Biz Tips: The Obsession With Being Number One

Biz Tips: The Obsession With Being Number One


The Obsession With Being Number One

And Why It’s Completely Meaningless

Photo by Corey Hodgson on Unsplash

We are number one in the Southeast region of the Midwestern part of Northern Pleasantville. Great. Literally no one gives a sh*t. Not a single person. Because you are the only one. But you are going to use that for all its worth. How’s that working out for you so far?

You know, it’s not a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you call yourself number one, you won’t become number one. Chances are more likely that you won’t. Because you think it means something. And it doesn’t. Number one is completely meaningless.

Lists Based on Numbers (and the Hypocrisy)

You do know that almost everyone can claim to be number one in something, right? Have you ever seen the sorting capabilities of statistical columns? You can sort from highest to lowest. Lowest to highest. Sideways. Switch columns. Switch filters. Everyone is number one at some point. You’re not special just because you call yourself numero uno.

Personally, I don’t want to work with anyone who openly calls themselves number one at anything. Because I know it’s bullsh*t. A form of advertising that caters to those who only want the best. But wouldn’t the absolute best companies not have to tell anyone they are number one in anything?

When I was in real estate, Keller Williams used to claim to be number one in everything in my region. When I started working for them I was like, cool — this will help me. And many agents think it does help. But they don’t realize that number one to them is only based on quantity.

They were number one in total sales at some point. So I asked someone which company made the most sales per agent. They didn’t answer. Keller Williams had twice the agents, if not more, then the next biggest competitor. And five times some other agencies.

So the list was presented in a way to make it look good. And sure, they had the most sales. But they were using it in a way to deceive the public — as advertising. And that’s why everyone uses it, even when it’s technically true. And some people fall for it.

But it’s just a number. It doesn’t mean anything.

Photo by Photos by Lanty on Unsplash

A Brief Number One Interlude

I was the captain of my high school basketball team. We won back-to-back State Prep championships while I was there. I expected a lot of myself my senior year. And so, as our early season home tournament started, I was pretty charged up.

I knocked down a three pointer early in the game, in front of our home crowd of around 500. As I relished my drained jumper I raised a finger to the sky. A number one finger. I don’t know why. We weren’t number one. The score was only like 7–2 at the time.

Was I anointing myself the best? For one triple? Or was I saying our team was dominant? I did it a couple more times before halftime. I still can’t really say why. Maybe because I thought being number one was the ultimate goal. Even if you weren’t actually number one in anything.

At halftime, one of our coaches sons pulled me aside. He was a sophomore at the time. He told me I looked like a complete a**clown by raising the number one finger and I should stop immediately because I was embarrassing myself.

For a second I thought to myself that he was the jacka**. He didn’t even play. But then it dawned on me that he had no reason to tell me unless it was true. Because we weren’t number one. I wasn’t number one in anything. Except being a complete imbecile in front of 500 people.

And I laid the number one finger to rest that day. As I should have.

Photo by Eddy Lackmann on Unsplash

Why Do You Like Calling Yourself Number One?

Does it make you feel powerful? To be the best at something. Because the only thing you are doing is making someone want to kick your a**. Who doesn’t want to knock off the champ? Just so your next campaign has to say number two.

“Becoming number one is easier than remaining number one.”

— Bill Bradley

You can rig anything to be number one at something. That’s the point. It carries no meaning beyond a marketing gimmick. It doesn’t guarantee the best service.

Does it really still play in marketing? Someone is going to say yes. But if you aren’t backing your number one claim with number one service, your claim won’t last longer than your postcard that’s in everyone’s garbage. Or your billboard.

And maybe that’s the problem. Businesses are using number one as a ploy to get you in the door. For a one-time deal. Because a lot of companies that tout their number one status are nowhere even close. And they are ok with that. But that’s a terrible long-term strategy. That’s the self-fulfilling prophecy.

The Best Way To Say You’re The Best

  • Testimonials. If someone else says you are the best, it’s much more valuable to you than calling yourself number one. Because if they think that, they will tell someone. Your billboard is just shouting at drivers busy watching the road and listening to a podcast.
  • Say Nothing and Just Be The Best. It’s a simple prophecy, but not outrageous to do. Just be the best. If you actually are the best at something, everyone will know. If you then tell them you’re the best, they will probably think you’re not.
  • Market Success Without Grandstanding. Did you accomplish something great? No, not first in the region. You really aren’t listening. How many people did you help? Your success is highly marketable, but it doesn’t need to be comparative. That just brings light to the rest of the market.

Do you want to be the player who says he is better than Lebron James or do you want to be Lebron James?

Photo by Jordan Whitfield on Unsplash

How To Use Number One Against Your Competition

Your main competitor says they are number one in everything. Good for them. That’s a challenge to you. And you can use it in your marketing.

  • Do you want to work with a company that says they are number one or a company that treats you like you are number one?
  • Do you want to work with the number one team in sales volume or the team that views client care as the true measure of success?
  • Number one is always busy. Because other people believe in their status. Number one can’t give you personal attention. We are busy too. But we are busy paying attention to our clients.

Are you going to say you’re number one or act like you are number one?

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