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In a world where everyone can get their message out for free, how do you stand out? You need to start with yourself, and this article by Simon Young will show you how.

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In a world where everyone can get their message out for free, how do you stand out?

You need to start with yourself, says Simon Young in this month's Generator.

* * *

It’s really easy to get absorbed in our current project or that dream project that we forget to make the next project happen - the next paid project that is!

Marketing is one of those things that we often put off because:

  • It feels like it will be hard or complicated
  • We don’t have money
  • We don’t have time
  • We don’t know where to start

The truth is, it’s never been easier to reach an audience at little or no cost. The tools that were once solely in the hands of professionals are now in everyone’s hands. And there’s the trouble - everyone has access to these tools, so how do we stand apart?

The answer is not in gadgets or tools, it’s in the software between our ears - our brains. Particularly, our mindsets.

The first thing you need to know is what makes you different from everyone else. Nothing exists in a vacuum - this includes you.

To know what makes you different, you need to know what ‘everyone else’ looks like. This means a few different things:

  • You need to define your niche. What field do you play in?
  • You need to know who else is offering what you’re offering.
  • You need to know what you do best, or at least uniquely.

These are almost trick questions, because it’s easy to answer them in a way that’s shallow and unhelpful. Let’s tackle them one by one.

Defining your niche

What exactly do you do? In business, this is best defined as 'what problem do you solve?'

It’s really important to answer this question from the customer’s point of view, not just your own idea of an industry or discipline.

For example, in the early 20th century, the railroad companies assumed they were in the railroad business, and that their competitors were other railroad companies. Wrong. Their competition was any way of transporting people and goods from one destination to the other. They looked at the situation from their own perspective, instead of seeing it from the customer’s.

Is it possible to define your niche as an artist? After all, what 'needs' are solved by a piece of art? One way to think of it is to ask “what do your clients/customers/patrons also think of when they think of me?”

Who else is offering what I’m offering?

Of course, we want them to think of us in our own special category, but it’s often not the way real life happens! One way or another, we need to understand who else is being considered when people think about us.

These people don’t necessarily need to be our competitors. Sometimes there is enough of a difference in what we do, and what these others do, for them to be potential collaborators.

For example, you teach courses in public speaking. You discover you’re being considered against someone who runs media training for TV. In your customer’s mind, these areas are very close. You know there are significant differences, but you use the opportunity to forge a relationship with the media training provider, and refer work to each other.

What makes me stand out?

This is the part where we face all our insecurities and fears, and honestly assess what we have to offer that’s unique.

Sometimes we have one thing that’s unique about us. For example, we are the best violinist in Timaru.

More often, our uniqueness comes from combination. We are the only violinist who plays while riding the unicycle, for example. In fact, if your skill or offering combines two familiar ideas in a unique way, you’re more likely to succeed, because everyone knows (for example) violinists and unicyclists, so you don’t have to educate them about either subject, just wow them with the way you combine the two.

(Update: I’m sorry, there is a 10-year-old kid who already does the unicycle-violin thing. Back to the drawing board, if you were taking this article too literally!)

Know what you’re (really) about

The 21st century moves fast. You can’t assume you’ll be doing the same thing this year as last year. It’s important to know yourself very well, and discover the underlying drivers behind what you do - the things that stay the same, no matter what way you express them.

For example, I discovered that my main motivator in life is to help people see things in new and unexpected ways. This comes into play whether I’m writing an article, leading a workshop or just chatting with a friend.

Knowing what you’re about as a person helps inform your work, and helps you ensure your marketing is authentic. That, more than anything, will be your greatest way to stand out.

Written by

sy social media consultancy

10 May 2011

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