – Once you find one you like, run it by people like your ideal customer.
  • Sometimes it’s better to “show it” than “say it”
    You want to raise curiosity, not questions about your credibility. So be careful not to make claims you can’t support.Here’s a great list of words not to use – or at least be careful about using. Remember – actions will always speak louder than words.
  • Roll out the roles
    If (or when) you have employees, you’ll want to help them understand their place within your place. So once you’ve established the place your business operates in, share it with your people.Then roll out the roles! Coach them so they can explain their role when people ask them the “What do you do” question.We’ll talk more about the importance of this in the final module on How to Promote Your Brand Online and Off.

The elevator pitch formula

Can you explain your business to a complete stranger in under a minute? That’s your elevator pitch.

We need to share a personal bias with you – we’re not huge fans of elevator pitches. Here’s why:

  • They sound “pitchy” – People like to buy, not to be sold. Elevator speeches often don’t feel authentic. Plus, great sound bites spark interaction naturally. An elevator pitch comes across as a presentation.
  • They’re too long – They’re supposed to be short, but they’re still often too long. People want to be talked with, not at.
  • They’re full of jargon and gibberish – We hear too many elevator speeches which are full of industry terms, buzz word and clichés. They don’t sound like they way we talk. In other words, it’s not “human speak.”
  • They’re rarely necessary – Normally, the sound bite is a better tool.

For those occasions where an elevator pitch is desirable, here’s a simple formula to create yours:

I’m a/an [place]. I help [who] [do what] so they [benefit]. [story]

Note that we build on the sound bite formula to craft your elevator pitch. Here’s ours:

“We’re brand builders. In 90 days, we help business owners and professionals build a brand that sells so they achieve personal, professional and financial success. We saw too many owners paying too much for websites that weren’t built right. So we created a program which guides them step-by-step through the brand-building process. We take them from idea to focused concept, with a website that can grow as they grow, and a plan to jumpstart their sales without spending a bunch of money.”

It’s 82 words long. We can say it – without sounding like a speed talker and with proper emphasis and breaths – in less than 30 seconds.

We can only think of a few situations where we might use this instead of a sound bite:

  • If someone asks “What is BIGG Success?” instead of “What do you do?”

We may not go through the whole pitch in this case – we’ll pause after the second sentence. But since they’ve asked about our business, we feel the need to establish our place: “brand builders.”

  • Business-to-Business conversations

Of course, there is no such thing as we’ve said before – it’s still a person from Business 1 talking to a person with Business 2. For example – if we’re talking with a person who serves the similar customers, we may go into more depth.

  • If we were raising capital

You have to give potential funders a larger perspective. So the full speech may resonate better.

In fact, we’d probably add a little to it – a brief description about market size, how we plan to reach it and the opportunity we can offer a funder. We could do it in less than 30 seconds, so we’d still be under a minute start to finish.

But we want to emphasize – the shorter, the better. Use the number of words you need to convey your message, but not one more.

As an example, let’s return to Holmes and Watson. We’ll show you the rest of the conversation.

Watson says: “So you’re a private detective?”

Holmes responds, “No, I’m a consulting detective.”

“What does that mean?”

“I solve cases that the police can’t.”

So Sherlock’s formula is even simpler than ours, but its power is certainly not elementary! Here it is:

I’m a/an [place]. I [do what] [who]. “I’m a consulting detective. I solve cases the police can’t.”

In just ten words – you know the business he’s in, who his customers are, and what he does for them. He doesn’t need anymore than that.

It’s a twist on our formula. We point this out to emphasize you can reconfigure our formula to create your own compelling statement.

And the fewer words the better – as long as they fully explain your business, your customers and your benefit.

Test, test, test

So how will you know if you have a sound bite and an elevator pitch which does that? Test. Test. Test.

Ask people in your network, your friends and family and most importantly, your ideal customers.

Don’t get discouraged if it takes a little time. This is a process. So keep thinking and testing. You’ll find the combination that sells!

Next Step

Congratulations! You’ve finished the reading for Section 2 of the first module. Here’s what to do to next:

  • Complete Part 4 in the Create Messages That Sell Guidebook (plus any parts you haven’t done earlier).
  • Then you’ll be ready to move on to Section 3 of this first module – How to Use Images and Colors to Sell.

What Do You Really Sell (It’s Not What You Think)

You are here:
Module 1: How to Position Your Brand to Sell
Section 2: How to Create Messages That Sell
Post 3: What Do You Really Sell (It’s Not What You Think)

We were asked to share insights with the strategic planning committee of a bank. One of the questions we asked them was:

“What do you sell?”

