It’s Okay To Offend Some People

Casey Neistat has been going rogue for over a decade. Unhappy about the battery life of his iPod, he went around stenciling: iPod’s unreplaceable battery lasts only 18 months” on iPod ads. Apple began offering a battery-replacement program soon thereafter.

It didn’t stop there. After getting a ticket for riding outside a bike lane, he filmed himself trying to stay within the lane, with disastrous results – crashing into parked trucks, garbage cans, and nearly getting hit by cars.

In the video below, Nike had given him a budget to make a movie about what it meant to #makeitcount. Instead of what they’d expected, he spent the entire budget traveling around the world, capturing it all on tape.

Most clients wouldn’t have been happy about someone spending their money on an around-the-world vacation, but this stunt probably did just as much for his brand as it did for Nike.

How does a guy with shaggy hair offending some of the world’s biggest consumer products giants have anything to do with our industry?

Reputation is paramount and you’ve spent years building that up so that people recognize you as someone they want to do business with. But you only have 24 hours in a day; bending over backwards and trying to play nice with everyone means that you can’t hit the great heights that you should be hitting.

How many times have you found yourself making a pitch to people you knew who weren’t going to go with you? And how many times have you been talking with someone dragging his/ her feet, knowing that he/ she was only going to place a “minimum investment” with you 15 months down the road?

It’s okay to take a risk and potentially offend some people, as you’re bound to offend someone in order to stand out to the audience you care to stand out to.

Being Daring With Your Brand

In our industry, it seems as though everyone’s afraid to create differentiation for fear of the institutional investor’s wrath. Your messaging and brand can’t be just like everyone else’s. Change your language – moving away from ‘risk mitigation’, ‘idiosyncratic exposure’, and ‘alpha generation’ is a nice starting point.

Committing to consciously define how you want to be perceived by the market is another way to stand tall in this world. It’ll be your own voice shouting your own brand, whether people like it or not. Without defining your own brand, it leaves the market with no choice but to form its own opinion.

There is nothing more dangerous in business.

Knowing When To Walk Away

You’ll also have to be able to identify who’s worth your time. In the classic example of selling a pen, you have to first find out if the demand for that pen is there. If it isn’t, move on courteously. On to the next. You can’t sell a product to someone who doesn’t need or want it. (Remember, courteously – That same person could one day be a prospect again).

Those who you’ve moved on from might not be pleased at how quickly you’d brushed them off, but they weren’t going to place any capital with you anyway. And it’s not to say they never will, but that it just wasn’t the right time then. When the right time comes around again, they’ll be worth all your time then.

[See related: The Best Sales Training Story… Ever]

There’ll be some prospective investors who won’t be thrilled, but there will be many more – and ultimately, the ones that matter – who will be interested in speaking with you, when they see that you’re different from the rest of the pack.

Taking a risk and standing out to the audience that matters most to you (at the expense of those that don’t) is how you can make your brand what you want it to be. Not what they say it is.

By Alan Chu