One of my favorite books of all time is Purple Cow by Seth Godin.
In it, Seth describes that the key to success is to find a way to stand out—to be the purple cow in a field of monochrome Holsteins. (Holstein is a breed of cow. I looked it up.) Seth’s description really resonates with me because looking back at my entrepreneurial journey, that’s exactly what I’ve always done—I have always purposely tried to stand out from the crowd.
Let’s look at two examples of how you can stand out as a business. One example is from a company brand, and the other is from my experience as a personal brand.
Branding Case Study #1: Zappos
When you’re trying to make an online presence, whether it’s on a blog, with a business, on a social network, whatever—there’s one thing you have to ask yourself about what you’re doing: what do you have to offer that makes you stand out from the crowd?
Entrepreneurs who know the answer to this question, take advantage of it and showcase it, are the ones who become successful. In other words, they take what they know how to do and what makes them unique and they “milk it”.
You don’t have to come up with a unique product, idea, or blog to be successful – don’t misinterpret what I’m trying to say. All you have to do is make sure there’s a reason why people should visit your website, read your book, or buy your product. Do this, and you’ll get your followers and beat your competitors.
Zappos.com, which you’ve most likely heard of already, is a web-based company that sells shoes online. They entered the market when there were quite a few other shoe selling websites. But, even so, Zappos.com is a huge success. Why? Because they figured out how to stand out from the crowd with their great customer service. Some even call it “over the top” customer service, and they make sure to let people know this is what they are all about.
There are a bunch of viral stories out there about what some Zappos customer service agents have done for their customers. These include, among other things:
- Free shipping and returns
- 365-day return policy
- Order as late as midnight and the shoes will be delivered before breakfast
- If they don’t have the shoes you want, a Zappo’s customer employee will call competitors and track down the shoes for you.
Have you ever visited a company website where the contact info is “buried” somewhere you can’t find it? You get the impression, probably rightly so, that they don’t really want you to call them. Because you’re a bother. You’d take up their time. They’d have to pay more customer service representatives to take all of the calls.
But Zappos is different. On the Zappos website, the customer service number is on EVERY PAGE. They want customers to call them. They want to help. In addition, when someone does call, the customer service reps can stay on the call as long as it takes, and make management-level decisions on the best way to help customers and provide solutions. They don’t have to check with their manager to provide a refund or accept special-case returns. Customers will always find a friendly voice on the other end of the line.
This differentiator has made Zappos extremely successful. They found their “thing” and milked it for all its worth. They not only have great customer service, but it’s also quirky and fun. They give their employees the freedom to be themselves, make decisions, and help customers in any way they can.
If you have a company brand, think about what makes your company different than the others. How can you stand out? Once you decide what that one “thing” is, then milk it!
Branding Case Study #2: Smart Passive Income
I'm including SPI as a case study because it's the personal brand I know the most about:)! Plus, how I've tried to build SPI, I've done some things that I think will be helpful to you as you build your own brand. I've shared my story throughout this guide, but here are a few more specific things that I want to point out.
If you’re a personal brand, there’s one thing that you have, one thing that you possess right now that is so unique, no one else in the world has it. If you can harness this and utilize it for your own blog or business, nothing can stop you.
What is it?
Nobody in this world is just like you. No one has shared the exact same experiences, has the exact same tastes and understands the world just like you, so don’t be afraid to be yourself sometimes. This is why your story is important too.
Hopefully, this mental exercise will be thought-provoking and help you remind yourself why you’re business or blog is unique, or help you realize that you need to do something to stop blending in.
In fact, you may be reading this guide today because there was something I did, or something on my Instagram Story that one day made you think that I was different from the hundreds of thousands of other people talking about entrepreneurship and making money online.
Here are some examples of how I purposely try to stand out from the crowd:
- I’m not afraid to tell my story.
- I’m honest and I try to stay humble.
- I talk about my failures and struggles as much as I do about my wins and successes.
- I’m transparent. I try to be honest about what’s not working in my business, and why.
- I connect with my audience as much as possible, by commenting in the various SPI Facebook groups, sending emails, following up on comments, taking the time to snap a selfie with a fan when I’m at conferences.
Early on in my business, I started giving real-life examples and tips about online marketing from my own experience, and I got fairly detailed about what I was doing. For a while, I was offering monthly income reports on my blog. A lot of people have told me they enjoyed seeing my exact income report numbers and reading the details about what I was doing to increase my earnings online and plan for a successful future.
My point is, know what you’re good at, know what you bring to the table that others cannot (or don’t do as well), and make it your own marketing tool.
Once, when I was en route to Austin, Texas (my first time there!) to meet with my mastermind group for a few days, something funny happened.
While sitting in Terminal 1, Gate 9 at the San Diego airport, listening to a podcast (the Tim Ferriss Podcast. Not for your super young kids, but it’s awesome!), and a woman who I have never met before walked up to me, smiled and waved.
I took off my earbuds and then she said, “Hi Pat!”
Rarely does anyone ever come up to me in public and talk about what I do online. When it has happened, it’s really weird to me and I don’t think I could ever get used to it.
It’s flattering—don’t get me wrong—and I appreciate it very much, but it doesn’t make me feel like a “rock star”.
Plus, my wife once said to me, “If your head grows too big I won’t be there to support it for you.”
I love her for that. Seriously.