It’s a question we’ve asked ourselves. We also ask it of our coaching clients. It’s a part of one of our speeches to business owners and leaders.

It’s an important question to ask about your business.

The bankers had all kinds of ideas – banking products, loans, deposit accounts, mortgages, fees, trust services and more.

We followed up with, “But what do you really sell?”

But we didn’t stop there. We went through an exercise which we’ll tell you here shortly. They started to get it. They finally realized:

They sell dreams!

Now of course, they do that through deposit accounts, mortgages, and loans for cars and businesses.

But ultimately, this bank is in the business of making dreams come true.

Just like an insurance broker we know is in the protection business. A plumber sells quality of life. At BIGG Success, we sell freedom.

The power in knowing what you really sell

Once you understand what you really sell, strategic decision-making and communication is so much simpler.

You understand the core of your business. So options can be filtered by their contribution (or detraction) from your core. Saying “No” is easier because you have a focus.

You understand the true benefit that you deliver. You can communicate that benefit in a word or phrase:

Dreams. Protection. Quality of life. Freedom.

Let’s go back to the bank for a minute. What would get you more excited – making loans or making dreams come true?

If you have employees, don’t you think they’ll be equally excited about making dreams come true instead of just pushing products?

After all, we all want to feel like our work makes a difference in the world. Making dreams a reality makes quite a difference!

Do you see the power in connecting what you sell to a deeper purpose?

An exercise to discover what you really sell

Okay, you’re sold. So how do you go about doing it?

Stop seeing the tangible products in front of you. Then you’ll uncover the intrinsic product within your product.

Stop just thinking about the features of your product. Then you’ll start to understand its benefits.

(And in case you’re wondering, these last two paragraphs also apply to a service.)

So how you can determine what you really sell?

Ask yourself another follow-up question. This is the part of our conversation with the bankers that we didn’t share earlier.

To determine what you really sell, go through this exercise:

Why do people buy your product or service? When you have that answer, ask this question:

“And that means…?”

Once you have your answer, ask it again. “And that means…?”

Keep going. It will probably take four or five times to drill down to what you really sell. (Yes, this is a version of the Five Whys.) But it works.

It’s how we helped the bankers get to “dreams,” the insurance broker realize he sold “protection” and the plumber find out that he sells “quality of life.” It’s also how we discovered that we sell “freedom.”

What do you really sell?

Your phrase that pays

Many business owners don’t grasp an important concept when it comes to dealing with people:

Nobody likes to be sold. Everybody loves to buy.

Once you know what you really sell, you need to find to explain it on the buyer’s terms.

You need a phrase that pays.

A phrase that pays hits a sweet spot. It conveys your ultimate benefit (what you really sell) in a way that sparks emotion with your ideal customers.

The shorter it is the better – as long as it makes your point. You probably can’t explain it in one word. But it should take no more than seven.

For example, we said we sell “freedom.” What does that mean by itself? Well, it can mean all kinds of things. The prospect is left wondering. And confused people don’t buy!

So we need a phrase. Here it is: “life on your own terms.”

We’d like to highlight two things here:

First, note that what we sell (freedom) isn’t mentioned in our phrase. It’s conveyed. Your phrase should describe your ultimate benefit from your ideal customer’s point-of-view.

Second, the industry you’re in doesn’t matter. We’re a business services company that sells freedom. But so do these people:

  • Lincoln Financial (life insurance): “You’re in Charge”
  • Harley Davidson (motorcycles): “American by Birth. Rebel by Choice”
  • Charles Schwab (investment service): “Own Your Tomorrow”
  • Burger King (restaurant): “Have It Your Way”
  • The National Lottery (gambling): “It Could Be You”

We point this out because you may find inspiration by looking at other industries. So keep your eyes and ears open about your phrase that pays.

If you really get stuck, try out this FREE slogan generator. We won’t say you’re likely to find “the” phrase with this tool. But it may help spark ideas.

Sample phrase that pays

We’re going to share a phrase that pays for a product, rather than a company. But it’s a great historical example of an iconic brand’s release of a new product…

Apple’s iPod. How did Apple introduce it?

Well, they could have described its features:

The iPod is a portable media player with a black and white LCD screen which features a 1.8” 5 GB hard drive, and a battery life of 10 hours

Instead, they said this:

1,000 songs in your pocket

The first one is precise, to be sure. But it’s full of jargon. And except for the most avid users, it’s emotionally flat.

“1,000 songs in your pocket” summarizes it all by conveying the ultimate benefit. It’s a five word phrase that pays. As we all know, it resonated.

