One of the biggest issues every business wrestles with is how to stand out from the crowd of competitors.
The frustratingly difficult part of selling our services is making those differences clear – to ourselves so we can communicate them and to others so they’re drawn to us.
We don’t want to chase after clients, nor do we want to compete on things like price.
So how do we uncover what truly makes us unique and communicate that in a way that gets the message across to those it will really resonate with?
Is it our offerings that make us unique? What about the results we deliver or the way we deliver them?
It’s actually none of that. Each of those things can be duplicated.
Sure being first to market can ensure our position in the minds of our audience but none of us is the first accountant, doctor, business coach, or marketing consultant in our community.
What makes us unique and unduplicatable is the unique cocktail that is our approach, philosophy, beliefs, values, mission, and drivers.
Simon Sinek’s great TED talk, “Start With Why” is a great starting point if you’re struggling to uncover and build a foundation that’s unique to you and you alone.
But identifying your Why is challenging.
I think we have three Why’s.
Your personal Whys. I’ve got many reasons I’m self-employed and lots of reasons I do the work I do. I believe service-professionals have a hard time fully articulating their Why because it’s so deeply ingrained in them. I’ve been asked why I do the work I do and I’ve asked others. And the answer among us is the same – “I have to. It’s my mission.” Or “It’s just what I do.”
We’ve been gifted with a set of unique talents that we spend a good part of our lives trying to identify and put to use.
And while we all share the same basic mission – To Serve Others – each of us is driven and motivated by different elements that keep us moving towards achieving the mission placed on our hearts.
Your work…your mission…even that of your firm as you work to build it…grows from within you. Ask yourself “why” in order to unearth it.
The Why for your Clients. I’ve got a Why or two for my clients. Sometimes it feels like I want their success more than they do.
I want my clients to create the independent lives they dream of. I want to see them joyfully using their skills and sharing them with the world. I want to see them experiencing the abundance they dream of.
On days (like today) when I’m staring at that blank page in front of me, trying to collect my thoughts, the thing that keeps me going is knowing someone needs my help to achieve their goals faster than they’d be able to do it without my help.
The Why for the World. I grew up in a small town in the most rural county in South Jersey. Less than 64,000 people live in the entire county. It’s a beautiful place. But the town is a ghost town. Full of boarded up buildings, vacant lots, and unemployed people who can’t or won’t leave.
When I was a kid, you could walk into town and buy virtually anything you wanted – from a new car to groceries to clothing. We had three grocery stores and every neighborhood had a little store that was family owned. My aunt and uncle owned one of those stores and their shop also sold fresh meat since my Uncle Johnny was a butcher.
It breaks my heart to go back home and drive through town and see nothing but broken windows and buildings that are falling apart.
In my heart, I think that helping my clients – most of whom are husbands and wives who work in their business together – is somehow an attempt to heal the hurt in that little town.
I’m crazy enough to believe that people should be able to be self-employed…to earn a handsome living being well-compensated for providing goods and services for others in their community, their region, or even around the world.
I also believe that communicating your uniqueness starts with understanding your Why, then communicating it in as many ways as you can.
So here’s what I think you can reflect on. And for those of you who are growing a business with a team – whether they’re employees or contractors – giving full voice to your why and sharing that with your staff, will help you become an employer who can choose from the best. People will come on board because they resonate with what you stand for and with how you do what you do.
OK, so here’s that list of what forms the foundation and framework of your why…
Your Beliefs – about people, about the work you do, about those you serve
Your approach – how you look at the problem you solve and then how you tackle it. I approach every sales problem from the mind of the buyer, not from the seller.
Your philosophy – According to Dictionary.com, a philosophy is “a particular system of thought based on study or investigation”; “the critical study of the basic principles and concepts of a particular branch of knowledge, especially with a view to improving or reconstituting them”; “a system of principles for guidance in practical affairs”; or “an attitude of rationality, patience, composure, and calm in the presence of troubles or annoyances.” We’ve all GOT a philosophy. We just don’t typically think about it. We just sort of react. But attracting clients is at its root, attracting people who share your beliefs and philosophy, so it’s important – even critical I think – to uncover and give voice to yours.
Your motivation – Yep, this is what drives you. It’s a combination of your personality (the way you’re wired), the problem(s) you’re trying to solve, and the wishes in your heart. One of my motivations is the dream that I’ll build a business big enough to have my sisters be able to work for me. My other motivation is knowing the difference I could make for people.
And I love solving a problem. It’s fun to see the possibilities and figure out the solution to make them a reality.
Your experiences – You’re who you are because of everything you went through to get here. There’s something(s) in your background that will help your best clients feel like you get them. They contribute to your Why as well as to the What and the How. As a professional you might not want to talk about the things you perceive as negatives in your background but those things you see as dark moments may prove to your clients that you’ve got what it takes to help them avoid those same dark spots they’ll face. No one wants diet tips from someone who’s never struggled with their weight right?
Your style – You’ve got one whether you want to admit it or not, and it can be important to your clients. An accountant is an accountant right? My accountant lives 500 miles from me and I refuse to go to anyone else. I love his style. He’s got the perfect demeanor for me and I’d rather work with him than someone a mile away.
Your approach – This is a little different from your style. Your approach is the method you follow…your system. THIS is often a big part of your difference. If you’re a service provider, naming your system will go along way to further differentiate you.
The role you play – Are you the Hero? The Visionary? The Cheerleader? The Problem Solver? Each of us usually plays one primary role which is centered on the core of our work (my clients tell me I’m their Problem Solver) and then there’s a secondary role that helps us in our approach.
When you’re feeling frustrated at your efforts to differentiate yourself, get back to basics and get more clarity around your Why. Then begin to incorporate that in your messaging. You’ll be surprised at how It can help you attract more clients and help them decide to buy.