It’s no wonder that when the opportunity arrives to be different, it feels safer - and if we’re totally honest, easier, to follow the crowd.
But following the crowd blindly is a horrible marketing strategy (if not a destined-for-failure life strategy, too).
So - what is the solution for small business owners to market themselves like a pro (without breaking the bank)?
Below are three ways you can begin to stand out online and position yourself as a respected leader in your space.
#1 Be vocal.
Your cheapest and most compelling marketing strategy is to be willing to talk/do/say what other industry leaders are too afraid of to do or say themselves. The world is over saturated with people promoting outdated opinions, safe ideas and boring design all because it won’t rock the boat.
But for those of you willing to call it like you see it and stray from the pack, you are guaranteed to be noticed. The good news? It’s not as hard as you think.
Take a look at how Leo Babauta from ZenHabits encourages his readers to simplify their lives through minimalism, or how Mark Sisson from The Daily Apple promotes eating almost all meat for what he views as optimal health. They each have opinions and it’s those views that function as the heart of their business, the very seeds that sew future solutions for their customers and ultimately end up as their competitive advantage in the form of the most valuable currency imaginable: trust.
If you take away their individual stances, you take away the glue of their tribe and the core of their business.
Confused as to what to talk about? Ask yourself what idea or change deeply matters to you within your industry and then share that notion with someone. That’s it. The bigger your ideas and the more refined your approach becomes, the more media attention you’ll harvest. In fact, they’ll eventually be knocking on your door.
#2 Be unmistakably generous.
Generosity implies stability and success. It also generates trust in your customers. People love to see that you care and donating to your favorite nonprofit is not only a tax write-off, but more importantly, it’s a way to humanize your business and connect on a deeper level to your tribe. Your public generosity is also closely to linked to your “why”. The closer you get to your why, the more distinct your position in the marketplace and the more memorable you become.
Think about Virgin Unite, an entire non-profit funded by the Virgin enterprise focused on global good. Or - what about Public Beta, a startup that donates 51% of all profit to Kiva. Are these acts memorable? Yes. Do they make me want to work with these companies? You better believe it.
Pro tip: Not everyone is going to jive with your messaging and that’s a good thing. A sign of true professionalism is being willing to turn down the wrong clients. Your goal is never to get all of the customers -- it’s to get all of the right ones.
#3 Play around with bold design.
You don’t always know what customers are going to go crazy for until you show them something new and gauge their reaction. This is the very definition of pivoting. Consider Seth Godin’s 600-plus page book that weighs about the same as a small toddler - or Epic Meal Time, a cooking show dedicated to all things bacon. Both are highly impractical by traditional standards, but they have fanatical followings.
In your own business, play around with unique custom work, bold prints, bright colors, clean design, product weight/size, niche focus and design. Be willing to go out on a whim and wow your customer with something new, even if it’s a bit edgy.
Pro tip: Borrow looks and find inspiration from other industries. The above image was inspired by the popular hit music video Blurred Lines by famous musician Robin Thicke. Steve Jobs borrowed the idea of a bar from the restaurant industry when he designed the Genius Bar at Apple as a customer service and tech repair spot for all your mac needs. You can do the same.
What do you think? Which of the three ideas above do you believe would be the most useful for your business and why? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Lauryn Ballesteros is a sales/marketing expert, blogger, and cultural entrepreneur focused on bringing authenticity into everything she touches. She loves Italy, her dog, and a good book on the beach. She just released a free, three part series on how to land your ideal client here.