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Are You Indispensable? How To Lynchpin Your Small Business

Author: Kim Sheehan   |   April 7th, 2010

Prolific writer Seth Godin’s new book, Lynchpin, asks us “are you indispensable?” According to Godin, lynchpins are the people in business that get things done and make things happen: they figure out better products, streamline processes, and make everyone’s job easier.

Godin wants us all to be lynchpins: he writes “You have brilliance in you, your contribution is essential, and the art you create is precious. Only you can do it, and you must.”

The book is very positive and upbeat, and does make one think. However, I fear that the word ‘indispensable’ is going to become just another buzzword that loses its meaning. I emptied the lynchpinwastebasket! Look at me, I’m indispensable. I remembered to turn the ‘open’ sign on! Hello, world, I’m indispensable.

So let’s put that word aside, and spend some time thinking about what we do, and what our business does, that is indispensable. But let’s think about it in a more micro way:

-what do I do that no one else does?

-what do we do that no one else does?

-what can I do today to create more unique differentiation between my business and my competition?

This is a great way to seed a word of mouth program. Spend some time thinking about the unique qualifications of everyone who works for you, and then think about your business and what you can do that your competitors can’t.

Don’t edit yourself…that comes later. Hopefully, you’ll come up with an interesting list of employee and business characteristics that can you can build into an interesting word of mouth campaign. The important thing about this exercise is this: you and your business will never find one or two things that make you indispensable to everyone.

But you can find some things that will make you indispensable to a few people. And this is likely to be enough to generate some good buzz about your company, once you become indispensable to one or two people.

Do you have employees that are fluent in a foreign language? Do you have free gift wrapping and no one else does? Do you provide free shipping or deliver to customers’ homes at no charge? Do you guarantee an estimate within 12 hours? These are all things that can make a difference to someone in the course of their day. It won’t be every day, but it will make a difference on day.

And here is where the word-of-mouth effort comes in: you need to let people know about these unique things about your business. Perhaps it comes in a ‘do you know’ feature on your newsletter (“do you know Leslie in shipping speaks fluent Russian?”), or have your employees mention something at point of purchase (“did you know we have free shipping?”).

Phrasing your unique attributes as questions will allow for customers to respond to you, which increases the chances they’ll remember and recall these things.

The bottom line is: being indispensable can be overwhelming. Being special, and connecting that specialty with one or two customers, can be indispensable.


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