The best kept secret?


July 9, 2015 // Thought Leadership

his article was originally published in Jetset Magazine.

There’s something appealing and interesting about a “best kept secret.” It might be a restaurant that looks like a dive on the outside, but when you walk in, it’s stunning and the food is remarkable.

Or it might be an exclusive, tucked-away bed and breakfast that has a waiting list a mile long. Being referred to as a best kept secret is a nice compliment, but in the case of a company selling a product or service, it can also be its greatest downfall.

There are all kinds of people and companies out there who are doing or have done some amazing things but aren’t getting credit for it. I recently saw the Imitation Game. It’s a great movie that follows the extraordinary story of Alan Turing and his team of code crackers during World War II. I’d never heard of Alan Turing before this movie. And prior to seeing it, if someone had asked me to rattle off the name of someone integral to the creation of computers, I probably would have said Steve Jobs or Bill Gates. Not Alan Turing, who is one of the founding fathers of computer science and the creator of what is considered a model of the general purpose computer. Mr. Turing was a best kept secret.

In the business world, for the most part, you don’t want to be a best kept secret. In fact, you want to be just the opposite. That’s why people advertise and market their products. But sometimes, if a company has been around awhile — 30, 40, 50+ years — it can fall into the trap of assuming customers already know all of the great things about the product it manufactures. After all, if they’ve been around for that long, shouldn’t everyone know what’s great about their product? Maybe… but it’s a risky assumption. Just how risky is usually unknown until someone new comes along and begins to take away market share.

When fresh competition enters the scene, it’s a good time for a company to evaluate the strength of its brand. Has it fallen into complacence and weakened or lost its brand signal? It can happen to the most respected, longest-standing companies out there. But as long as the foundational elements like a good product, solid differentiators and a customer base are still present, a brand can be revived.

Being called a best kept secret is certainly a compliment, but for most companies, it’s not where they want to be in the marketplace.

So why do companies sometimes fail to communicate all the great things about their product or the way the product is manufactured? Sometimes it’s that assumption that if they know what’s great about it, everyone else does, too. Sometimes it’s not recognizing all the things they do that make a product special. Sometimes it’s the fear that putting too much out there can inadvertently help the competition. Whatever the reason, it’s essential to capitalize on what makes a product or service superior to others.