It doesn’t matter whether a company is large or small, profit or non-profit, retail or manufacturing, services or product-driven, the number one marketing sin is still the same–being ordinary (or boring). In fact, virtually every market in every category is awash in a sea of sameness. We see the same products and services marketed in the same way to the same people–and then we have the audacity to wonder why our marketing isn’t effective.
For illustration’s sake, let’s look at the typical Chinese restaurant. I live in Germantown MD which is a little NW of Washington DC, which means that there must be at least 50 or more Chinese restaurants within a 15 minute drive of my home. I like Chinese food, but which one should I choose?
Clearly, I can’t figure out which one to go to based on their marketing tactics. Why? Because they all market the same way–by placing copies of their menu in my front or garage door–usually on a legal size or 11x 17 piece of white paper with red or green ink with both chinese and english writing in a tri-fold or quad-fold format with a couple of coupons attached at the bottom, right? Of course. How did I know? Because I’ve lived in New York, Chicago, LA and DC and I’ve seen the same marketing tactic in every single location.
So if you were running a Chinese restaurant, would you do the same? I hope not! Why? Because sameness is the enemy of being remarkable. By definition, you cannot be different or a market leader by being like everyone else. So if your marketing looks like everyone else’s, how are you going to stand out?
But more than marketing, being different is also about positioning as well. I’ve lived in Germantown now for almost nineteen years, but I can’t tell you (based on how they’ve marketed themselves) how one Chinese restaurant differs from any other. I can’t tell you which one is Cantonese or which one is Sichuan; which one is family style or which one is dim sum; which one is bowl or plate oriented or which one is healthy-oriented, which one is upscale or which one is pure fast food take-out. They all seem like the same (not that they are, it’s just that you wouldn’t know the differences based on anything they do outside of their restaurant).
But, enough of the Chinese restaurant referent point–how about you and your business? Are you positioned as being different than all your competitors? Or do you basically offer all of the same things that your competitors do–and even market to the same target in the same way?
More importantly, do the people you’re trying to market to see you as all the same? Or do they know the difference? And is the difference you offer so dramatically different than your competitors that none of your potential customers would confuse you with them?
I hope so because if you want to defeat marketing sin number one, you’ve got to be different. In fact, one of the easiest ways to do that is to take a look at what everyone else in your market space is doing–and then do the opposite. Sending out a copy of your menu (if you were a Chinese restaurant) might be easy to do, but it wouldn’t be remarkable. It would be ordinary. And that’s a sin in the world of marketing that would clearly be worth repenting of. So . . .
Be bold. Be different. Be outrageous. Be unique. Be remarkable!