What makes you so Special, anyway?

I had an article about USPs published recently, (on my birthday, as it happens), in the Summer Issue of Perception, the Cognitive Hypnotherapy E-zine. I thought you might like to see it.

The E-zine is published every quarter and is really easy to subscribe to. I’ve included a link at the bottom of this post. Best of all, it is free.

There’s a full copy of the Summer Issue at the bottom of this post. I suspect you’ll find it really interesting.

Anyway, appetite duly whetted; read on…

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What makes you so Special, anyway?

Someone somewhere is always trying to convince you that what they’ve got is so good that you can’t live without it. Whether it’s home insulation, life assurance that comes with a pen, (thanks Michael, that’ll really sway my decision), or even claiming compensation for buying something that turned out not be quite as good as you were led to believe at the time. And we don’t just do this with the things we buy. We do it with people.

We live with a tacit pressure to identify what’s known as a USP, your Unique Selling Proposition. We’re driven to find what it is that’s going to make you, your product, your company or your service not just more appealing than the competition but entirely different from and better than the competition. Given that this concept originated back in the USA in the early 1940s, it’s probably a pressure that owes its roots to living in a capitalist economy where bigger, faster, higher, quicker was the order of the day. In a competitive environment, you need something that makes you stand out, something that makes you different.

A quick Google into USPs, (other good search engines are available), and you find that even the term USP isn’t unique. From the United Steel Products company in Minnesota to the United States Pharmacopeal Convention and even as far afield as the University of the South Pacific, all these claim the epithet USP. Obviously the University of the South Pacific holds most attraction, so I’m off to Tonga to study Geospatial Science at the USP at my earliest opportunity. Well, maybe later. In another life, perhaps.

Despite this minor sub-tropical digression, where does the acceptance of USP as a key idea really come from? The first thing to understand is that this is now quite an old concept invented, if that’s the right word, by good old Rosser Reeves during the 1940s. He analysed a variety of successful advertising campaigns looking for the common theme that made them so. According to Rosser, what made them successful, what convinced customers to switch brands, was that each campaign had been able to deliver what he termed a ‘Unique Selling Proposition’.  His criteria were quite stringent. These are the three qualities a Rosser-style USP must have;

  • The advertisement must make a specific proposition: ‘Buy this product and you will get this specific benefit’.
  • The proposition must be unique: something that the competition cannot or does not offer.
  • It must be strong enough to pull customers over to your product.

If you run a business, he demanded, what is your USP? Why on earth should a customer come to you when there are so many similar businesses out there each vying for the rapidly shrinking pound-in-your-pocket? It worked really well back then.

So here we are, some 50 years later still living with its influence. But there are so many businesses and so many people out there, that there is little specific uniqueness left.

Personally, I’m not really worried. Let me tell you why.

When I set up my business as a Cognitive Hypnotherapist, I went through the process of trying to discover my Unique Selling Point because it seemed that everyone was doing it. It was one of the expected steps in what is known as creating your business proposition. What would differentiate my business from all those other Hypnotherapists around me? No matter how hard I looked at it, whatever I came up with, it looked very much like everyone else’s Hypnotherapy business. Uniqueness was proving extremely elusive.

I firmly believe that Cognitive Hypnotherapy is a much more profoundly useful tool than any other form of hypnotherapy, so in a way that could be my USP. But all those other Hypnotherapists believe that they’re good too, (well some of them do anyway), so even being a Cognitive Hypnotherapist isn’t enough to distinguish me uniquely from the competition. I’ve decided to focus on fertility and pain relief which helps but that’s not unique either. Others out there do the same.

So, after much thought and internal debate, I brought myself to this conclusion. My particular USP is me. There is no other Hypnotherapist out there, Cognitive or otherwise, who is or ever will be, me. That’s kind of reassuring.

And if I am me, then you are you. There is nobody like you. Anywhere. You are indeed one of a kind. Physically and mentally, (which is more of the same thing than you might imagine), no-one else will ever be you. So forget all the pressure of being the best you can be, striving for ultimate self-improvement, learning to be a winner.

Your biggest and most unique, (if you’ll pardon the unnecessary superlative), selling point is that nobody else in the entire world is you. This puts you in pole position and gives you an unfair advantage, (honestly, bear with me).  Nobody else does what you do, thinks the way you do, behaves or feels or sees the world exactly as you do. Now this can seem a little overwhelming and scary at first because for most of us, we never really learn to appreciate just what these things are or how they really seem to those around us.

