A few years back a woman scheduled a consulting session with me. She said she was a website developer. I asked her about her competition.
“I don’t have any competition.”
Wow! I had found the only website developer in the world. Amazing.
In truth, I was just a wee bit taken aback. There had been at least two other website developers at the networking meeting where we had met. Her business was based in Sarasota, a fairly affluent city that I am sure had more than the three website developers I had met at one lunch. So, you know me… I had to investigate further.
“There are NO other website developers in Sarasota?” I tried to keep the snark out of my voice. (I swear!)
“Well, I’m a graphic artist so really, no one can compete with me.”
Yes. In the town that boasts the Ringling School of Art and Design, I am sure you’re the only graphic artist with any talent. (You’ll be proud to know that I did not say this out loud. The self-control made my head hurt though.)
So I dug a little deeper.
“Tell me about your websites. Do you use a WordPress platform?”
“I guess. My company makes them. They’re templates. But I do the graphics and choose the colors.”
AHA! It turns out she is an “associate” with an MLM company that sells everything from vitamin supplements to, well, websites. At the time we spoke, the MLM had well over 150,000 associates, all selling the same stuff.
I would posit that she has competition.
We all have competition. More than that, for most businesses, our competition is national and international, not just local. For people in MLMs, your “teammates” are still your competition. (Sorry.)
So how do you stand out from the competition, especially if you work with a multi-level marketing company? Or in one of those heavily-regulated industries like insurance, law, or medicine?
Differentiation Is Key
You have to differentiate yourself. You have to set yourself up as the expert, the go-to person in your field.
That requires doing what others aren’t doing. In most small business arenas, a modest amount of marketing savvy (and effort) goes a long way. Most small business owners are struggling to pay the bills and scrambling to bring in new clients. They don’t think they have time to work ON their business, branding, and marketing.
Slap a Fiverr logo on the templated website and call it good.
You can call it good, but it’s not. Because someone in your market is going to go the extra mile. They’re going to take the time to develop a customer avatar (or more than one), figure out exactly what their prospective clients are looking for, and serve it up to them in the words and graphics that appeal to them most.
And then they’re going to eat your lunch.
Here’s the good news: It doesn’t take a whole lot of effort to put yourself ahead of 90% of your competition. Why? Because everybody else is doing the same thing.
Which brings us back to differentiation.
Everyone has a Fiverr logo. (I mean seriously, how many prancing lion and shield logos do you see on a weekly basis?) Everyone has a WordPress website. (For about $65 you can upgrade the template and get a much more professional look. Go ahead. Splurge.) Everyone has social media profiles, although not everyone knows how to leverage them.
Just like AA, the first step is acknowledging you have a problem. Most of us are overachievers and we can’t escape that feeling that we should be doing something MORE and BETTER. Listen to your gut on this one.
How Can You Set Yourself Apart from Your Competition?
You know I’ll start off with having a book. The book is becoming the new business card and yes, people have cottoned on to the idea. But most of the books that people put out are pretty sad. They are poorly written, slapped together, and do more damage to the person’s reputation than good. So, let me say you need a high quality book with professional polish.
Podcasts are gaining in popularity but they are not over-saturated yet. The start up costs are minimal and you can add great value for your clients and prospects, especially those who learn better by listening than reading. You can also get double-duty out of them by using them as blog posts.
Go out and SPEAK. Speaking in front of a group makes you the authority figure. Having the book and/or the podcast makes you more likely to get those speaking gigs, but it doesn’t matter which comes first, just get out and do it. Go to Meetup.com and find groups in your area that would be a good fit for you (i.e., your target prospect is sitting in that meeting) and contact the leader about speaking. Some will, some won’t. You don’t ask, you don’t get. Ask.
In all of these things, you may have that panicky feeling of “I don’t know what to say!” Of course you do. You are working in your field. You know your stuff and you have knowledge to share. (And if you want some help in this, check out my 3 video course here.)
Position yourself as a resource instead of just trying to sell, sell, sell. Take the time to figure out who your real target market is (Hint: It’s not EVERYONE.) I know it’s hard to give when you are trying to get money in the coffers to keep the lights on, but doing the work now—building your brand, working on your business, writing your book—will pay off in both the short run and the long run.
You have competition. They are all around you and all over the world. But you also have unique talents and perspective. If you don’t take steps now to differentiate yourself and your business, you will be lost in the sauce of also rans.
I think you deserve more.
If you are tired of being out-marketed by your competition or you are ready to step up your game, check out Branding, Books and Bourbon, a live 3 day event in Louisville, KY, June 22nd – 24th. Establish your brand, start your book, have your professional branding head shots and video DONE by the time you leave. Plus, you know, 3 days with me and Sharon Vornholt. You KNOW we’ll have fun!