If you’ve ever wanted to stand out from the crowd and create a competitive edge no doubt a well-meaning advisor may have said ‘be different!’ Whilst this may be useful advice for some, in terms of reputation branding, it’s not necessarily a smart strategy to follow.
Novelty and innovation can set you apart, attract attention and make you memorable – for a time. The downside of this is that being different and straying too far from the accepted norm can raise doubts in the minds of those you most want to influence.
Being different is risky. Being distinctive, on the other hand, can make you memorable for all the right reasons, help differentiate yourself from your competitors and enhance your competitive edge if whatever it is that makes you distinctive is viewed positively. If the distinction is not viewed positively, it can leave you being perceived as odd, strange or risky. Inappropriate differentiation can raise doubts that can be hard to overcome.
So how can you create a positively distinctive edge without being riskily different?
- Highlight subtle, but significant, differences. Draw attention to a subtle point of difference that similar providers aren’t highlighting. For example, several years ago, following reports of assaults by taxi-drivers of women passengers, a taxi firm actively promoted the fact that all its drivers were women who had been police checked. A memorable, distinctive reinforcement of what made them different without being too different.
- DO sweat the small stuff! Author Richard Carlson’s book urged us to ‘Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff’. However, sweating ‘the small stuff’ is hugely important from a reputation branding perspective! Focus on the details and ensure every element of your customer’s experience with you makes them feel valued and respected, and is consistent with the promises you make.
- Adopt a philosophy of ‘Best-Plus’. Commit, not only to being the best in your field, but also to identifying and delivering extras, or ‘pluses’ that will help you be perceived as innovative and client-focused. These are often right under our noses if we open ourselves up to noticing them.
Of course, being distinctive attracts attention. Be prepared for others to copy you. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but to remain distinctive ongoing effort is required and a willingness to push the boundaries within acceptable levels.
Copyright Hannah Samuel. Originally published in Reputationz Newsletter May 2010 by Hannah Samuel, The Reputation Champion. www.hannahsamuel.com