You must be different to stand out, but only different enough for your industry

I believe in order for a business to stand out, not just with content marketing, but marketing in general, you need to be different, you need to think beyond what everyone else is doing. Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t jump on trends, you absolutely should, after all they are a trend for a reason; whatever it is works and audiences seem to enjoy it. 

However, as is the nature with all trends and fads, they naturally start to dwindle over time, either disappearing never to be seen again, only momentarily revived during brief reminiscent conversation “remember when…”, or they become the norm, whereby everyone is doing them. Yet by this simple fact alone, their effectiveness somewhat diminishes with over saturation of similar content and activities by everyman and his dog. 

It’s very easy to fall into a false sense of security when we focus on trends and what’s popular, we assume that because this thing is everywhere then by simply taking part we will naturally see results. This may be true for some, but for many it isn’t.

As a business owner or professional marketer you’ll likely be aware of trends across the world as a whole; The Mannequin Challenge was widely adopted by many businesses to great effect, but while everyone in your industry is going left, you might want to consider looking to right. Let me explain.

Being different makes a difference. 

Whether you agree with that or not, you can’t deny that whomever is brave enough to break the mould, the status quo, will likely get a lot of attention. Of course, some will be negative, but some will also be positive. Lets also not forget how a trend begins; someone does something, other people see it, copy it, and all of a sudden the whole world joins in. Trends don’t happen without being different.

Now I’m not trying to encourage you start a trend, in fact I think if that is your goal starting out then you’ll likely fail, the same way I don’t believe you can orchestrate a viral piece of content. I think content goes viral because it lands at the right time in the right place, to the right group of people, something that is very hard to preplan.

What I do want you to start thinking about though, is how you can be different in your own industry. You don’t need to be revolutionary to stand out, what would be considered completely bonkers in one industry, might be fairly tame in another. 

Take the legal profession for example, the way legal services are marketed, on the whole, is fairly unimaginative and arguably old school - and I don’t think many lawyers out there would disagree with me. So imagine if a law firm started to do a Facebook Q&A live stream once a week, discussing topics that most lawyers would charge you £250 an hour to hear.

Is Facebook live anything unique? Absolutely not, in fact if they started that today they’d likely be considered a year or so late to the party. And yet in the context of that industry it is very different. Now this firm would likely get some criticism from other law firms: they shouldn’t be giving out this information so freely, or they’re exposing themselves to potential legal trouble by being seen to give out free, generalist advice. However, for their audience, their target customers, this information presented in this way, might be exactly what they needed to solve their particular predicament, and by being super helpful has now helped this firm secure several new clients and start to craft a new message around their brand. This firm hasn’t reinvented the wheel, in fact they’re not even close, however they have made themselves stand out from their competitors and the rest of the industry.

So by all means take part in the next Ice Bucket Challenge or Bottle Cap Challenge, enjoy yourself and grab the free attention while you can, but please start to think about what activities you can do and content you can make that is just a little bit different. Be bold, be brave, your business won’t suffer because you started a chat show with ex-criminals.

James Quayle