It's frustrating not being able to break away from the clutter, to be noticed, to stand out from a sea of competitors.

Everyone is telling you that differentiation is critical, yet no one talks about the HOW.

In this session, 7 submitters were selected for LIVE laser coaching around radical differentiation.

In this session, Louis Grenier of Everyone Hates Marketers, helps The Marketing Meetup community stand out through solving their positioning challenges, answering the question “how to make your business stand out from the crowd”.

For more from Louis Grenier, his newsletter is heavily recommended!

Key takeaways on getting the clarity you need to stand the **** out

  • People don’t pick the “best” option, but the least risky
  • Be radically different by being the only brand in your category that offers specific value to a specific group of people.
  • Radical differentiation is the engine to get you off the ground. One you reach a certain level (ex. you become the market leader in your space), radical differentiation no longer matters as much as distinctiveness and share of voice.
  • Don’t just ask customers what they love, but what they hate about companies in your space, and ask about their past experiences and what caused them to buy into one company over another.
  • You don’t normally need to capture a large portion of the market to be profitable. Even capturing 0.1% of your market at first is enough to get you off the ground.
  • Speak your customers’ language and demonstrate that you understand their journey.

Problem: I know I need to niche, but how do I identify it without missing out on business?

I’m struggling to identify the one service that I’m proficient enough in, that’s in demand and makes sense money-wise to niche down in.

Some Background: I’m a generalist marketer and for over 10 years I was often the only marketing person in the office working with measly budgets, so I learnt to create and manage websites and landing pages, run email marketing campaigns, manage social media, produce content in all sorts of formats, do SEO, PR, create strategies and funnels, run PPC and social ads, create visuals using PhotoShop, etc.

Covid has pushed me to launch my own digital marketing business. I already niched down to target the healthcare market (I’m a nurse grad that switched to marketing – so it’s a sector I’m comfortable with).

I’m REALLY struggling to pick a channel to the point that I feel paralysed by worry and fear. I’m afraid to pick something incorrectly and waste valuable time and resources by consequence. I’m a small business (1 man band) and I can’t afford to fail yet. Equally, being unable to make a decision is holding me back too. Eternal limbo.

Answer:

Your challenge is super common. You want to make the right choice, but you’re afraid by niching down too much you won’t have the market to make ends meet.

So, the first thing to know is the path to excellence in whatever form you choose comes with trade-offs. You’ve started to do that with healthcare, but I think you can go further.

So, how do you pick the right market and niching down?

The answer lies in the answer to the question: what are you missing out on by ‘not’ niching down on a particular sector?

You will be missing out on:

  • Expertise: The opportunity to learn about and get better at a specific thing every day.
  • Money: Specialty correlates to people’s perceptions of your value. The better you become, the more you can earn.
  • And very importantly, satisficing: This concept speaks to the idea that most people when purchasing products or solutions will not be looking for the ‘best’ option, they choose the ‘least risky’ option (no one gets sacked for hiring IBM!). In this case, the least risky option would be a person who specialises in the specific solution to the problem that exists. If you are more generic, there may be more options that are more specific to you.
    On niching down on service

Louis recommends rather than thinking ‘I do video’ or ‘websites’ or ‘SEO’, you begin to think in terms of ‘jobs to be done’. This idea is all about the thought that people don’t buy a service – they buy a solution to a job that needs to be completed (and therefore a result.) Ultimately, what makes them say ‘I want someone like you!’. Note: this is a ‘trigger’ – these are the pain points that compel someone to get in touch!

Once you understand that step, you can get excited about helping people do the job that they want to complete.

 

Problem: How can I make my marketing agency stand out?

We’re an agency… last time I checked there are quite a lot of those 😉 How can we stand out in a sea of sameness? We leaned into SaaS and it’s working pretty well. But if you read our homepage copy what else could we do? We have the masters of SaaS podcast too, it’s growing pretty fast but what else could we do to stand out?

Answer:

The market you are going after is important, but there is another layer.

Start by looking at the customers you have, and then rank them across four dimensions:

  • Access – Do you have access to a lot of the people you want to be working with? A community, a podcast, a blog?
  • Joy – Do you enjoy working with them?
  • Money – Can they pay you?
  • Pain – Is it a ‘bleeding neck’ problem, does the thing you solve need to be done today or is it a ‘nice to have?’