It’s what you’re looking for – a phrase that reduces the clutter into a communication which connects quickly with your ideal customers.

Next Step

You’re ready for either Part 3 of the Create Messages That Sell Guidebook or the next post.

And don’t forget – if you have a question, just email us at with “BTS QUESTION” in the subject line.

The One Thing Your Customers Want to Know

You are here:
Module 1: How to Position Your Brand to Sell
Section 2: How to Create Messages That Sell
Post 2: The One Thing Your Customers Want to Know

A friend of ours was at a casino in Las Vegas, having a great time playing blackjack – he was winning!

Between hands, he turned in his chair to check out the casino floor. You’ll never guess who was standing right behind him?

Richard Branson, decked out with an attractive woman on each arm.

Our friend nodded and said, “Hi,” in a surprised tone and a chuckle in his voice.

Sir Richard responded, “Hello.”

“What brings you to town?”

“I’m giving a speech.”

“Ah…about what?”


What else would people want Richard Branson to talk about? People want to know his story!

But what does this have to do with you, your brand and your customers?


What’s the one thing your customers want to know?

Your story!

Business is personal

It’s something many business people don’t get. They got away with it – when a few mass media outlets controlled communications.

Today, “few” has become “everyone.” And “mass” is deferring to “social.” Everyone creates media now.

Sure, it may just be a Facebook update. But make no mistake, any post which mentions your brand in a favorable way has tremendous potential.

After all, who do you trust more – a paid spokesperson talking on TV or one of your friends?

Unfortunately, many business owners don’t understand where the buying public is today…

People don’t do business with businesses.
People do business with people.

And people love stories!

We sometimes get an objection on this point. Someone will say, “But our business sells to other businesses.”

When we explore further, they quickly realize the transaction actually takes place between at least two people – one or more in each firm.

It’s especially true for professionals and other small businesses. You can gain a BIGG competitive advantage here because most owners don’t get it:

Business is personal these days.

Instantly get people you want on your side

People do business with people they know, like and trust. Trust is the new competitive advantage. It spawns from a relationship.

Business owners who get this can quickly create such an advantage. To capitalize on it, you need to let your customers know your story. Because when it comes to stories…

A brand that tells sells.

Storytelling is so incredibly important today. We hope you notice – we’re talking about it right after your brand name! So you know how critical we feel your stories are.

Let your competitors ignore storytelling. Let them put out messages which can cure insomnia.

People buy on emotion, not logic. So stop trying to win customers over with data. Start wooing them with stories.

Your stories will be one of your best marketing tools. There’s no better way to instantly get the people you want on your side.

They’ll help you create a lasting bond with your ideal customers – people who remain loyal to you and become your brand ambassadors. You give them a reason to care.

Stories help you get recruit and keep the employees you want. They see it’s not just a job; you’re making a difference in the world. They’ll give you their best because you’ve connected them to a cause.

You’ll connect deeply and quickly with other stakeholders as well. From allies to vendors, your stories helps win people’s heart so they give you the critical support you need.

Even hard-core investors respond to stories. They’re looking for a story which resonates with the people we just mentioned. If so, they have a reason to believe.

We tend to think of investors as incredibly rational beings. So we must confess, we didn’t fully realize the power of stories until we saw how they got investors to move.

We did a round of fundraising for a spin-off from BIGG Success. We told the story of the opportunity. We had people say they had never seen anything like it.

Since then, we’ve coached entrepreneurs who were raising money. We’ve witnessed this same phenomenon time and time again.

When they’re compelling, stories cut through the clutter. They bring down the guard, so people are less resistant to consider new ideas.

Timothy Brock and Melanie Green – authors of Persuasion: Psychological Insights and Perspectives – found that the more absorbed people are by a story, the more the story changes them.

So let’s talk about how to tell stories that sell.

5 components of a story that sells

Since people relate to people, great stories are centered around characters. As you develop your story, think about who plays the role of the…

  • Hero

When we talked about differentiation, we said people were looking for heroes today. Now you know why we said it! Every story needs a hero.

It may be you and/or your company. We know – you may be too humble to think about yourself as a hero. But think about how you rescue customers! We’ll talk more about this below.

Your employees may be heroes. For example, you get some feedback from a customer who was thrilled by the service of one of your people. You have a powerful story in the making – one where you build your employee up by making them the hero.

You and your employees may volunteer together for a common cause. Or you may give a percentage of your proceeds to a certain charity. These are hero stories!

  • Victim

Your story needs a victim – someone who is being harmed in some way. The victim should be someone your audience can relate to.

