How can you stand out?

photo by  pshutterbug

I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to target markets and how important they are to most small business owners.  Clearly the world is a big place and the more you can differentiate yourself and stand out, the more likely you’ll be the provider that gets the first shot at the business.

As an example, I was in St. Louis this past weekend and went to a store called Gringo Jones that’s in the Hill District.  If you like treasure hunting in a crowded, eclectic and interesting space, then Gringo Jones is the store for you.  Even from the street you could tell that this wasn’t a typical store, it’s in an old house and the front ‘porch’ area is packed to overflowing with all sorts of yard architecture making it a bit challenging to even get to the door!

I don’t know what their advertising or marketing was like, but just from experiencing it and word of mouth it was a different kind of store – and that made it memorable.

Should you arbitrarily pick your focus?

One of the real challenges that I’ve run into (both with my business and others) is that arbitrarily picking a particular market subset seems forced and unnatural.

There’s a reason for that…that’s because it is!

Another term for this focused target market is niche.  Here’s part of the definition of the ecological niche:

In ecology, a niche (pronounced “nich,” “neesh” or “nish”)[1] is a term describing the relational position of a species or population in its ecosystem[1]. A shorthand definition is that a niche is how an organism makes a living.

“A niche is how an organism makes a living.” 

When you look at it that way, then your niche is actually where you are most likely to flourish – it’s an organic, natural extension of what you are best at and who you work best with.

I’m currently reading Book Yourself Solid by Michael Port, a very good book so far that I would highly recommend.  He does a great job of explaining a different way of looking at your business that has a lot to do with recognizing and working to your strengths rather than an arbitrary market definition.

What struck me this afternoon was the chapter on establishing a personal brand – it’s the starting point for establishing your niche.  His suggestion for getting started is to break your personal brand into two components:

Your Who and Do What statement

This is often the focus of a standard 30 second commercial.  It’s simply who you work with and what you can do for them.

“I work with small business owners that are feeling overwhelmed, lonely or stuck and help them figure out how to control and grow their business using a 5 step process.”

My friend Toby at Brain Bucket works with small business owners that are embarrassed to answer the question “what’s your website?” and he helps them establish a strategic web presence that’s cost effective and easy to manage.

In a lot of cases, your Who and Do What statements may be shared or at least partially shared by a lot of other companies.  It’s really just an initial filter that listeners can use to see if you apply to them, where they are likely to get hooked is on…

Your Why You Do It statement

This is the reason why you do what you do.  It’s what will allow to potential prospect to make an emotional connection with you.  It’s what makes you authentic, interesting and congruent.

As an example, one of my clients – Dan Melton at NonProfit Technologies, has a fantastic Why You Do It statement:

“Inspired by the potential of the Internet for social change, Dan Melton formed NonProfit Technologies in 2002 to help nonprofits utilize the power of the world wide web.” 

Basically Dan passionately believes that there are better ways to help people and that a big part of that is creating a profitable business that can drive positive social change.  This belief drives what he does, how he does it and connects with his target market of public sector organizations.  They immediately resonate with his good intentions.

Another great example is a networking contact of mine who is a financial planner.  His compelling why is because he had first hand experience of people in his family that were harmed because they didn’t adequately plan for their financial and insurance needs and he would like to help others avoid what can be a truly terrible experience.

In both of these examples, the real intentions and the honesty shine through in all of their interactions, making them very compelling without any sort of clever ‘marketing’ hype.

If you really want to stand out, you need to figure out why you do what you do.  More than likely you’ve got a compelling reason – you just haven’t put it into words yet. 

Share your Why You Do It statement here – I would love to hear more examples!

Shawn Kinkade