Louis recommends not just looking at the industry in general, but instead to individual clients. For example, if you were in the SaaS space, is there specific elements that make you have moe joy in working with specific SaaS businesses? It requires a bit of investigation, but these make the big differences.

Really, what we’re speaking about is psychographics: the dreams, pains and exciting things that these specific people have. (Adele Revella spoke about this wonderfully, recently).

To find the psychographic points, speak to your clients, listening not to sell, but to just hear them out. Listen out for:

  • Triggers: What makes you start your search to solve the pain?
  • How did they go about finding you?
  • The number one thing they can do with you they couldn’t before you?
  • What is the one thing they love about you?
  • What do you hate the most about the category we operate in? (This question will allow you to remove yourself from what people hate, and doubling down on what they love)

Fundamentally, you’re working to a place where you able to answer the question, ‘what does a customer need to believe to be able to buy from you?’.

By the way though… Your customers will not tell you everything! You also need to lean on intuition! Louis calls this the ‘irrational spice’ that you can double/triple down on. Think the ‘meerkat’ from Compare the Market.

 

Problem: How can I get noticed while staying professional?

My niche product is for treasurers and membership secretaries of sports and other hobby clubs. These people are volunteers, giving their free time, across a wide range of ages. Search volume for related keywords is low (tens per month).

In this sector, bland marketing is rife. I should be able to ‘stand the f*** out, but how can I get noticed without offending people and remaining professional?

Answer:

People think that ‘professional’ is suits, formality and business language.

Professional is about respect for others. Not considering yourself above others.

You can remain professional without wearing a suit. You can remain professional while swearing. So long as you are there to serve others.

What you can’t do is stand out by doing the same thing as everyone else. You have to lean on others, what they’re doing, and then do something different. Here’s the exercise:

  • List down your competitors
  • Write down what they are doing right now
  • What do they say
  • Where are they?
  • What colour do they use?
  • What does their website do?
  • Then, write down what they’re NOT doing, but what is the opposite, and the gaps?

You can also try listing the companies you admire and doing the same exercise.

You’re trying to find the place where you’re being too ‘something’ as this will be attractive to the right people.

  • Too nice
  • Too expensive
  • Too cheap
  • Too direct
  • Etc

The important thing here is that you’re also using the customer research to inform you on where this direction might be. Again, it’s about a combination of intuition and research. If you’ve got butterflies, it’s a good thing to do! There is no room for anything but all in on any direction.

 

Problem: How can I find my niche without speaking to my customers?

Our product message/positioning clarity is the number one thing.

Firstly why should or would anyone care about snacks? Usually, they’re a convenience thing picked up when you are hungry and don’t have time for real food. But we are D2C brand so not on supermarket shelves yet.

For us the product itself is so different it’s confusing how do we get specific, and choose just one thing to consistently communicate. We are spoilt for choice with what we can offer.

Being a marketer in a team of one… it’s hard to know if I’m doing the right thing, or if it is too much clutter and the positioning is unclear.

I want to do some research and ask people, previous consumers (before the rebrand we were called satisfying snacks and were being sold for a year or two before I came on board)… but the boss isn’t the biggest fan of speaking to consumers cos she thinks they often don’t know what they want or need or care about. Feels like a catch 22 as am doing my best with what I’ve got.

I guess my concern is how to best do my job without consumer input. I know as a marketer the best thing I could do right now is just talking to the customers, but if the boss isn’t keen, how do I just do what I think is best and know how to position the brand properly?

Answer:

Without meaning to be too cynical, people care about one thing: themselves.

Purchasing depends on a combination of mental and physical availability at the point of purchase.

It’s a little concerning you can’t speak to customers, because there are two ways to get good data:

  • To speak to your customers of yours
  • To speak to customers of direct competitors.

In this case, you either need to ask for forgiveness at a later date or bring in your boss to one interview so they can see the access, pain, joy, or money trends that will apply to your customer base.

In the startup world, your customers are likely to be innovators and/or early adopters. But you have to find the commonality in those people.

Something Louis points out is that once you have the initial pain, and the initial audience, you can then go forwards and add a larger group of people over time, but in the first instance, it’s about solving the needs of those initial people perfectly.