Ideally, they can empathize with them because they’ve experienced the same thing themselves. But your story should at least evoke your audience’s sympathy.

The victim may be one or more of your customers. It may even be a combination of all of them!

But don’t just think about customers. How might potential employees be a victim? Many employees don’t feel valued. Tell a story which highlights that you treat your people better than anyone else.

Your local community may be the victim may be your local community. Perhaps you compete with chains or other large companies. They take money from the community and ship it out of town. Tell a story to show how you support your hometown.

The victim in your story may even be a cause – one you care deeply about or that’s related to your firm. Tell a story about their story and how you’re helping them.

This is a great way to win people’s hearts, even if you have a basic product. For example, Dawn dishwashing liquid ran an ad called Dawn Saves Wildlife.

In just thirty seconds, they tell the story of oil-covered ducks being brought back to life thanks to Dawn. In this case, the victim’s not a person. However, the story touches people’s hearts – especially animal lovers.

Who’s the hero? At first glance, you might think it’s the product. Actually, it’s the rescuers who are smart enough to use Dawn!

  • Villain

You can’t be a hero unless you have a victim AND a villain. Let’s talk about two types of scoundrels:

First, your story may include an unnamed villain. You should not single out a specific competitor by name.

After all – this is business, not politics! 🙂

You often hear about “best practices.” You’ll find your villain in the “worst practices” of your industry. It’s not a single competitor per se, it’s the offending activities of the whole group.

Second, your villain may be a faceless person. Organizations don’t do bad things. People in organizations do bad things.

For example, let’s say your customers are getting choked by bureaucracy. The villain in your story is “the regulation” or “regulators” as a collective.

In the Dawn example above, the villain is “oil spills.” Now you may think of a specific oil spill, but Dawn doesn’t mention one.

The second component is the setting where the action takes place. There’s a tendency to think about this as a place. But…

When you think about the setting, focus on the conditions.

If the physical place is important, then include it. But usually the physical conditions are crucial. And the emotional conditions are even more critical.

A great story has a setting which strikes a chord with the audience. They feel the victim’s pain because they’ve lived it, are living it or know someone who is.

They cheer for the hero! They connect with the storyteller because they hope for a happy ending.

Every great story has a conflict which must be solved. It’s the central point of the plot.

The conflict builds throughout as the victim strives to find a way out of their predicament. Unfortunately – try as they might, they’re unable to do it.

BIGG Moment
The victim has struggled to free themselves from the trap they’re in. Each time it doesn’t work, they feel more discouraged.

But they muster up the courage to try something else. They keep trying and trying, getting ever more desperate.

They’re at their wit’s end – they have to find a way out. So they give it one last try…but to no avail.

Ugh, the pain! They’re beyond frustration. They’re sick and tired of being sick and tired. They’re ready to give up…

We call this the “BIGG moment.” (Of course, we do!)  Every story is centered on a conflict which leads to the climax.

It crescendos right before the…

The hero steps in and whisks the victim away! They’re no longer trapped. The pain has ended. They live happily ever after.

All thanks to the hero!

Your hero’s journey

If your ideal customers are just like you, you may have found yourself in the same situation they’re in now.

You may have tried to find a hero. But there weren’t any.

So you found a solution which helped you escape from the dark conditions you were faced with.

You were the victim AND the hero.

Alternatively, you may have seen some injustice – a group of people with a problem who were un-served or under-served. It may have been a family member or close friend. You found the solution which freed them.

These are examples of your hero’s journey. In either case, despair turned to hope. Misery became happiness.

It’s your most important story because it helps people instantly connect with who you are, what you do and why you do it. We’ll talk more about your “what” and your “why” in the final post in this section.

For now, we’ll share an example with you – the story behind this program.

Sample story

Here’s a story about why we built this program…

We started the Brand That Sells program because we were tired of seeing business owners get a raw deal.

It all came to a head when we suggested to a client that she change a picture on her website.

It should so simple to do. But it wasn’t in this case.

We’re pretty experienced with websites. But we couldn’t figure out how to do it.

So she called her developer. She asked the person on the phone to tell her how to change a picture.

Then she went quiet. She slumped, leaning on one elbow as she held the phone. She let out a deep breath. When she hung up, she was noticeably upset.

She looked at us and said, “I paid them $30,000 for my website less than six months ago. Now all I want is to change a picture – and they tell me it’ll cost $300 to get it done!”

We’d seen this time and again, but this was the final straw. We decided to help owners and professionals get a website they can work with, one which grows with them.

But we realized it wasn’t enough. Most websites don’t sell like they should because most business owners don’t have a modern brand strategy.

