As we know, being seen as “average” doesn’t cut it any longer. Mediocre, gray, typical, usual. Maintaining the status quo no longer works when marketing your business.
Today it’s about Standing Out, not fitting in. It’s the only way that your customers can see you.
In which case, why do so many businesses choose to blend in, rather than Stand Out? The answer, from where I’m sitting, is pretty simple: Fear.
Being Afraid To Stand Out
People are afraid to Stand Out. Why? Because Standing Out means there’s a chance (actually more like a certainty) that some people won’t like you.
As a society we’re brought up to try to please all of the people all of the time, Standing-Out frightens us. As a result instead of making our business / product / service different in a marketplace full of me-too’s, we choose conformity.
The problem is, that in today’s commercial environment, fitting-in equates to disappearing. If you’re gray in a sea of grays, no-one can see you. Whatever you’re selling – regardless of how great it is – is lost under the sheer weight of everyone else saying the same thing. If you don’t Stand Out, you’re invisible.
One of my friends runs a restaurant in the center of Strasbourg. It’s a pretty famous eatery in the area, and offers fantastic food. Yet the last time I visited, my friend told me she’s thinking of selling-up as she’s not generating much business ever since the economy nose-dived a couple of years ago.
She thinks that the reason her restaurant is no longer working is purely economic. Certainly when talking to other restaurant owners in the area, they all seem to be saying the same thing: business is a lot tougher than it used to be.
Within a half-mile radius of my friend’s restaurant there are perhaps fifty other decent places where you can get a bite to eat. Together, they offer diners a wide variety of cuisines to choose from. Sure there are restaurants serving French food – as you’d expect. But there are also places within shouting distance serving Thai, Japanese, Italian, Chinese, Indian, Laotian, Moroccan, and probably others. Since all of these places have been around for a while, I think it’s safe to assume they’re serving-up pretty decent fare.
However, none of them Stand Out. Including (unfortunately) my friend’s restaurant.
Why? Because after spending all the time, money and effort in opening and running a restaurant, the last thing that most business owners want to do it take “another risk” (her words, not mine) by Standing Out.
Standing Out, Not Fitting In
A run-of-the-mill restaurant might not make the front page of the local news. But there’s also less chance that someone will slag it off in print, or on a review site. Sure, the food may not being anything to write home about, but you won’t get sick if you choose the Seafood Special. But being seen as “meh” isn’t enough any longer.
The problem is that, while the food might well be “OK, I guess…” it’s not exceptional enough to get you to post a review on Yelp, or have someone post a picture of your main course on Facebook. You won’t have anyone recant the story of the fantastic service their got from their waitress, the reason why the walls are painted with pink stripes, or the back story of the collection of Zippo lighters in a cabinet by the washrooms.
Instead, you give your customers Average. Acceptable service, conventional decor, decent-enough food – but nothing that’s going to stop traffic. It’s no wonder that the restaurants in the area are finding business tough: They’re all seen as shades of gray.
Not “Standing Out” Is Risky
OK, so if playing it safe is risky, and Standing Out is the only option, how do you know in advance what ideas are going to work and which are going to tank?
That’s easy: You don’t. (Hey, no-one said that business was easy, right?)
You don’t know if your idea is going to work until you try. But that’s the whole point. If it was predictable, then it would be “safe”. If it’s safe then, by definition, it’s not Standing Out.
One thing’s for sure: “Average” is the new “Risky.”
Playing it safe is actually not safe at all.