How to differentiate yourself: for entrepreneurs, personal branders (which we all are) AND career professionals.

Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect. – Mark Twain

How do you cut through the noise out there for your business? The first basic step is to start with differentiation. But how do you go about differentiating your business (or yourself) from everyone else out there? When everything feels so cookie-cutter and uninteresting to your audiences, it’s time to shake things up. Start with these four simple tips! This video below is a part of a “Getting Back to the Basics” Marketing series – to help new / aspiring entrepreneurs, small business owners and those career professionals who are interested in personal branding, marketing and branding for themselves / their businesses. Check it out! What tips do you have to help differentiate yourself? We’d love to hear them below.

4 Simple Ways to Differentiate Yourself

  1. YOUR VOICE IN MESSAGING: In this sense when we’re talking about your voice, we’re really talking about what you’re saying out there and how you say it. How is your message that you’re putting out there different from what your competition is saying? Spend some fresh time reviewing your competition. Homework Assignment 1: Pick your top 5-7 and start tracking them. What are they saying out there and how are they saying it? Sign up for their email list (obviously with a personal / non-corporate email account), check out any available literature they have online, what they’re saying on their website and social media, etc. Start visually mapping out what your competitors are saying – what things are similar among them (and similar to what you say as well), and where are there valuable opportunities to say something different? Something your audience could respond to even better.Homework Assignment 2: Consider your Elevator Speech (yes, the ever-elusive Elevator Speech / Pitch). How can you stand out from your competitors? Consider what they all say when meeting new potential customers. Craft a message that quickly invites people to know, like and trust you – enough to pique their curiosity to speak to you later.

    Career Tip 1: If you’re a career professional, consider the messaging of your emails. Your presentations you do. Whatever deliverables you create – what message are you sending with them? How can that stand out from your colleagues / others to always show extra effort, extra insight or thoughtfulness?

  2. YOUR VISUAL APPEARANCE: How can you visually be different? As a continuation of that same homework exercise above, do this next: Homework Assignment 3: Take screenshots and save visuals that are unique to your competitors. Print them out, spread them out on the floor. Group them if things are similar. What do you notice? What can you see that you like – don’t like? Is everyone using a similar color, similar imagery, etc? Consider how could you get your message across visually but stand out from the pack? For example, if you’re a manufacturer and all of your competitors have boring blue backgrounds, an image of their machine, lots of cluttered bullet points, etc. on their ads / social media images, etc., maybe you should go left and use lots of white space. Get rid of the clutter. Create the feeling of “…aahhhh that’s nice” when your potential customer looks at you versus your competitor’s ad they just saw.Career Tip 2: Consider your personal appearance. You don’t have to be inappropriately better-dressed than everyone else in the office, but a slight upgrade in your style, a little more polish and care in your grooming can go a long way and make the right people sit up and take notice. Also consider the visual appearance of your deliverables as well – as noted in Tip 1.
  3. YOUR DELIVERY: What are your leave-behinds? How can you deliver something in a way that’s totally different from the things your customers see all the time from your competition (and otherwise)? If everybody’s still doing direct mail with a flat postcard, why not go for a small tchotchke  or trinket that’s 3D, sticks up in the pile of mail and has an interesting, intriguing packaging that says “open me” (a nod to the Alice & Wonderland days) or is personalized for them? In your sales presentations, what can you leave with a customer that they can keep on their desk that ties into your messaging? If you’re a service, consider all your touchpoints with a customer on your Customer Journey. Where can you delight and surprise where others typically don’t?Career Tip 3: As a professional, consider the delivery of your presentations. Even if you don’t have lots of opportunities to speak in this way, consider how you show up at meetings. Prepare to bring something valuable – always – to the table. A simple thing that inspired you recently that’s relevant to the project you’re all working on. A well-timed handwritten note to your boss or other exec in the company that’s genuine, short (and legible) yet thoughtful. All things that can go a long way.
  4. AUTHENTICITY: Being your own authentic self (as a solopreneur / personal brander or as a company with hundreds or thousands of people) – i.e. true to your core and your values – always shines through and is a differentiator. Nobody can be you. In all of your competitive research, consider your company’s personality. How can who you are, what you believe in, your “why” as a company infiltrate itself in every touchpoint your customer feels from you. Sometimes it’s in very subtle ways just with copy (i.e. the words you use in literature, your website, etc.) and other times it’s not so subtle and it can really be the core message of the story you tell in a video you create. Whatever you do, don’t forget who you are and use that for you. Let that be a key differentiator not only for your content marketing but also for how you behave as an organization. Companies that do this well – that create cultures that resonate true throughout the organization – see these results show up in their revenue, but most importantly, with the loyalty they have with their customers.Career Tip 4: Authenticity goes for you too. Don’t be afraid to bring the real you to the table (of course, the polished-up version though). Your thoughts, your opinions. Your values. Your ideas. It’s all quite valuable and means a lot more if it can come from an authentic place of passion. See if you can find ways to infuse your authentic self in your meetings, emails and presentations. Learn to tell relevant stories for situations that can help people understand your concepts better. All these things hit home with people. If you can win the hearts of your colleagues, teammates, etc., you’re on a wonderful path of leadership.

That’s it for today! Just four quick considerations for how to differentiate yourself. What ways can you think of to stand out from the crowd and cut through the noise out there? We’d love to hear them. Cheers and thanks!





Andrea D. Smith, The ADS Agency
Marketing & Branding Tips for Entrepreneurs & Career Professionals