That was it, we’d found our idea – we would help business owners build a brand that sells. And here we are!

We’ve told this story to a lot of business owners. They get it – having seen it, felt it and/or lived it.

Notice business owners are the “victim.” We told you the story of one who represents what we’ve seen others experience.

Certain web developers are the “villain.” Note it’s not a certain web developer. We do talk about our client’s developer (not by name), but we quickly moved to “We’d seen this time and again.” It’s not all developers either.

We are the “hero.” We have to tell you – we blush a little when we say that. It seems strange to think like that. Get over it! You are the hero in the story of your business.

It’s not bragging. You’re telling people what makes you tick.

Yes, they want to know what you do. But they also want to understand why you do it.

That’s what creates loyal people who share your message. That’s why you tell stories.

Next Step

You’re now ready for Part 2 of the Create Messages That Sell Guidebook or the next post. It’s your call.

And if you have any questions, just email us at with “BTS QUESTION” in the subject line.

What’s in a Name That Sells?

You are here:
Module 1: How to Position Your Brand to Sell
Section 2: How to Create Messages That Sell
Post 1: What’s in a Name That Sells?

Steve Jobs and Apple. Richard Branson and Virgin. Donald Trump and…well, everything Trump.

All iconic entrepreneurs who’ve built a brand that sells.

Almost everyone knows who they are. Some people love them while others hate them. But just the mention of their name evokes emotion.

That’s by design. They attract the people they want and repel all the others.

What’s their secret?

A magnetic force field!

Your magnetic force field helps you attract the customers, employees, funders and partners you want.

It originates from your core (which we discussed in the last section) and has two poles, just like our planet.

Messaging is your North Pole. Imaging is your South Pole.

As the three entrepreneurs mentioned above know…

Your brand is only as powerful as your ability
to communicate what you do in a compelling way.

We’ll save our discussion of Imaging for the next section. Let’s tackle Messaging now.

We’ll start with how to choose the name of your business.

Shakespeare was wrong!

William Shakespeare penned one of the most memorable quotes of all time in Romeo and Juliet:

Juliet said, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

According to Shakespeare, names don’t matter. Only the essence of things is important.

Shakespeare was wise to stick to writing. Because names matter a lot when it comes to your brand.

Don’t get it wrong – your essence is important too. But you can have the best product or service in the world and fail.

You can take care of customers better than anyone and still lose in the game of business. It’s happened too many times to mention.

You also need a message which breaks through the clutter in the marketplace. It needs to resonate with that certain group of people you want as customers.

Your name is the cornerstone of your message. It’s generally the first impression of your brand in both the real and virtual worlds.

  • A colleague introduces you at a professional networking event. The conversation probably goes something like this: “This is [your first and last name] with [your business name].”
  • A customer pulls up to your office. What’s on the sign? Your business name!
  • Someone visits your website. What shows up prominently in the banner? Your name!

So you don’t just want a name. You want a name that sells!

Your name is even more important in the fragmented media word we live in today. It needs to help you instantly cut through the clutter and “ring a bell” with the people you want to attract.

3 types of names

  • Your name

A lot of entrepreneurs want a business named after them. We can’t think of a better example of this than Donald Trump.

His company is The Trump Organization. His buildings are almost all Trump (e.g. Trump Tower, Trump hotels, Trump casinos). He has a Trump winery and Trump golf courses.

His name is his brand. He stamps it on just about everything he does.

If all goes well – naming your company after yourself builds both your business and personal brands. However, if things don’t turn out the way you want – your name can be affected by your business name.

  • Descriptive name

Your name can be descriptive in some way – it represents a business (Bank of America), the products (Home Depot), a overarching benefit (FedEx), a philosophy (Whole Foods), or some other feature.

Richard Branson’s Virgin Group is an example of this. He uses Virgin like Donald Trump uses his name – Virgin Records (record label), Virgin Atlantic (his airline), Virgin Mobile (prepaid cell phones), Virgin Galactic (space travel service).

Why Virgin? He was an inexperienced entrepreneur when he launched his record label. But it also described his attitude – he was looking for music that was “pure and fresh.” Virgin brings this philosophy to every business they enter.

  • “Nothing” name

You may also choose a name which has nothing to do with anything related to the business, per se.

What does “apple” have to do with computer hardware? Not a thing. So why did Steve Jobs choose Apple? They couldn’t think of anything better. Plus it got them ahead of Atari in the phone book.

What to avoid in a name

  • Mistake #1: A bad combination

Some names are fine on their own, but together they give the wrong impression.

