Taking a corner: Be known for something

What do I mean when I say you should be taking a corner?

When I help, coach, or provide strategy advice to a product company, one of the first things I mention is that they should actively, and regularly, be taking a corner. What I have realized is that I'm using a phrase that not everyone knows.

Here's what I mean when I say you should take a corner: you should be known for something. Not known for everything. But for something. Something specific.

Over time, you can add more things you're known for. But start with one thing.

If we were at a cafe, and I could tell you were my age, I'd ask you if you remember City Slickers. “One thing.” But you may not be my age and you may not have ever seen City Slickers (or know that it was a movie).

Why should you take a corner?

I don't care what you do, you have competition. You have someone out there doing something kind of like what you do. Or maybe exactly what you do. And we're left with a single question:

Why you instead of them?

The answer is how you distinguish yourself. The answer is how you differentiate. And if you can do it well and convincingly, you'll win. You'll be successful – I guarantee it.

But most people don't know how to tell their story.

They say things like, “We value quality,” or “We value integrity.” Guess what, no one is trying to take the “crappy job” or “we lie” corners. So you're not saying anything new to anyone.

Taking a corner is about putting yourself in a spot where other people aren't. And labeling it. And then, when the question is asked, everyone knows the answer, because they know who is standing in that corner.

[tweet “Taking a corner is just owning the top Google search result in someone's mind.”]

Let me give you an example.

Let's talk about Paid Memberships Pro

There are a lot of membership plugins out there today. Lots of really great ones. So, of course, the first thing I would tell owners of membership plugins is that they should take a corner.

But I don't have to tell the PMP folks that. Because, among many other things that they do well, their software has powered more association websites than all the other membership plugins combined.

That's a corner: Association Websites.

If you know anything about those sites, you know they're a tough cookie to crack. You need all the normal protected content, but you also need calendars, directories, tickets to events, umbrella / team access, renewal dates that might be early, etc.

Of course, you might want to say, if you own a different membership plugin, “we can do that.” But what you can't say is, “we've been doing it for the last decade and we power more association websites than anyone else in the WordPress ecosystem.”

  • A corner is clear and articulate.
  • A corner is specific and targeted.
  • A corner is defensible.

Now, to be clear, PMP does way more than that. And that's where the trouble starts.

Most of us don't want to take a corner

At one point, I was in a meeting at work, and someone high up in the organization asked something like, “What's Chris' take? He's a content guy.” That's a corner. I was (am) known in our organization as someone who can quickly and easily create content.

But what was my first internal reaction? I'm not “a content guy.” I'm more than a content guy.

See what I mean? Imagine if I told an entire audience (I did tonight in the Houston WordPress Meetup, talking about membership plugins) that the Paid Memberships Pro folks knew associations better than anyone else. They'd likely bristle (like I did when I heard the corner someone put me in). “We do more than that,” they might declare.

For the longest time, it felt like people were putting me in a box. I wanted, instinctively, to get out of the box.

But that's the mistake.

Take the corner. And once you have it, you can move to the next step…

What do you do after you've taken a corner?

Taking a corner is just owning the top Google search result in someone's mind.

Think about it this way. Have you ever gone to Karaoke? If you do it a lot, you likely know that the trick is to get good at once song. When you get good at that one song, you can perform it anytime. Anywhere. And people will ask you to do it.

What do you do after you've mastered one song? You learn another. And then another.

Taking a corner doesn't mean it's the only thing you can do. Taking a corner means when someone asks about the corner, they think about you. There's no limit of corners you can take.

But you can't take them all at once. You have to scaffold it. Take one corner at a time.

That's how Paid Memberships Pro became awesome at all sorts of membership sites (not just association ones).