But what about those who say ‘But Henry Ford said if you asked people what they want they would want faster horses?’. That’s part of the problem: you don’t ask people what they want – you ask them about the journey that took them to the place to buy the product from you?

 

Problem: How can I market to my niche while operating against cultural taboos?

I market to older adults & disabled people (future-proofing & adapting their homes), and more specifically promoting Japanese loos as a game-changer (my personal obsession).

Navigating the evident stigmas associated with marketing to both these complex but highly lucrative sectors is hard, especially when break down cultural barriers that surround ageing, disability & having a poo. How can I go about disrupting the space while also playing within these restrictions?

Answer:

Human nature is to be reactive rather than proactive. For example, there was a study completed that showed people only made a change once there was a significant event that put into focus a specific issue [when it came to issues of accessibility] rather than thinking ahead. Louis doesn’t know whether you can fight that.

With this problem, the future is therefore content marketing. Optimising for channels where you’re attracting people who already believe what you believe, such as content marketing.

Start with the pain, the ailment that people are experiencing. Then, use the language that your customers use when they describe the pain. One way you might be able to do this is to interview the customer, get the transcript, and then use their language exactly back to them.

Helping people to their own conclusions may also work by having a page on your website where people can also self-select their own path and you become the facilitator in the process, which also helps.

Finally, people lean on what they already know to describe things. For example, a Japanese Loo may be better described as an ‘innovative loo’ (granted, not the best example!), because users are far more likely to be familiar with this language already, and it’s, therefore, less likely to be a big mental step for them to take to buy from you.

 

Problem: How do I stand out in an industry dominated by some big competitors?

Positioning and messaging. It’s a pretty noisy industry, the virtual & hybrid event one. Thankfully, everybody is talking about the same things – “engaging virtual and hybrid events”, “on-brand inspiring events”, etc.. Everybody is showing the same creatives of people on screens talking to someone. So the opportunity is there.

There are some big fish in the industry (Hopin, Hubilo, Welcome, cvent) so like so many others, we are not a market leader.

We have a hypothesis of where to focus geographically and psychographically (to a smaller extent, unfortunately) that we’ll be testing but the messaging is still not locked in entirely. I do have some ideas though. Would love to go deeper into the messaging bit and potentially identify an original angle. One that, well, stands out.

Answer:

Every industry that has money is going to be busy.

So, here is the radical differentiation formula:

“We are the only {category} for {provides value} for {specific market}”.

For example:

  • We are the only brush that detangles hair for people with curls
  • We are the only gaming console that streams directly through twitch for hardcore streamers
  • Etc

The key question to ask, therefore, are there any key differences in the market that you can therefore serve? Are your customers underserves in one way, shape or form?

You can’t come up with it yourself, but you can find out via interviews, or through competitor research.

Start small, and then build yourself up as you go within your category, rather than the other way around.

Bringing this to life…

Louis spoke through an example where Adele Revella, through research, found there was a section of the small business community who were terrified of going to jail if their taxes weren’t paid properly.

An accounting company were, therefore, able to double down on this space, using this insight as to the thing they double-downed on for their messaging. The rest, as they say, is history.

 

Problem: How can I pick the message that is going to help us stand out?

We want to be known as a healthy snack brand but not only we are shifting to a broader interest: holistic wellbeing. it is sometimes difficult to choose our brand story: a superfood used in Ayurveda? Conscious snacking? Two French chef foodie sisters?

On which message should we focus? At the moment we use “bite into wellbeing” on our website. Is this what should come first?

Answer:

There are 4 great filters in marketing.

  • You have to be noticed
  • You have to be remembered
  • You need to be remembered in buying situations
  • You need to be talked about

In the cast of this problem: the first layer of being noticed, you have to obsess about. You need to be irrational in one dimension (too cheesy, too nice, too horrible etc) – it doesn’t need to make sense logically.

The Von Restorff effect dictates that if you place a number of similar items next to each other, and then one that is noticeably different (even on one dimension) – that’s the one people will notice.

The question that needs to be asked, therefore, is ‘What do customers notice about us?’, ‘What do they comment on?’

At this point, you can double down on that thing. In this specific case, that might be about two sisters working together, but it could be something else, too. Whatever it is, double down on it.

This event was live on 20 Jul 2021, 08:30