Blend In, Then Stand Out!


“Dare to be the same!”

What?? Well, only at first…

A common marketing mistake of business owners is to try to establish how their business is different from others in the marketplace before establishing how their business is the same.

Really?  But isn’t that how you compete, by showing how you are different?

Indeed – it may be the logical way to compete, but the human nature principle at work here is not about logic.  In fact it has nothing to do with our logical brain at all.  Beneath our upper or logical brain (or cortex) is some biology that is way older – our mammalian or limbic brain.  This part of our brain seeks to keep us safe by looking for the “herd”. What mammal doesn’t feel safest when it is surrounded by it’s own kind, among its familiar herd?  Despite the existence of our more advanced logical brain then, our mammal brain still makes it so we feel safest when we are with the herd that we know.  This plays a huge role in whether we feel comfortable with just about everything in our environment, and certainly with the products and service providers we trust enough to buy or use.

Because of this, when someone is shopping around for a particular item or service, the first thing the shopper looks for is someone who offers the product or service that fits the image they see or imagine for it.

So the first step for your target audience is to “find the herd.”  And the first step for you is to make sure you’re part of that herd! (That’s the punchline of this whole article)

Take me, for example: I often distinguish myself as an IP attorney who provides great client service, and who offers special knowledge and creativity in the realm of business strategy as it relates to IP.   The problem is, if I market myself as “the guy with great business strategy for IP,” when someone out there is looking for “an IP lawyer,” he or she would probably look right past my site and marketing materials, trying to find something more familiar, more expected.  That person will, however, probably notice my competitors who more immediately appear to be part of the “regular IP lawyer” herd.

So in marketing my own business, rather than having the customer service or the special client interaction speak first, what needs to come across first implicitly is: “I am an IP lawyer.  I am that person you imagine when you think of an IP lawyer.  I have the schooling, credentials, and expertise that you imagine an IP lawyer should have.  Yes, I am ‘one of the herd’ that you are looking for to get your idea protected.”  Only after that message is fully received by the prospective client can the message of how I stand out from the herd come through!

Example 1: Imagine if you offered a ground-breaking eating plan for losing weight, and your target audience are people who are looking to go on a diet.  You might know that what you offer is so much better than a diet.  But if you are too adamant up front with the message “we are not a diet,” someone searching for diets will never give you the chance to explain that you offer what they are looking for and so much more!

Example 2: A fitness trainer who has a unique exercise methodology can describe that methodology first.  But clients who are looking for a fitness trainer must recognize you as a fitness trainer first.  That establishes a baseline of safety.  And then they can ask, “What makes you different?”

And that’s the message for today:

1. Suffiiciently establish yourself as “one of the herd” or “part of the group,” so that your customer knows they have come to the right place, and then

2. Present your differentiating message.

Or quite simply: Blend in. Then Stand Out!

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