Pretty much every ambitious business I’ve worked with over the last year has needed support with developing how strongly they standout against competitors.
Whether the wedding photographer who desperately needed to embrace his distinctive approach, competing not just with other photographers but also Auntie Emily with an iPhone as well; the advertising agency who needed to really identify what it was they uniquely offered clients that their competitors couldn’t match; or the charity that everyone had heard of, but didn’t feel compelled to support because it wasn’t clear what they did.
They all needed to identify their customers and communicate what made them distinctive far more strongly in order to standout. Do you recognise this challenge in your business?
Standout isn’t a new issue, but the web plays a big role
The web has revolutionised how we communicate and how successful brands are built. These days, you can decide to start a business in the morning and be up and running with a website by early afternoon. You can connect with pretty much anyone, anywhere and you have access to more information than you’ll ever need.
The only problem with this unprecedented level of connectivity is that everyone else can do the same…so it’s not only easier than ever to start a business, but it’s also easier than ever for your potential customers to find multiple businesses offering similar products and services to you.
I’ve struggled with the issue in my business (and I’m a marketer!)
Last year I started my own business helping small but ambitious brands grow using my years of marketing and brand building experience.
Ensuring there was a need for what I offered wasn’t a problem.
No, the issue was realising that….dammit, there’s LOADS of other people offering a similar service to me…how will I ever manage to standout and engage with potential clients?
So over the last year, as well as helping various clients define their standout, I’ve also refined my business, focusing on 4 key areas to continually improve my level of standout.
1. Define your niche, then tighten it
You’d think this would be easy, but it’s really difficult, especially when you’re first starting out. You know that by focusing on a tight niche your brand will standout more strongly, but it’s tempting to take on whatever is asked of you to get the business off the ground.
Take time to define your niche when you start. Say yes to everything (within reason) and treat it as a learning experience that enables you to adapt, refine and tighten your niche over time.
2. Get into your customers head
In any market, the business that best understands what their customers really want and how to meet those needs is going to be more successful.
Take the time to speak to potential and existing customers through social media (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram etc), trade shows, networking events etc…in fact pretty much anywhere where your customers may be, go and speak to them to understand what’s going on in their head.
I thought I had a pretty good understanding of what my customers needed when I started. But the more time I spent with them, the more questions I asked, the better I understood how I could help them most effectively.
3. Communicate Distinctively
This takes real bravery, but is a critical element in developing standout for your business. Simply put, if your business looks the same and acts the same as everyone else, then you’re average and will struggle to get noticed. A bland, beige brand that simply blends in will massively reduce your chance of success.
Earlier this year I worked with a Canadian wedding photographer who has a unique photographic style and swears far too much! We identified that rather than trying to blend in and appeal to all wedding couples, he should turn his larger than life character and artistic photography style up to the max. Since doing this, he’s booked more weddings at higher rates than ever.
Now, his photographic style and character certainly isn’t for everyone, but his clients LOVE his approach and the creativity of the pictures he takes.
4. Act, Reflect, Adapt
I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve refined my website and business introduction over the past year as I’ve tightened my niche and got deeper into my customers heads.
With so many ways to communicate, I’ve spent a lot of the last year testing what works and what doesn’t by engaging with customers, doing great work, putting out compelling content and reflecting on what’s working and adapting as needed.
A post gets a great response LinkedIn, I’ll share it on Twitter…I do a great job for a client, I go find similar clients who may have the same issue. With every workshop or seminar I’ve run, I’ve sought feedback, allowing me to refine how I deliver it and improve it further next time.
Developing standout certainly is an iterative, but essential process…if you want to grow.