What makes you relevant?

I worry about coaches and service providers who are continuously positioning themselves/ their ideas/ their companies with statements like, “Given these difficult times…” or “Recession-proof…” or “In today’s market…”

What does that do? It demonstrates that you have read the papers – fine – but if you do too much of that kind of positioning, it can crazy glue you/your idea/your business to the thing that you are telling people makes you relevant – in this case the “downturn”.

Call me kooky, but I don’t see that as a long-term success strategy.

In contrast, consider how Curves has chosen to shape their relevance. They know that it is in their best interest for clients to look at their membership as a long term, life-improving, feel-good choice, rather than a quick fix to a temporary weight-loss problem. They know that their target market is uncomfortable, or even unhappy with their bodies today. Fine, but Curves wants clients to love them now and to keep right on loving them, even when they reach their weight loss goals.

So, instead of attaching their relevance to a potentially temporary weight problem that could ultimately make Curves irrelevant, they position themselves for the long term with messages about women loving their bodies – that vision will never be irrelevant. Then, they reinforce their relevance to their target market by demonstrating their popularity (stores opening everywhere, 4 million members world wide). And by making a program that’s only 30 minutes, they’ve created an opportunity to reinforce that their service is specifically relevant for women with busy lives (all of us). You will notice that all the things Curves relies on to make them relevant show up at the very core of what they do.

You will also notice that they are not running ads that jump on the downturn band wagon, “Lost your job? Lose weight too!” It sounds absurd but the point is that any company could try to use the economy to make itself relevant, but no matter how you spin it, grasping for relevance really doesn’t look very good.

Now, I hope this post isn’t going to confuse people who have heard me challenge them to try to relate what they are saying (in articles and presentations) to something that’s going on in the world. (E.g. refer to a news item, a popular figure, or a current event.)

I want to be clear.  There is a critical difference between using topical real world examples to illustrate concepts or to help people relate to you, and hammering people with empty statements like “In difficult times like these…”, which say little more than, “Look I know what’s going on and I’m telling you I’m relevant!”

Do you have any ideas about relevance that you want to contribute? Any questions you are pondering?  I’ve spent a fair amount of time thinking about questions of relevance in the past couple of weeks and I haven’t come up with any hard and fast truths. But you will find a few other posts on the topic because questions of relevance are relevant to me. What about you?

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