A fundamental marketing strategy is “owning” a phrase or a word in the mind of your potential customers. Done well, this form of marketing can mean ongoing sales of your product or service for many years and makes it difficult for other companies to compete.
My good friend Verne Harnish and I have discussed this concept at length on many occasions, and when we speak on the same stage at events, we coordinate how we share this idea. Verne’s most important phrase is “scaling up”, a term used by entrepreneurial companies as they move from startup phase to growth phase. Verne’s book Scaling Up: How a Few Companies Make It... and Why the Rest Don't as well as his URL www.scalingup.com (the number one search result on Google) are important reasons why he is known for this phrase.
There are several strategies for owning a phrase or a word. The most difficult is sheer dominance. Tesla, for example, isn’t the only electric car company. Its website isn’t in the top ten search result for “electric car”. But the company has been relentless in its marketing of electric cars, and it is the dominant company, so much so that when you say, “electric car”, people immediately think “Tesla”.
Own the URL
As you think about a marketing strategy that involves owning a phrase or a word, consider if you can own the URL.
This is a great strategy for a local business. For example, my friend Gary Kohner operates the Nantucket Island Surf School. His business URL nantucketsurfing.com is perfect. On his Instagram @nantucketsurfing, he frequently posts about surf conditions and shares photos of great waves, local surfers, and people taking lessons. Anybody visiting the island who is interested in surfing will find that Gary “owns” the phrase “Nantucket Surfing”, and they go to him for lessons or to rent gear.
A URL can also work great when you purposefully set out to create a new concept to own. For example, I used this tactic when I pioneered the idea of “newsjacking”. I got the URL and then started talking about how newsjacking is the art and science of injecting your ideas into a breaking news story to generate tons of media coverage, get sales leads, and grow business. Now there are several hundred thousand hits for the word on Google, the word is in the Oxford English Dictionary, and I have the number one result.
Write the book
Writing a book with your phrase or word as the title is a fantastic way to own a concept. Whenever I write a book, I always consider how the book title can promote an idea in the minds of people. For example, The New Rules of Marketing and PR, first published in 2007 and now in an 8th edition and in 29 languages, means that when people think “new rules of marketing” they think of my ideas.
My favorite example of owning a phrase by writing a book is Inbound Marketing by HubSpot co-founders Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah. (I wrote the foreword). The first edition of the book released in 2009, when HubSpot was a new company. By owning the phrase “inbound marketing” as well as the word “inbound”, HubSpot was able to articulate a new way to do marketing and grow companies. This was an important reason why HubSpot grew quickly, went public in 2014, and is projected to reach $2 billion in revenue for 2023.
Get found in chatbots like ChatGPT
As more and more people go to large language model chatbots like ChatGPT instead of search engines with blue links like Google, owning a phrase or a word will be increasingly important.
When I use a chatbot to ask questions related to my own work using the Microsoft Edge browser with the ChatGPT powered Bing search engine, one of my books in often within the response or in the related content links. I’ve tested this with content related to other authors and answers also cite their books, so it seems clear that having a book is a great strategy to get found in chatbots.
I’ve coached several dozen people to write, publish, and market their first business book as a strategy to own a phrase and grow business.
If you’re considering writing a business book and would like some help, I offer book coaching services. I can help with strategies to discover a topic, work on an effective title and subtitle, provide editorial advice, show you ways to get published, make introductions to publishers, and share tactics on how to market your book.