standing out with your small business marketing

Standing Out From The Crowd

Gee RanasinhaAdvertising, Business, Communications

Some businesses aren’t that interested in standing out.

Regardless of the commercial space that they occupy, some business owners would rather their organization reside in the background noise, rather than be noticed. Often the reason is related to the personality of its CEO (“Standing out is vulgar!” “We don’t want to be ridiculed.”). Sometimes it’s because companies think that key strategic marketing decisions should be made by as large a committee has possible.

But just as having too many cooks in the kitchen results in insipid, uninspired fare; too many contributors to a marketing strategy dilutes the intention, the message, the execution – and the result.

old ZIG websiteI recently stumbled upon the website of ad agency ZIG, a small-ish company with offices in Toronto and Chicago, but boasting some big-name clients such as IKEA, Toshiba and Virgin Mobile.

The website navigation is very innovative. Once the Flash applet has loaded (which, admittedly, takes an absolute age) you’re welcomed by a host from the agency who asks for your name. After entering it, you find yourself guided around by your virtual host, directing you around the site, referring to you by name. The whole thing is very slick.

You Don’t Need To Be The Biggest To Stand Out From The Competition

The world of ad agencies is all about being more creative than the next guy, which is probably not your line of business. However, the Zig website is an example of how a company, surrounded by much larger competitors, has executed a simple idea and got their name noticed.

Many business owners are afraid of standing out of the crowd. They prefer to blend in with the general industry vibe. But the problem is that, by definition, their customers see them as being no different from the competition.

And if your customers don’t see the value your business brings to the table, over and above what the competition brings, they will treat your value offering as a commodity. Something that can only be differentiated by price. Once you’ve gone down that road, you’re on a downward spiral to inevitable demise.

In other words, the most dangerous marketing position for a business today is not to stand out. If it’s not standing out, it’s invisible. If it’s invisible, it’s being viewed as a commodity. Which means a race to the bottom since there’s always someone, somewhere, prepared to sell it cheaper.

The great thing is that, to implement what’s needed to stand out, small business have the advantage over large businesses.

Larger businesses have layers upon layers of management, meetings, and pleasing stakeholders before anything gets done. They like an oil tanker, in that they have to plan far in advance if they want to change direction.

It’s Easier For Small Business To Stand Out

Smaller businesses, on the other hand, have less inertia – they’re more nimble. They don’t have so many layers of bureaucracy that they need to navigate around before being able to make things happen. Small businesses can (and should) be able to turn on a dime. Small businesses have the structure and capability to run rings around large businesses – if they want to.

And that, in essence, is where you come in.

Your business needs to stand out. It needs to shout about how great it is.

Because if it doesn’t, don’t expect anyone else to.

UPDATE:  On July 8th 2010 ZIG announced that they were being absorbed into advertising agency giant Crispin Porter & Bogusky. Clearly being different paid off for them. Maybe it’ll pay off for your business too.