Break the mold, or at least put a significant crack in it!

define your noticeable difference

I heard someone say, “Being different is better than being better.”

I think there is a lot of truth in that and the more I thought about it, the more quotes on being different came to mind. First was the old tagline of Apple Computer: Think Different. Next, I remembered a famous lyric from the classic Sly and the Family Stone song, “Everyday People”: Different strokes for different folks.

A little online research turned up a variation of my original quote: Being different is more important than being better.

All of this emphasis on being different should be comforting to small business owners. While I don’t want to discourage you from innovating, you should take heart in the fact that even if you can’t make your product or service significantly better than what is offered by every other provider, you should be able to find a way to make it different. Then, due to Sly Stone’s reasoning (different strokes for different folks), with the right marketing you should be able to get your “different” offering in front of the “different folks” to which it will appeal.

Here’s a very simple and practical example of this. For years, athletic apparel makers have made and marketed shirts imprinted with their logos. I’m sure you know that, but here’s the part you probably don’t know. For the longest time, they would put a big logo on the back side of their shirts and a small logo on the front.

Dan Caldwell, founder of TapouT – a line of clothing originally associated with mixed martial arts competition – decided to start putting oversized TapoutT logos on the front of their shirts. He wanted to be different. He wanted to stand out from the crowd. The big logo, of course, also made it easier to spot his company’s clothes.

MMA fans, as you can probably imagine, tend to be folks who appreciate a bit of “in-your-face” attitude and the big, bold TapouT logo emblazoned across the front of these shirts struck a nerve with this group and sales increased significantly.

Some of us might have called in a team of professional designers to redesign our logo but the simple strategy of “just make the darn thing way bigger” won the day.

There is one important lesson that goes along with the principle of being different that is illustrated with the above example: People must be able to see your difference. I’ve talked a lot about the importance of creating a noticeable difference; today I want to really put the emphasis on the “noticeable” part of that.

Differences that go unnoticed – even if they improve your product or service – won’t move the needle on your sales or profitability.

Here’s another quick example I’d like to share before you go your own way and start brainstorming your own noticeable difference:

There were good MP3 players before Apple introduced the iPod. One element of the iPod design that assured its success was its white headphones. Those little white wires were the difference that let everyone know you owned an Apple iPod…and it was a difference that millions of people wanted to wear as a badge of style and hipness.