Five Ways to Stand Out in a Sea of Noise
The odds are stacked against you. It’s true. I’m often amazed at how many people decide to try to build small businesses online, despite the odds.
Maybe it’s naivete. Maybe it’s egotism. Maybe it’s bravery. Probably it’s a combination of all three. I think you need all three to succeed as an entrepreneur.
Here’s how the odds are stacked against you: whatever space or niche or idea you decide to build your thing around, chances are there are hundreds or thousands of (or more) competitors out there already.
All these other players create a sea of noise that means your voice simply won’t be heard, even if you have something decent to say.
To succeed, we all have to believe deep down that things will be different for us; that we’ll somehow be able to stand out from that sea of noise.
You have to be heard by a lot of people if you expect to build something sustainable. Only a handful of competitors in your space will really pull it off.
It’s crazy to think you will be one of the few who get heard, but everyone who starts a blog or writes a book or launches a podcast or builds a business believes they’ll be heard over everyone else.
Yet most people jump in with nothing more than a vague idea of “trying harder” or “being better” than everybody else, hoping this is enough to rise above the noise.
Your plan doesn’t have to be complicated — most success stories in business start with simple ideas — but your plan does need to be intentional and specific.
I’ve seen hundreds of success stories over the past decade as an entrepreneur, and I’ve seen thousands of failures. Nothing will guarantee success, but these five strategies I’m about to share will serve you much more than a vague idea of “being better.”
1) DO SOMETHING REMARKABLE
The word remarkable doesn’t just mean “awesome.” Listen carefully: I’m not saying “do something awesome” here. Awesome isn’t specific enough, and it’s not attainable in the beginning. Your idea won’t inspire awe. You’re not capable of pulling that off.
Instead, you need to do something remarkable. Remarkable means “unusual or surprising : likely to be noticed.” Another definition reads “worthy of being or likely to be noticed especially as being uncommon or extraordinary.”
This is your best bet for standing out in a sea of noise. Marketing geeks might call this differentiation or a unique selling proposition.
The point is, you need to be noticed. The best way to do that is by creating something uncommon, unusual, extraordinary or surprising. Something different.
The best way to stand out in a sea of noise is by doing something uncommon, unusual, extraordinary or surprising. Do something remarkable.
“Hey, have you heard of that Dyson vacuum? They say it never loses suction and it doesn’t need a bag.” Uncommon, unusual, extraordinary, surprising. Remarkable.
Do something remarkable and you’ll stand out.
2) BORROW INFLUENCE
They say it’s not what you know, but who you know. If the thing you build isn’t exactly remarkable, you might be able to borrow influence and reach to get yourself heard.
With enough attention, your idea doesn’t have to be extraordinary. Even mediocre products find customers when they have a big reach. Celebrities prove this all the time with new clothing lines, perfumes and other junk that wouldn’t stand a chance if not for their influence and reach.
Without your own influence or reach, you’ll have to borrow from others. I have seen this work through both partnerships and old fashioned networking.
Meeting enough of the right people and convincing them to share a piece of their platform with you can put you on the map. It’s not an easy route (and most people aren’t cut out for it), but if you’re persuasive and persistent, this might be an option.
3) CARE MORE
You’ve probably noticed that most businesses don’t seem to care much about you. Crappy customer service is expected, and uninspired product experiences are the norm. This happens when companies don’t take enough responsibility for caring about the customer’s experience and outcomes.
Sometimes just caring more than your competitors can be enough. Zappos turned excellent customer service into a remarkable selling point. Freelancers excel when they are invested in their client’s results.
Empathy, appreciation, compassion and a general feeling of “we’re in this together” will get noticed by your customers. This leads to referrals and positive reviews.
Caring can be your company’s growth engine.
But this growth engine takes a long to rev up. In freelancing or services-based businesses, caring might work fast enough. In broader businesses, you’ll need to prime the pump with some other way to get noticed in the beginning.
4) SERVE LONGER
Standing out from the sea of noise in your space probably won’t happen overnight. You can use this to your advantage.
When many of your competitors get frustrated or bored and move on to other things, you can instead persevere. By staying focused and serving your audience long enough, you’ll gain insight and experience few others will have.
If you can keep a fresh perspective and stay motivated longer than most of your competition, your voice can eventually emerge as a leader. If you aren’t heard in the beginning for your new ideas, you could be heard later for your wisdom.
5) A COMBINATION OF ALL OF THE ABOVE
The best strategy is probably a combination of all four of the above: do something remarkable, borrow influence, care more and serve longer. This is Fizzle’s strategy and it is serving us well.
What’s your strategy for standing out from the sea of noise? What would you add to this list? Share your ideas here or elsewhere, what you say might help a fellow entrepreneur succeed.
A version of this article appeared at The Sparkline on April 29, 2015.