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  • Mike DiFrisco

What’s Your “Keystone Attribute”?


One of the biggest struggles businesses—including dental practices—have is determining their “one thing” brand essence; their dominant selling idea. That’s because it goes against the business brain to reduce a practice with so many desirable attributes to a single differentiator.


It goes something like this: “But we have a fantastic team, and stellar service, and the latest technologies in our operatories, a convenient location, we get great online reviews, our doctors are amazingly skilled, and we offer services from implants and cosmetics to perio and ortho, and our waiting room is spa-like, and…” on and on.


But according to branding and positioning experts, Al Reis and Jack Trout in their influential work, 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, “The most powerful concept in marketing is owning a word in the prospect’s mind.” Further, they posit, a company can become incredibly successful if it can find a way to own a word—or a singular concept—in the mind of the prospect. FedEx was able to put the word ‘overnight’ in the minds of their prospects. Hershey owns ‘chocolate bar’; Coke owns ‘cola’; Heinz owns ‘ketchup’; Crest owns ‘cavities’; Tesla owns electric car; Nordstrom’s owns service. These are classic keystone attributes.


What is yours?


If you’re having a tough time zeroing in on your unique selling proposition—the one reason, why a client should choose you over the dentist down the street—let’s unpack this term, “Keystone Attribute.”


A keystone is the wedge-shaped stone piece at the apex of a masonry arch. It’s the final piece placed during construction and locks all the other stones into position, allowing the arch to bear weight. Although a masonry arch cannot be self-supporting until the keystone is placed, the keystone experiences the least stress of any of the structural elements due to its position at the apex.


Like architecture, in a business sense it’s not about eliminating your other positive attributes (your other structural stones). They can certainly help support your business. If you own a pizza place, you can be about speedy delivery, a secret family recipe, a unique crust, all-natural ingredients, etc. But choose only ONE—the most relevant, authentic, and differentiated characteristic—as your keystone attribute.


Allow this keystone idea—your one thing differentiator—to lead your marketing messages and dominate your conversation in social spaces and other communications.

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