20 Ways to Stand Out From The Crowd (Without Swearing or Having a Rhinocerous-Sized Marketing Budget)

IN: Marketing

I’m currently consulting with a sport fishing business here in Costa Rica.

This is quite amusing, given the fact that I do not like fish, eat fish, or want anything to do with fish–particularly those appalling little orange eggs they put on top of sushi.

Thanks, but you can keep the dyed tuna fetuses in the fridge.

That compelling topic aside, like many businesses, sportfishing is one of those businesses that’s becoming more and more like a commodity. That means its services are largely interchangeable.  Sportfishing is sportfishing is sportfishing is sportfishing–very much like salt is salt is salt is salt, and all of my ex-boyfriends are my ex-boyfriends are my ex-boyfriends are my ex-boyfriends. (Kidding.)


And while there may be small differences here and there, at the end of the day, it’s really sort of the same.

And that’s precisely the problem.

Because prospects have no way of figuring out why they should pick you. Because if you look the same as everybody else on the outside–then they have no way of knowing that you aren’t. Particularly when you’re running a web-based business.

This is where handy tricks like copywriting + creative marketing come into play.

Because when your business is like a commodity, and you offer practically the same services as everyone else?

They’re your only hope.

Over the years, I’ve used copywriting + creative marketing tactics to help a good number of clients stand up, stand out and step into the limelight–thong optional.

So if you’re a small business owner looking to make a splash? Here are a few ways you can do just that–and then some.

  1. Nobody knows what a solution is. Do not offer those. Ever.
  2. “Standard industry practices” should merely be taken as a suggestion–not a hard and fast rule. Is there something that annoys / irritates / maddens you about your industry? Change the practice, already. You won’t be the only one who feels better about it; chances are, your customers will, too.
  3. When’s the last time you actually read a postcard mailer that came to your house? 1970? If you aren’t reading them, your prospects aren’t either. Respect their time–and their mailbox. If you’re going to send them unsolicited mail, make it worth at least a giggle. (Sidenote: I’m currently working with a luxury cleaning company based out of Florida; his new campaign involves sending bottles of toilet bowl cleaner to residences with a note attached that reads, “Call us, and you’ll never need to use this again.” Way more memorable than yet another 5 x 7. And while it might also be way more expensive, the ROI he’ll receive on that will be way more, too. Cha-ching.)
  4. The how is way more important than the what. Remember that.
  5. A special touch of class, elegance, spice or humor can make even the most common seem special. Remember that, too.
  6. How’s that mission statement coming along? Want to slit your wrist? Ditch the jargon and use your valuable web real estate to make a connection, communicate something people actually give a damn about, and get them engaged. For the sport fishing company, we’re swapping out a mission statement for a fun Top 10 Reasons to Fish With Us. (Some of the bullet points include: “We’ll have more beer stocked than any bar downtown,” “Forget Everybody Loves Raymond–everybody loves our Captain Eric!” and “Who doesn’t want to fish on a boat named Wild Lady?”)
  7. Speaking of cheeky bullet points–do the unexpected. Your industry typically serious? Flip it on its head. Sportfishing is usually a pretty cut ‘n dry, big booted, man’s man kind of industry, but that doesn’t mean those men don’t want to have fun. They do. And fun can be a really compelling competitive advantage if you let it.
  8. Stop trying to sound like so and so. People don’t buy broken records.
  9. Names are everything. Would you be reading this if my site were called Ashley Ambirge Consulting?
  10. Answer this question: What can you do to make people look to you as a LEADER? I’m not a fan of the phrases “start a movement,” or “lead your industry” or “make your mark” or “walk your edge” or any other overused garbage catch phrases, but the concept behind them all? Will make you rich. Trust that.
  11. Remember that there’s no such thing as customers and clients. Only people.
  12. Remember that those people might need what you sell, but if they don’t want it? No sale.
  13. Number twelve was such a tease, because the real point? Create. Human. Connection. The best way to do that? By simply being human. In your writing. In your emails. In your offers. In your interactions. In your policies. In your way of doing business.
  14. Controversial trumps commonplace.
  15. Give a shit. And make sure every single prospect, customer, client, colleague, and christ himself knows it.
  16. Stop thinking you need a manifesto, a freebie opt-in, a money-back guarantee, or anything else that you’re “suppose” to do. Here’s a tip: It isn’t about the tactic. It’s about the strategy behind the tactic. Ask yourself why everyone says you need a manifesto, an opt-in, a money-back guarantee, etc….and then find another way to accomplish it.
  17. Get really, really good at something really, really difficult. Then become known for it. Then, accept credit card.
  18. Forget advertising your quality or speed (or other things that your clients will expect from you anyway), and start thinking: What’s my icing on the cake? Do you include something in your services that’s usually a paid add-on? Do you do something out of the ordinary that most companies don’t? What flavor is your icing?
  19. Unless you’re going to clean my teeth, if anything on your website looks, sounds or feels clinical–you’re doing it wrong.
  20. My favorite home-made motto: Excuses are for your competitors. That said, if you say you’re going to do something, do it. If you promise something, deliver it. If you vow to do 319 jumping jacks while smoking a cigar live on video for your audience, GET OUT YOUR JUMP ROPE.