Being Unique is a Good Thing... Isn't It?
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entrepreneurs frequently hear the advice to "be unique"
in their marketing. The basic idea is a valuable one - to
get attention in a crowded marketplace, you must stand out
in some way. Distinguishing your product or service from the
competition can make your marketing more effective. Crafting
a novel marketing message can attract the notice of more potential
There's no question that an element of uniqueness in your
marketing can make your business more memorable, competitive,
and special to your target audience. These are all reasons
why being different can be good. But how different should
A student in one of my classes had noticed there were no display
ads for management consultants in his local Yellow Pages.
"What a great opportunity," he thought, "to
make my business stand out to prospective clients." He
spent over $200 per month on a large ad for a full year. The
result was not a single phone call, unless you count the ones
from vendors trying to sell him photocopiers and phone systems.
He had neglected to ask his consulting colleagues WHY none
of them had ads in the Yellow Pages. It seemed like a good
idea to him, and no one else was doing it, so he pulled out
his checkbook. What never occurred to him - and what any experienced
colleague could have told him - was that companies don't choose
management consultants from ads in the phone book.
Sometimes you can be too unique for your own good. There's
a lot in sales and marketing that is tried and true. If you
decide to forge a completely new trail, you may be attempting
an experiment that many others in your field have already
tried with no success.
It's not always just your marketing techniques that are a
little too different. The same problem can afflict the product
or service you are marketing.
I met a fellow while networking who had a "unique process"
for helping companies resolve conflicts between employee groups.
When I asked him to explain his process, he said I would have
to experience it to understand it. I inquired how it compared
to solutions like mediation or team building, and he told
me it was a totally different approach that defied comparison.
Since I knew a company that needed help with a problem like
the one he described, I would have liked to refer him. But
I couldn't picture myself calling my friend at the company
to say, "Hi, I know someone who says he can fix your
problem, but he can't explain how. You'll just have to hire
him and see."
Being noticeably different from the competition can help you
attract customers and close sales. But claiming that you have
no competition is naive. Comparisons to a known quantity can
help prospective customers understand where your product or
service fits in the range of solutions they are considering.
If they can't compare it to anything, it's doubtful that they
will be able to see how your offering could work.
Your market, too, needs to be a group of people who already
exist and can be readily identified. A reader once wrote to
ask me for some advice on getting her new book published.
I asked what market category it fell into, and she replied
that she hadn't really thought about it.
I pressed her bit, explaining that her book needed to be categorized
in order to be marketed and sold. Even something as simple
as where to shelve it in a bookstore depended on having a
category to print on the back cover. Was it self-help, spirituality,
careers, business? Who did she see as the audience for her
She asserted that she was creating a new paradigm, and if
I was going to help her, I needed to think more creatively.
My reply was to tell her I couldn't help her at all. Her idea
may have been brilliant, but no publisher was going to touch
Creating the perception that your product or service is one
of a kind can help you capture people's attention and make
them remember you. But you have to be able to identify the
people you want to reach and communicate how you can be of
service in words they can understand.
You know those car commercials that go, "Zoom, zoom,
zoom?" I had to see those ads dozens of times before
I could remember that the car being advertised was a Mazda.
"Zoom" was unique alright, but what did it have
to do with Mazda? Or with the benefits of owning one? A catchy
slogan like "Inspiration Beats Perspiration" may
be clever and unusual, but what the heck is it marketing?
Definitely look for a unique way to express the benefits you
offer to your clients, but make sure it still communicates
what you actually do. It's okay to get creative with your
marketing, but don't bet the rent money on untried techniques.
If you really want to make your marketing more effective,
cheaper and less stressful, stop re-inventing the wheel. Find
models that work and replicate them. I'm not suggesting that
you plagiarize your competitors' marketing copy, but when
you see someone successful in your field, find out what they
are doing right, and follow their lead.
Don't let your business be a victim of "terminal uniqueness"
- the belief that you are so different from anyone else that
none of the rules apply to you. Being distinctive is good;
being eccentric can be unwise.
C.J. Hayden is the author of Get Clients
NOW! Thousands of business owners and salespeople have used
her simple sales and marketing system to double or triple
their income. Get a free copy of "Five Secrets to Finding
All the Clients You'll Ever Need" at http://www.getclientsnow.com
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