For example – if your last name is “Bland” and you are an interior designer, you probably should NOT call your business…

Bland Design

It’s a great name if you want to be known for boring, dull work. But it sure doesn’t fit the message most designers we know would want to send!

We know this seems obvious. But you won’t believe how often we see people making this mistake. (We’re protecting them by not giving any real examples.)

Take a step back and get outside your own head. Think like someone hearing it for the first time. How might they perceive it?

  • Mistake #2: A boring name (yawn!) 🙂

What a great follow-up to our “bland” discussion, eh? And what a common mistake this is. Whew! There sure are a lot of boring names out there!

Boring names are a killer these days. Back when there were few choices of media, you could pick a couple and drill your message into people’s heads.

But that’s not the case anymore – people are here, there and everywhere. Media is more fragmented than ever and will only get more so. We’ll all have more options going forward.

So you want a name that creates excitement and sparks emotion. Then you’ll cut through the clutter, you’ll be more memorable and people will naturally want to learn more about what you do.

  • Mistake #3: A name that limits your future

Define yourself by an area and it’s hard to get people to take you seriously outside that area. You can think of “area” in two ways: geographic and product / service.

Here’s an example which covers both of them: Let’s say you’re a heating and air-conditioning contractor based in Peoria, Illinois. You could call yourself Peoria Heating and Air Conditioning.

People in Peoria will know you’re local. And they’ll know what you do.

But what if someday you want to expand to nearby cities? You won’t be able to leverage your brand name.

Similarly, what if you decide to add refrigeration to your list of services? You’ll be at a competitive disadvantage because restaurants and grocery stores may not realize you do it because your name limits you.

  • Mistake #4: Naming for peer pressure

This mistake is particularly common among professionals. They pick a name which speaks to their peers instead of their customers.

It may be a boring name – you know, it’s a lot like all their competitors. So they blend in, rather than standing out from the pack.

Even worse, their name may contain “industry speak.” They understand the lingo. Their competitors relate to the jargon. They may even think it’s cool.

But who do you want to respond to you name?
a) competitors
b) customers

If your answer is “b) customers,” then make sure you’re picking a name which resonates with them.

  • Mistake #5: Strange concoctions

You see this a lot as people try to find a name with a .com extension. But some people get carried away with it.

For example, we’ve seen names with no vowels. It may be fine to leave out the a’s, e’s, i’s, o’s and u’s in a text message to a friend. But it’s no way to name a business!

Some people asset that you should never brand yourself with a misspelled name. However, it’s worked fine for Digg and Flickr. And it’s worked for us with BIGG Success. There are countless other examples.

But do you notice something about all three names? How many misspellings do each of us have?


Digg adds a “g” as do we. Flickr removes one vowel – an “e.” Note they didn’t spell it “Flckr” – that’s “text message talk.”

We can’t speak for Digg but we’ve had a tremendous amount of fun by spelling BIGG like we do. It sparks curiosity – it’s one of the questions we get asked most frequently.

And because we want people to remember the second “g,” we always have a story about how it came to pass when we introduce ourselves. For example, here’s how we introduced ourselves a recent conference…

“Hi, we’re George and Mary-Lynn with BIGG Success. And that’s “BIGG” with two g’s because we can’t spell.”

You won’t believe how many people comment on goofy blurbs about how BIGG came to have two g’s. More importantly, they remember us!

It also highlights one of our core values – work should be seriously fun! So we don’t take ourselves too seriously. It comes across with BIGG.

3 steps to find a name

1) Think and feel
When we talked about attracting the customers you want, we said it’s important for you to be able to think and feel like them.

You want your brand name to resonate. Here are seven things to consider as you think about an ideal name:

  • Does it highlight your primary benefit?
    A name that sells triggers emotion (BIGG Success) or instantly differentiates you (Overnight Prints).
  • Does it define your place?
    You want people to quickly grasp what you do. Just remember – you don’t want to define so tightly that you limit your future.
  • Do people “get it” instantly?
    When you say the name of your business, you want to see curiosity, not confusion.
  • Is it memorable?
    Made-up words may be hard to remember unless they make sense instantly (Microsoft).
  • Is it short?
    Generally speaking – the shorter your name is, so much the better. We generally recommend no more than two words with four syllables total.
  • Is it easy to spell?
    People may remember you, but not be able to find you if the words in your name are difficult to spell.
  • How does it sound?
    You want a name that’s easy to say and one which may even have a certain rhythm.

An ideal name hits squarely on all seven points. However, you probably won’t find a name which fits all the criteria.

Let’s analyze BIGG Success against this list. We think it hits the mark on only four of the seven:

First, the benefit is apparent. Most people want success. We don’t just help you get a little taste of it. We help you reach BIGG Success!