While attending blogging and business conferences, however, people who I’ve never met before come up to me all of the time, since I’m in a place where my audience is gathered already.
The first time someone approached me, he started asking questions like he knew me, and I started to freak out because I knew nothing about this person who seemed to know so much about me.
That was scary.
But, when this kept happening over and over again, I realized that everything I was doing online to build a relationship with my audience—the blog, the podcast and the videos, the stories within and the personalization of my content, it was working!
I realized that I was making real connections and building real relationships with real people through my content, and instead of being scared, I was thankful for those moments.
I became proud of my work.
And I became humbled as well.
“Hi!” I replied to the woman at the airport.
“Hi Pat, I’m Jean! I listen to your podcast all of the time! Thank you for what you do…I was in marching band in the 80s and played the trumpet too, I heard you mention it at the beginning of one of your podcasts.”
Jean and I ended up chatting for over half an hour about random things—mostly marching band and trumpet related stuff—until I had to board my plane.
It was such a fun conversation!
Sitting on the plane, I thought about how that conversation started and it was interesting that out of all the things to say first, she mentioned the marching band.
But it also makes complete sense, because it’s one thing she knew we both had in common.
And They Told Me I Was Stupid…
When I first started my podcast, there was a lot on my list of things to do. One of those things was to create an intro that would play at the beginning of each episode.
Because I didn’t like listening to the same intro over and over again on other podcasts (I would often fast-forward through them), I had an idea to include a different intro each time, specifically by having my voiceover guy introduce a new, random fact about me at the start of each episode.
When I shared this idea with my online business colleagues—some who had podcasts already, some who did not—nobody got it.
They would say things like: “Pat, you’re wasting your time and money. Focus on the meat and content of your show instead.”
I also heard: “Nobody will care or remember these random facts about you. It’s at the start of your show, and you said it yourself…it’s random.”
And one person, who I trusted (and still do), replied with:
“Pat, don’t be stupid.”
Well, I did it anyway.
Fast forward nearly ten years later with a top-rated business podcast and 8 million downloads, those same exact people who doubted my choice have since told me how smart I was to do it.
When I think back to the conversations I’ve had with people who have come up to me at conferences, a couple of things come to mind:
1. They almost always mention the podcast—never the blog anymore. When I realized this at New Media Expo in early 2013, I switched from a bi-weekly show to publishing an episode once a week.
A podcast is an incredible way to make a personal connection with several people at the same time.
(If you’d like help starting a podcast, check out my free step-by-step podcasting tutorial! No cost or email opt-in required.)
2. Within those conversations, I would say that one of those random facts from the introduction of my show is mentioned 50% of the time.
That’s a lot.
People ask me about my fantasy football team, my marching band career, when I was a DJ, how I was 11 lbs. 12 oz. when I was born, and the one thing that seems to resonate with the most people—my love for Back to the Future, my all-time favorite movie.
When I get deeper into those conversations, I find out that they remember those things because they experienced or enjoy those things too, or know someone close to them who has.
These random things that seem to have absolutely no relevance to the topic of my blog or podcast are making all the difference in the world when it comes to connecting with my audience.
Therefore, it actually has all the relevance in the world to what I do online.
It’s okay to share bits and pieces of your life with people—and actually—you’d be doing yourself and your audience a disservice if you don’t.
Your hobbies, your interests and other things outside of the topic of your blog, you may feel like it doesn’t matter—that’s it’s wasted space on your blog or podcast—but it does matter.
It’s like that ice breaker during the first day of summer camp.
People connect with real people, and this is a quick and easy way to show that you’re a real person online—a place where people are often not being real and are afraid to show exactly who they are.
Although your audience may not connect with everything you have share, it only takes that one shared experience—that one time at band camp—to make people remember you and keep coming back.
So how are you supposed to share bits and pieces of yourself with your audience?
For me, I chose to do it regularly during the intro of my podcast, but you don’t have to do it that way. Plus, I’ll be honest, it does take some work to do it this way.
The intro to each new episode is edited—I can’t just copy and paste an intro from a previous episode—and I have to work with my voiceover guy to get them done ahead of time.
It’s worth it to me though.
Here are some other ideas for you:
- You can share bits and pieces of yourself on social media, on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
- As interesting things come up in your life, mention them in your podcast episodes or blog posts, and if you can interweave those happenings with your topic and content, even better!
- Create an entire blog post or podcast episode that is devoted just for helping people get to know more about who you are, like this one from Scott Dinsmore from Live Your Legend.
- If you do any public speaking, inserting bits and pieces of your real life into your presentation can help add flavor to your talk, and make a connection that will keep people’s attention and keep them engaged for much longer. I’ll often start my own presentations with a relevant story or video that involves my kids (and I’ve started one talking about marching band too!), which then leads into the main topic of the talk.
- Definitely mention one or two things about yourself on your about page. But of course, make sure you structure your “About” page in an effective way, like described here in my very first episode of AskPat!:
As we close out this chapter, think about it. How can you stand out from the crowd? If you have a blog, own a website, sell anything online or are part of a social network, please ask yourself: “What am I doing that makes me unique?” Really ask yourself…right now.
If you know the answer, then you’d better make sure your viewers know that too. If you don’t know the answer, then you’d better figure out what it is that you want people to notice. Now let’s talk about some branding mistakes to avoid in the next chapter.