Ever heard of ‘secret sauce’?
It’s essentially a blend of (possibly dodgy) sauces combined to make something altogether more mysterious.
As a small business owner or freelancer, your business needs to have its own secret sauce. But unlike the restaurant staple, your ingredients can’t afford to be anything less than organic & super-premium.
Something strange happens down at the crossroads…
Brian Clark of Copyblogger fame talks about what he calls ‘exceptional content’ being found at the ‘intersection between seemingly unrelated ideas’
The concept extends beyond content creation and through to how you position & market your freelance business – particularly in a crowded market.
Why you need to find your winning difference
“When you don’t have the leading brand, your best strategy is to create a new category in which you can claim leadership.” – 22 Immutable Laws of Branding
Finding your winning difference in a crowded, competitive market is inextricably linked to finding your niche, as Tara Gentile says in describing the space she’s carved in the saturated business podcast space:
“I knew that we could make something that was meaningful, necessary, and unique [so] we decided to focus on the little things, the things no one talks about […]”
The winning difference: What is it and why do you need one?
At Healthpreneur we’re advocates for the winning difference, which we define as:
That quality that only you possess and which magnetically attracts your ideal client to you. It ensures that you’re no longer transmitting on the ‘one-of-many’ frequency – instead communicating why you’re the one & only solution your ideal client is looking for.”
Wildly successful businesses are absolutely clear about their winning difference. They know the 1 single reason why people should come to them rather than opting for Katie, the nutritional therapist two doors down, or Erica, the pilates instructor who charges £10 less per session. (Anyone got Erica’s details? She sounds like a good option.)
The real beauty of defining your winning difference is that you’ll no longer need to justify your prices because you will be one of a kind, playing a game you invented (Quidditch anyone?) eliminating any grounds for competition.
How to pin down what sets your business apart
Thriving in a crowded market can seem like an uphill challenge but there are ways to quickly get a sense of what sets you apart from the competition.
Start by determining what your customers say about you. Sift through (or request) testimonials from past customers and review recurring themes & phrases.
How do they describe prospects they refer to you? What do they appreciate most about you and your services?
Ask your current & past customers the following questions, in person, on the phone or via a short survey sent to your email list (you’ve got one, right?). The answers will reveal why they chose you and will enable you to capture the exact language they use.
- Who referred you on to me and what did they say?
- Why did you choose me specifically for [your service]?
- If you were to refer me to a friend, what would you say?
The responses you get from open-ended questions like these are marketing gold so be sure to take notes, save the mails in a dedicated folder or record the calls/conversations (with the client’s permission of course, you’re not MI5).
Using ‘social listening’ to zero in on your winning difference
You won’t get a complete view of your winning difference from any single source but social media is an incredibly rich (and free) source of vital info. It allows you to perform 2 essential tasks:
- Listen in on conversations
- Join & contribute to those conversations
Putting your ear to the ground
Setting up social media ‘listening posts’ can give you a well-rounded view of your ideal client’s pains & preferences – which your winning difference must take into account.
Google Alerts: Set up an alert for new articles, blogs, news items, videos, books or discussions in your niche.
Google Trends: Searching for a specific term in Google Trends will give you an indication of interest levels over a time period you choose
Twitter lists: Setting up a ‘list’ in Twitter will allow you to monitor what competitors & industry leaders are talking about – and which of those topics generate interest
BuzzSumo: Monitoring popular content in your niche in BuzzSumo will reveal the topics most relevant to your target audience
Facebook/LinkedIn groups & Google+ Communities: Listening to conversations in relevant groups can reveal pains, gaps & possible intersections for your business.
Join the conversation
Being a part of the conversation is also important as it will allow you be helpful & establish yourself as a likeable subject matter expert. You’ll also be able to share content and suggestions and then gauge the community response.
A perfect example of this is to ask a simple question and monitor the responses:
Be careful not to influence the responses you get with questions that are too specific as you’ll likely end up with validation of what you already thought rather than the accurate answers you need.
Your winning difference: putting a stake in the ground
It’s easy to forget than online business is anything but static. Within that context, finding your winning difference is an iterative process of ongoing refinement and adjustment.
One thing that is stable though is the principle at the core of discovering and communicating what makes you different: your business should ‘take a position’ and put a stake in the ground if you want it to be remarkable – and remarkably successful.