Brown diamonds are worthless - don't be a brown diamond

I once worked on a strategy for a major diamond producer, and we had lots of brown diamonds.

The problem with brown diamonds is that they are worth, give or take, nothing. 

So, they were going to drill bits, and other industrial uses to be ground up into into diamond dust and used to cut stuff.  

These are not exciting uses for diamond producers.  Also, it sure wasn’t doing much for the bottom line.  

Our challenge was to make these diamonds valuable. 

So, we innovated.  We explored many techniques to make them look different, to remove the coloring.  We searched for the right method to physically change the stone.  

We were trying to make brown diamonds somehow fit into the white diamond story.  

I discovered that there are ways to adjust the color of a diamond – they are absurdly expensive and don’t work well.  

Which is when we had an epiphany, instead of trying to adjust the physical diamonds to the story, why not change the story?  

We should stop calling them industrial brown diamonds.  

We started calling them 'Cognac' and 'Chocolate.'  When you start calling brown diamonds' Cognac and Chocolate, they go from drill bits to jewelry. 

The diamonds didn’t change, just the story.  

It's all in the story.  

Nobody wants an industrial brown diamond in a ring or around his or her neck.  Sparkly, rich, cognac diamonds, however, that is a whole new universe of colors and design to explore.  

Cognac diamonds are exciting and changing the story added a world of cash flow.  Prices went from nothing a carat to hundreds and thousands a carat. 

Most of the time, when entrepreneurs, business people, marketers sell themselves, they focus on what they do.


The typical sales story is to go into great detail about what you do, provide specific information about your offering, and talk about your successes.  


When this doesn’t work: when nobody cares, most just add more.  And more.  


So we end up with 5 billion Facebook posts and 400 million tweets 99% of which are all about “brown diamonds” and how well they cut hard things.  


And still, nobody cares.  


The better way is to think about the story.  What does the end customer want?  What do they get out of it?  What problem do you solve for them?  


If you keep going around calling yourself a brown diamond, your market isn’t going to be interested.  You will end up selling yourself for pennies. 


Once you figure out your cognac alternative, and you change the story to something that is meaningful, exciting and interesting for your clients you can charge thousands.  

 The work doesn’t change the story does.  

With the right story, people get the value you offer.  

Define what you do in terms of the problem you solve for your customers and how you're going to make their lives better. 


Stop defining yourself with the facts and figures of who you are.  Stop defining yourself as "I am an attorney who does the state law. I am a CPA. I am this." 


Nobody cares.


Talk about how you are a Cognac diamond. Talk about how you solve a problem for your customers. 


It makes your life easier. It makes your marketing more effective, and it connects people to what you're trying to do. 


It inspires them; it's exciting because, you're having a conversation about possibilities rather than a conversation about eh, brown diamonds, lawyers, CPAs. 

You're talking about what you can make possible.  

So, go figure out what your story is and make sure that you're not the brown diamond, but that you are becoming the Cognac diamond of your industry.

We have a great template to turn your story into a cognac diamond story.  You can download it here.

AphorismJeff LoehrComment