Second, it’s memorable, primarily due to the second “g” in BIGG. Notice we don’t score well on spelling. Yet it’s the misspelling that makes us stand out!

Third, it’s short – two words, three syllables.

Fourth, “BIGG Success” has a good sound. In fact, people often say it to us in rhythm. And they have fun with it like we do. They’ll often spell BIGG “the right way” (i.e with a second “g”). And in conversations where the word “big” comes up, they’ll often say with a smile, “And that’s BIGG with two g’s!” We love it!

However, BIGG Success as a name also has some shortcomings:

Our name doesn’t define our place. We create content and coach. Do you think of that when you here “BIGG Success”? Probably not. So we don’t score well on this point.

Do people instantly get it? They seem to have some sense of it. It definitely raises curiosity. But we’re sure there are names which would do better. So we give ourselves a negative on this one.

It’s not easy to spell “big success,” let alone “BIGG success.” We lose on two fronts here – we spell BIGG wrong. (But we’re glad we did!). And “success” is hard to spell – it’s really easy to leave out a “c” or an “s”.

Like us, you probably won’t hit on all seven. We’ve created a pecking order in the list above. They’re all important. However, we think things are relatively less important as you move down the list.

Furthermore, you can probably think of all kinds of amazingly successful ventures who would perform terribly against this list. We sure can.

Do you remember the first time you heard the name “Google”? Based on that memory, how would you score them?

We’ll be generous and give them a three out of the seven. It’s memorable, short and sounds kind of cool. But obviously, it worked out great as a name.

But here’s something to remember – you probably don’t have the same kind of backing that Google had. It generally takes longer and costs more to build a brand with a non-descript name like “Google.”

You probably should be more practical. By that, we don’t mean boring. We just recommend you be closer to the ideal.

So with this framework, brainstorm for names. Just think and write. Don’t edit. Record everything that comes to mind. (You may do this over several sittings.)

Then review your list. What do you like?

Finally, put yourself in your ideal customer’s shoes. Think and feel like them as you “try on” the names on your list. What will resonate with them?

Try to narrow your list down to five or so names.

2) Check for availability
With your inventory of potential names, it’s time to do a little research. There’s no point in getting excited about a name somebody else is using! So you want to make sure it’s fully available.

  • Trademark search

Start by doing a trademark search. You won’t learn for sure if a name is available. However, you can quickly learn if it isn’t available.

The governing authority in the United States is the Patent and Trademark Office ( For our friends outside the States, search “[country] trademark office” (e.g. Canada trademark office).

Besides searching for your potential names, these offices are an excellent resource for understanding how to protect your intellectual property, including your name.

We created a short video to show you how to search for trademarks. View the video.

NOTE: Someone else may be using a name, but not in your business. In that case, you’ll want to consider a number of factors:

How large are they? You probably don’t want to compete for attention with a national or international brand, even if they’re in another business.

How well known are they? Closely related for sure, but you could have a brand which hasn’t cracked the national scene yet. But they’re really popular in a particular region. It’s probably best to avoid these too.

Where do they operate? If your paths will almost never cross, you may be okay.

What’s their reputation? You don’t want your reputation to get sullied by their misdeeds.

As we said earlier, don’t assume a name is available just because you don’t see it in the trademark search. You’ll also want to search for it online.

For example, a direct competitor may not have actually registered (®) a mark yet. But when you go to their site, you see the trademark (™) symbol. You’ll need to stay away from that name to avoid a legal battle.

This is a good place for us to add a disclaimer: We highly recommend that you work closely with professional advisors. Of all places to skimp, this is not one of them.

For example, we suggest you work with an attorney to protect your intellectual property. Talk with your insurance broker about coverage for “errors and omissions.”

  • “Local” registration search

You’ll also want to check with your state, province, territory, etc. You want to find out if there are entities in your state incorporated under the name you want.

For example, let’s say a person wants to start or rename a business in Illinois. A simple search for “Illinois corporation” will get them the web address for the office which oversees corporate filings.

They can search the database for the names they think they want to use in their business. They’ll quickly see if other firms are using that name. A follow-up can reveal enough information to know whether the brands would bump into each other.

  • Domain search

A brand is only as good as its domain. Does your brand name need to match your domain name exactly?

No. But we’ll also warn you not to rely on gimmicks.

We recommend that you use Bust a Name. You can search names with them without it “registering.” So no one else sees it. Plus this tool suggests alternatives which may help you find a name you like even better!