We are taught from a very early age how to think, how to behave, what we should or shouldn’t say, which rules we should follow, how we should dress, what food we should eat. The point is that we’re taught those things by people who aren’t us. The best they can do is to try to mold us into a better version of them, after all that’s what happened when they grew up. We learn to take on other people’s values and ideas. This can cause deeply embedded internal confusion as effectively we’ve learned to live our lives as if we were someone else. Who we really are, what we really believe gets buried and we forget how to value our individuality, our true identity. We end up not appreciating our own self for what it is. Special.

Fortunately, there are ways to get back to the centre of who you are. Cognitive Hypnotherapy really can separate out those aspects of you which are you and those which you’ve taken on and learnt from others as you grew up and life threw its various experiences at you. For many of us, we spend our lives trying not to be something, trying to keep away from ideas, values, identities that we unconsciously know are not us. But as these values are tucked away out of sight and out of mind, we rarely if ever become fully aware of them. It just feels, well, wrong.

Imagine how fantastic must it be to uncover the true you in a way that enables you to fully appreciate who you are. Once you become the centre of you, your life becomes congruent. You make decisions that are good for you, help you to grow. You learn how to feed the aspects of your personality that keep you healthy, strong, happy and content.

And there’s more. Once you’ve found what’s important, your underlying values, your true identity, you will find that you have uncovered your own Unique Selling Point and buffed it to such a glorious shine that it can’t help but be noticed. You have become you.

So now that you know who you are and what is fundamentally important to you, you’ll discover some strange things. There will be people, places, jobs, ideas, passions that absolutely fit like a glove. You may never even have noticed them before. Equally there will be people, places, jobs and ideas that you have put up with, simply because you couldn’t see any alternative or were too afraid to let go. Knowing who you are gives you the strength either to move on or to change these relationships into ones that are healthy for you. You become so centred that change is truly an opportunity and no longer a fear.

It isn’t the skills, qualifications or knowledge you hold which enable you to succeed; it is the passion that comes with being centred, being you, living without any inner conflict, confusion or deeply embedded self-doubt. In life and in business, knowing who you are is such a rare asset that the passion and self-belief it brings are a magnet to those with whom you’ll fit.

My advice is simply this. Do whatever you need to do to make sure that you live the life that you truly want, not the life that you find yourself putting up with.

So if something is holding you back or if you’re living a life that just doesn’t fit, why not get in touch with your nearest Cognitive Hypnotherapist? You’ll find one via the ‘find a Cognitive Hypnotherapist near you’ button on the Cognitive Hypnotherapy website.

It’s time to uncover that unique someone who is, quite simply, you.

Perception_Summer_2013_Issue_3

Perception E-zine Free Subsription

The only one? ©Tony Burkinshaw 2013

The only one?
©Tony Burkinshaw 2013

 

Advertising, Pain and Time Travel

I should have known that somewhere along the way bureaucracy would stick its oar in and give it all a good stirring up.

Fortunately my alter ego is extremely well adapted to living in a heavily regulated world so it’s not going to cause me too much hassle. Nevertheless it would have been nice, (cue subterranean groan from erstwhile Witchfinding English teacher), to be able say what I wanted to say simply because I believe it to be true and because I believe it would have encouraged potential clients to call up and seek help. Which I believe I can give, (as in provide, rather than as in gift – I have to earn a living after all).

Of course in our relatively comfortable and over-safe environment, centralised protection and oversight is the order of the day so we have to abide by rules, (if only they were more like guidelines a la Black Pearl), designed to reign in those of an over-persuasive nature and whose primary belief is that your money should only be temporarily described as such whilst sliding gracefully into its rightful place in their pockets.

The downside of all this is that I had, by now, written the drafts for my web pages and have to say, thought that were taking shape pretty well. They said what I wanted them to say, in ways that would encourage potential clients to act but at the same time discourage those who wanted a quick fix whilst someone else solved all their problems for them. Unless of course they realised that this was indeed their problem and it was this belief in dis-empowering externalised solutions which they wanted to solve.

I had deliberately set about writing in a somewhat forward style, telling it how it is so that those who find themselves dealing with the issues I am intending to focus on are encouraged to come along and see me. And then, helpful soul that he is, Sean, (good Cognitive Hypnotherapist by the way), made us aware of the requirements of the ASA, (that’s the Advertising Standards Authority not the Amateur Swimming Association even though they use the same T.L.A. and who may be even more interested in the benefits of cognitive hypnotherapy than those advertising chappies, you never know, call me if you are), as regards what you can and more to the point can’t say about such areas as hypnotherapy. On first reading I was not happy.

