Ever since we were little kids, we’ve had it drilled into us that we shouldn’t be sheep. We should do our best to stand out from the crowd and celebrate our own uniqueness (cringe), individuality (cringe) and authenticity (cringe). And then we became teenagers… And suddenly we didn’t want to be different anymore.
Now, you’re a business owner and you’re wondering how you can make your business stand out from everyone else out there. Because, as I’m sure you’re well aware, you’re not the only one vying for your customers’ hard-earned credit card limit.
Sure, you could pull a big PR stunt or hire a plane to write your business name in the sky. But, these things cost money. Lots of money. And, in the early days of business, money is a luxury most of us don’t have a whole lot of.
So, how can you make sure that your business stands out? Without it costing an arm, a leg and your left kidney, that is.
1. Have a beautiful, consistent brand
Branding runs a helluva lot deeper than your logo and colour palette. Sure, a well-designed logo means you’re always putting your best foot forward and a consistent colour scheme ensures your brand never leaves the house with mismatched socks (even on the days you can’t remember which shoe goes on which foot). However, beauty is only skin deep and there’s more to your brand than how it looks.
Tess from Smack Bang Designs (whom I have a serious entrepreneurial #girlcrush on) summed up the power of branding beautifully in this article about what branding can do for your insides.
Your brand needs to have a clear and consistent voice and personality, and you’d better be damn sure that it makes people feel good. You know that two-faced friend from high school who was constantly changing her mind? The one who had more frenemies than real friends? Don’t let your brand be her.
Back this up with a ripper of a story to share at the crowded dinner table that is today’s business environment, and you’ll be laughing all the way to the bank (or, at the very least, the piggy bank on the desk in your spare bedroom).
2. Know what you stand for and don’t budge an inch
If you’ve worked for a large corporation at any point in your career to date, you probably associate brand values with that poster on the wall; the one with slightly torn edges, written in Comic Sans in a glorious (but fading) magenta and neon yellow colour scheme. Chances are, you never actually read that poster.
Brand values are more than just some words written in tacky font and Blu Tacked to the wall. They should guide every business decision you make. They should define the culture; what it’s like to work in your team. Even the way you deal with your customers or clients should reflect your brand values. Not sure what to write for yours? Check out ours for some inspiration.
I think we’ve turned down more potential clients because of value-mismatch than we actually HAVE clients. Yep, the income that could’ve been really stings. I could almost have been poppin’ bottles of Dom on a yacht in the Seychelles. Almost. But, the pain of not having this extra income hurts less than a client who doesn’t align with our values.
Know what your brand values are and don’t compromise. If you’re ever in a pickle and need to make a tricky decision, let your brand values be your steering wheel.
3. Don’t be afraid to take risks and be a little different
Now, don’t go doing anything too drastic, like shutting up your virtual shop and only accepting mail orders via Nepalese sherpa. Start small.
Just because everyone else’s website is white, doesn’t mean yours can’t be blue. Or pink. Or even embrace the spirit of Christmas and make it red and green if you really want.
Maybe don’t do that.
What I’m really trying to say is this: Just because your competitors are doing something one way, doesn’t mean you have to do it that way. If you can think of a better, different way to do things, just do it.
Better yet, leverage this point of difference and turn it into a selling point. Make it the reason why someone would choose your business over a competitor.
4. Don’t push the hard sell on anyone
Selling is like dating. You’d better not be trying to move in with your customer on the first date, let alone asking them to marry you.
Because, you and I both know the answer would be a resounding NO.
You want to woo them first. Not in the keep-buying-them-drinks-until-you-become-attractive way though. When they finally make that commitment to your brand, you want it to be something they’re proud of – not something they wake up regretting on Monday morning.
Have I lost you in my crazy analogy?
Let me spell it out for you.
Just shouting “BUY ME, BUY ME” from the rooftops isn’t going to get you any sales. You need to get people to know, like and trust your brand. How do you do this, you ask? By providing value, without asking for anything in return.
How you do this will depend on your product or service, and how much time you’ll need to spend doing this will depend on the price point. For a lower-priced product, you don’t have to spend as much time in the woo-ing stage as you would for a higher-priced one.
Still confused about how you can implement this in your business? Think of it like this: Give, give, give – then (and only then) ask!
5. Care about your customer
Don’t forget that your customers and clients are people too. This is something that tends to fly out the window as soon as your business grows and you no longer have time to do the things that don’t scale – like sending handwritten notes with each order.
But, it’s something you should keep doing. It’s what makes your brand stand out from the masses that just don’t care.
Go the extra mile and a half for your customer. When everyone else is only going the extra mile, strap on your Nike Frees and walk that extra 804.5 metres (thanks, Google).
Exceed expectations in every way possible. Physical product? That’s cool. Make the unboxing experience so unforgettable that they want to shout it from the rooftops.
Because, brands that care breed brand advocates. Try saying that 7 times really quickly.
6. Create stuff
I don’t mean you should go out and create a pet rock or a song about your neighbour Jenny. Unless your ideal customer or client would find these things useful, that is.
You should be regularly creating content that your audience wants or needs. Remember how I said you should give, give, give, give, give, give, then ask? Free content is an excellent way to build up trust; to woo that prospect into handing over their credit card.
Write stuff; video stuff; photograph stuff. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just throw stuff against the metaphorical wall that is the internet and see what sticks.
Social media can give you a pretty good idea of what resonates with your audience, so track the stats for each piece of content you create. If one piece does really well, go out and create more just like it. Simples.
7. Be human
I know we’re meant to automate the heck out of our social media, because, efficiency – but, I can’t stand it. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big believer in scheduling your content, but it’s the automated engagement that really gets to me. It’s like we’ve forgotten what the first word in “social media” is. Hint: It’s not bot.
Connect, communicate and genuinely engage with your audience, even if you think there is zero chance they’ll ever buy from you.