You’re Not Selling a Business, You’re Selling a Culture!

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For the sake of this article, I am going to use the definition of culture that applies to the behaviors and beliefs characteristic to a particular group.  That is still a very vague definition, so let me give you another example.  Go to the magazine racks at a bookstore or library.  You’ll see titles like Forbes, Ebony, Sunset, Rolling Stone, Redbook, Vogue, and such.  Take out a single issue and look at its ads and articles.  Ask yourself what sort of audience that this magazine is catered to.  What makes a Cosmo girl?  Who is a GQ man?

Chances are, the most successful magazines have been in the business for decades, and they have their audience refined over the years. For long-time readers, the magazine has nothing to do with the information or products that the magazines hold within their pages.  What really sells is an idea, some believe that people want to make their own which the glossy mag brings.

Think about why Facebook has made an impact.  It has nothing to do with what it does.  In fact, what it does has been done before by MySpace, but it wasn’t really about a computer software program, but it was really about relationships.    This particular culture states that all of our friends can be with us in one place, and we can all get along together.

When it comes to finding your target audience, ask yourself: “What kind of culture does your business bring to users?” The truth is that many businesses fail because they have such short-term goals attached to them.  You have to think about the long-term plan.  Instead of hoping that it will be a success, come up with a plan for when it is a success.

It doesn’t matter if your business can’t do everything that you dreamed it can, focus on what you can bring to the table, with a little bit of planning, is culture.  What kind of culture can you present?  That all depends on what you can offer users, especially if they are features that your competitors don’t offer.

For example, if you can create a Universal Remote that can deal with set top boxes like the Roku or even video game systems, you might have something that your competitors don’t have.  Combine that with some cloud computing and a DVR, and you’ve really got a package that you can offer customers!

So what kind of culture are you creating with this product?  Your target audience is definitely the home theater crowd, but don’t just give them a product, give them something to believe in.  Show them that by using your Universal Remote, they are transporting themselves into “a world of their own”.  I’ll leave you to decide whether or not that is a decent slogan, but you see what I am getting at:  you are creating something for your target audience to rally around.

You will also need to create a style that is unique.  Like culture, style has many definitions, but I am referring to basic appearance of a business, not to mention what it says about the business itself.  As an example, let’s talk about the style of certain games.

Think about the surrealistic puzzle game Myst in the early nineties, or the apocalyptic art-deco influence of Bioshock from the last decade.  Why did those games create such a phenomenon?  The designers created a world that was uniquely its own, and the style of this world completely sucked gamers in.

There’s something about these games that creates a world separate from us. They create a world that we can live in, and trade-in our real-life problems to experience problems that exist there.  Most games bring us an idea that shows that we can overcome any problem with a lot of determination.  This is the culture, and it is done with style.

The same principle of style in gaming applies to movies.  Film franchises like The Matrix, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter all have very particular styles to them.  Even films that don’t take place in fantastic worlds still have a genuine style, such as the nostalgic sixties look of Catch Me If You Can, or the quirky suburban looks of indie films like Juno and Napoleon Dynamite.  From the sets, to the music, to the costumes, it doesn’t take a complete expert to see when something doesn’t belong in a film.  You know it when you see it, and you know it when it screws it up.

So all of this style contributes to the culture of your business, which will really sell it.  Once you have found that culture have everything simply revolve around it.  Think of Apple.  You see that sterile white, and it’s so good of a culture that I have no idea if it is by design.  If it is, then it works, so just apply something like it to your business

Guest Author:
Mark Rollins | @TheGeekChurch
Mark is a published author of many fiction and non-fiction books. His blog,, discusses the relationship between technology and the Church

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