  • Social media

Next, you should see if your name is available on social media. We’ll talk a lot about social media in Module 3 – Promote Your Brand Online and Off.

For now, we recommend that you search the following phrases (without the quotation marks) for the names you’re considering:

“[potential business name] facebook”
“[potential business name] twitter”

Look at these two at a minimum. You can do more if you want (e.g. Google+, Pinterest).

By doing this, you make sure your user name can be the same as your brand name. Then you’ll get more “Google juice” from your social networking efforts. So you’ll show up better in search results.

  • Phone number

You may or may not want to do this. But if it’s important to you, check with your phone service to see if you can have a “vanity” phone number.

For example, our toll free number is 888.455.2444. We show it in our signature lines like this: 888.455.BIGG [2444].

It’s something we have fun with – Batman has the Batphone. We have the BIGG number!

But unless your business relies heavily on incoming calls, we don’t think it’s as much of a consideration these days – especially since the Blackberry doesn’t have the same system as other phones. But we threw it in just in case it’s a factor for you.

  • DBA filing

We’re also including this, but not because it’s a part of choosing a name. It’s just something you should be aware of.

DBA is an acronym for Doing Business as. For example, our corporate name is Wynn Bigg Corporation. As you know, we do business as BIGG Success. You’ll often see it like this:

Wynn Bigg Corporation, DBA BIGG Success.

In general, it’s our understanding that you don’t have to file for a DBA if…

You use your name and the product or service you provide (e.g. Jane Doe Designs) OR

You corporate name is the same name you use when doing business with the public.

However as we said before – check with your attorney for the regulations under which you operate.

3) Test
You started all that checking with around five names. By now, you’ve probably narrowed it down to two or three.

It’s time to test. We suggest you ask anyone and everyone. However, we also urge you to put the most weight on people like your ideal customer.

Family and friends are great. Get their impressions. It’s a fun activity. It will get them excited about your business.

But make sure you get the really important feedback. Ask your target market what they think. Then follow up with:


Then let them go! Listen intently. You’ll be amazed at what you’ll learn.

You’ll not only walk away with insight on your name, you will be learn about hot buttons, pain points, wants and needs. Listen carefully and they’ll tell you what your messages should be.

After considering so many ideas our heads were spinning, we filtered it down to two names when we were at this point: BIGG Life or BIGG Success.

We started asking. Here’s the funny thing: It was about 50/50. But we realized our ideal customers were mostly voting for BIGG Success.

By the way, sometimes it’s a slam dunk. We asked people about naming this program. Build a Brand That Sells won overwhelmingly!

So when you’re ready, start asking people about your names. It’s an incredibly simple way to start marketing your business.

What if I already have a name?

This question could mean two things, so we’ll tackle them both. First, are you a startup with a name? If so, did you go through a process similar to what we’ve described here? If so, great! If not, we highly recommend you do so. You really have nothing to lose and a WHOLE lot to gain!

Second, are you rebranding? If so, you certainly don’t have to change your name. There may be good reasons not to. But there may be good reasons to do so. We recommend you look at your name through the lens of the process we’ve mapped out here. If it stands up to it, don’t touch it. If not, you might be surprised at the difference a new name can make.

Sample name

Here’s an example of a rebranding with a new name. But it’s also instructive if you’re a startup entrepreneur.

One of our coaching clients was an alternative health clinic. They came to us because they wanted to attract more patients.

After conversations, observations and research – we suggested a rebranding with a name change and a new website. They agreed to it.

So we got started. We walked through differentiation. We started working on a name. We did exactly what you’re seeing.

Their name was…The Center for Health, Renewal and Longevity.

It was very descriptive. But it was too long.

It was “clinical” so it was safe. But it didn’t spark an emotion. It didn’t showcase a benefit. It was hard to remember.

So we suggested they change it to…The Enliven Health Center. wasn’t available. But was!

Think about it – you a man or woman in their 30s or up. You just don’t feel as good as you used to. You feel like something is missing.

You see an ad talking about these things. It tells you how to feel better. Simply call and say, “Enliven me!”

We’re happy to say their business is booming. They provide a great service. They care deeply about their patients. They just needed a brand that sells!


Need help coming up with a name? Here are some resources you may find useful:

GlobalNaming is a FREE web tool which helps you analyze names, understand what the words mean and suggest alternatives.

If you want a professional service to help you, check out Namella. They offer packages starting at just $97.

Next Step

With this background, you can either go through Part 1 of the Create Messages That Sell Guidebook or go on to the next post. (You probably know what we recommend!)

Also note – if you have any questions, email us at with “BTS QUESTION” in the subject line.