So, after a mild bout of swearing, most unlike me, I gave it some thought. And once I’d thought, I realised that I wasn’t actually angry about the restrictive nature of their requirements after all. I was just peeved that my carefully crafted words, whilst saying pretty much exactly what I wanted to say, were not up to standard. Bugger.

I’d have to start again and I wasn’t looking forward to it. First off there’s the need to promote my skills to potential customers, ensuring that this meets with the ethical standards of the National Council for Hypnotherapy, then there’s the need to make sure that the web pages get read at all, (enter good old SEO), and now overlaid onto that is the need to do so both in the letter and spirit of advertising regulation.

At this point my alter ego stepped up to the mark, told me not to be such a child and damn well get on with it. Annoying as it might be, the ASA’s requirements are a flea bite compared with the leviathan that is the soon to metamorph Financial Services Authority in whose delightful shadow (warming glow?) I have basked for many a year.

So I began the task of re crafting my words. Much as I hate to say it, it’s been really useful. I’ve had to call on much of my skill in sales training, coaching, NLP and hypnotherapy. After all, words matter. Ideas and how they are organised allow people to follow your route towards a point where they can make an informed decision about whether they want to get in touch and take steps to improve where they are in life. Equally importantly, those same words and ideas lead those for whom I am less likely to be the best next step to the conclusion that it is best to log off and search elsewhere.

Much as I’d like to be all things to all men, (and women, let’s not be sexist here especially if one of my prime focusses is fertility), I’m not daft enough to believe I can help everyone nor is it likely that I or my style of therapy is going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Web pages can do a great job of helping potential clients work out whether they think there could be a good fit in terms of both style and content. If so, hopefully they’ll get in touch. Equally, if not, then I hope they find someone who’s better positioned to help them.

The basic premise of the ASA position is that if you can’t prove it, you can’t advertise it. And they’re quite rigorous. They even pulled up the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine recently for promoting Hypnotherapy in a leaflet The ASA decided that the hospital’s own evidential studies weren’t robust enough to allow them to make the claims they were making. Interestingly, they did concede that the evidence showed that hypnotherapy can help people cope with the effects of chronic pain. Cool.

So with all this flowing around inside that grey matter that fills my head, I found myself discussing my new hypnotherapy venture with a financial services colleague, sceptic that he is. When I recounted the outcome of a couple of my volunteer clients, (a complete reduction in severe hayfever symptoms and also alleviating chronic back pain to the point where the client no longer uses any pain relief at all), he simply asked how did I know that it was Cognitive Hypnotherapy which did the trick. Couldn’t it just have happened anyway? Could they still have hayfever and a bad back but were effectively just ignoring them? Interesting.

The short answer, I suppose, with my regulatory head in place, is that I don’t know, not for sure. As a Cognitive Hypnotherapist, I’m well versed in the tendency of the human brain to see co-incidence and perceive it as cause and effect. It’s the basis of many a distorted reality tunnel at the end of which lurk phobia, anxiety and all manner of normal everyday terrors. All I know for certain is that clients have come to me, I have treated them, showed them how to treat themselves, and then they have left feeling better.

There’s even another part of me which doesn’t really care how it works. Does it really matter whether there has been substantive change in their physical situation or whether it is simply a change in perception. If you get even vaguely existential about it, what’s the difference? I mean, if you have a bad back and currently need pain medication, does it make any difference whether your back is actually less bad and therefore doesn’t hurt, or whether your back is unchanged but you’ve just stopped thinking it hurts?

Either way, it doesn’t hurt any more, eh Morpheus?

In many ways what I believe is unimportant. In reality, it’s what you believe that matters. I haven’t had anyone come and see me as a volunteer or paying client who has not had some degree of scepticism about the whole hypnotherapy thing. Hell, I was sceptical myself at the start of the course. But if by the time we finish, you find yourself living in a world which you perceive to be better than when we first began working together, then that is a decent enough measure of success to be going on with, isn’t it?

Of course it does help if I really do believe in what I’m doing, otherwise I’d just be a charlatan.

I do believe, by the way. Just for the record.

Here’s the exiting bit. Evidence is being gathered. Proper, scientifically robust, evidence-based research. It takes time to do this well. Time to gather sufficient evidence to be meaningful, whatever the result. Time to get it analysed. Time to get it assessed and published. Time to get it accepted.

Unfortunately, I can’t travel in time to find out how it all went.

But one of the key trance phenomena is Time Distortion. I’ll just have to wait.

After all, I’m a Cognitive Hypnotherapist. Not a Time Lord.

Watch this space.

Who's watching who?© Tony Burkinshaw 2013

Who’s watching who?
© Tony Burkinshaw 2013