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How to Get Lost in the Crowd

by Steve Woodruff  |  
January 18, 2011

It’s doubtful that any small business owner sits down to compose a business plan and starts the list with a No. 1 priority such as: Get lost in the crowd.

Yet, it would almost seem that many people, when naming their companies or coming up with a tagline, actually adopt that as a goal! Therefore, here are the Top Five Rules for those who would prefer not to stand out---who’d like to be undistinguished, unremarkable, and easily ignored!

1. Come up with a business name that means nothing. Ah, yes, Global Strategic Business Solutions---that tells me a whole lot about what you do. Or perhaps A & B Associates---catchy, unique, truly memorable! Or, to memorialize the two partners who so brilliantly launched the enterprise, let’s go with Douganberry and Smith, that's descriptive! Remember: The goal is to keep the audience guessing. We wouldn’t want those pesky potential clients to immediately understand what the business stands for, would we?

2. Describe your business in the most generic way possible, so everyone will think they need you. “We supply business improvement products and services to businesses all over.” “We’re striving to improve health care around the world.” “Our business is going about the business of helping your business gain more business.” So now, out of 50 million companies, you're one of them.

3. Weave a less-than-meaningful tagline into your identity. Pass by any UPS delivery truck and see: Worldwide Services. I guess that clears that up! Here’s a brilliant law firm tagline: Commitment to Excellence. Why, I’d rather have attorneys committed to mediocrity myself! Hilton rolled  a campaign under the ineffectual banner, Travel Should Take You Places (duh!). And how many companies have you seen adopting this ridiculously obvious and overused phrase: We Mean Business! Now there’s an original and unique thought.

4. Look at what all your competitors are offering and saying, and mimic them. Be sure that when potential clients are looking for something, you pro-actively blend in with the crowd, and thereby be considered on equal terms. If Company A is talking about offering “complete end-to-end enterprise solutions to enhance supply chain productivity,” be certain that you adopt that message also, so that you can stand out along with the rest of the lemmings. Never lead---it's too dangerous. Follow!

5. Try to please everyone. Hey, it’s a complicated world, and lots of people get in on decision-making. So craft your message so that there isn’t a chance that a single person could possibly be offended, or (heaven forbid!) conclude that you have a different focus than what they’re looking for. Remember, all business is good business, so you don’t want to miss a single opportunity by narrowing your message to your unique core competencies. We do it all! is the safe bet.

On rare occasions, I forthrightly recommend that people not take my advice. This is one of those occasions!

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Steve Woodruff is the world's only Clarity Therapist. He connects people with their purpose, their message, and with other people in order to create new business opportunities. He writes at the

Steve is an unusual hybrid of conceptualizer, strategist, marketer, analyst, wordsmith, semi-techie, and all-around decent fellow, except when there's bad coffee or lousy wine.

Steve can also be found on Twitter, LinkedIn.

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  • by Elaine Fogel Tue Jan 18, 2011 via blog

    Well, Steve, that about sums it up! :) Tell us how you really feel. LOL

  • by Steve Woodruff Tue Jan 18, 2011 via blog

    I'm afraid I did leave it a bit ambiguous...! :>}

  • by Jeremy Meyers Tue Jan 18, 2011 via blog

    Response agreeing, but not adding any additional value or context, and including a link to my own website which has nothing to do with this one.

  • by Steve Woodruff Tue Jan 18, 2011 via blog

    Ditto on the reply, ensuring that the entire exchange, while meaningless, extends a tangible example of on-line civility! :>}

  • by Jo Tue Jan 18, 2011 via blog

    Great article. It resonates because I've attended too many brainstorming sessions with corporate types who think they know great content when they see it, resulting in high-minded but generic 3-word twaddle like 'Innovation. Expertise. Experience.'

  • by Kirsten Wright Tue Jan 18, 2011 via blog

    Reply to a reply, showing that I have actually read the post AND the comments. Which means I am inherently cooler than you - and making it so two people are notified that I said something and will make them come back and look at the comment. Of course, it is just a simple comment, nothing too profound which adds nothing to the conversation except my link. ;)

  • by Aurelius Tjin Tue Jan 18, 2011 via blog

    Steve, you've certainly 'stood out", while "getting lost in the crowd"...

  • by Jill Fischer Thu Jan 20, 2011 via blog

    A surefire way to get "lost in the crowd" ala Facebook, and simply put..."like"

  • by Peter Tennis Tue Jan 25, 2011 via blog

    Steve, great points. I think you nailed it. But you and I both know that for the myriads of businesses that fall underneath this sad banner that you have so simply illustrated, it's not that simple. Why?

    Why is it that even though we know we should practice "opposite day" to everything you've mentioned, we still fall short? What's missing? What's the secret sauce? What do I need to know?

    Here's my response:

    Thanks for helping me making the link, Steve!

  • by Michael DiFrisco Tue Feb 8, 2011 via blog

    If a client asks me (which they often do), how to wrap their arms around the concept of branding, these "top five rules" would serve as a darn good explanation. The opposite of getting lost in the crowd is, obviously, standing out. And standing for SOMETHING, is the best branding advice I can give any business. Here's a short branding quiz that begins to get at the heart of some of these rules:

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