(A Really Good) Answer to, “How Do I Stand Out in a Sea Full of Competitors?!”

Last night we watched LOVE, SARAH, a movie on AppleTV about a dead woman's child, mother, and best friend all banding together to start the bakery of aforementioned dead woman's dreams.

The movie takes place in Notting Hill, London, which is obviously the first reason why I wanted to watch it. The second, however, was that I wanted to watch them do it—which is unfortunately not as kinky as it sounds, but alas, as someone who is obsessed with business building the way most people are obsessed with Nutella ?, I couldn't resist playing the voyeur.


^I CANNOT GET ON BOARD WITH NUTELLA. It might be the name. I'm a “good name, bad name” kind of person, and this to me sounds like the perfect brand for squirrel food. You could see it splayed across a bag of bird seed, right? That's what this name is for. “Nutella: A tantalizing new treat by your friends at Purina.”


SO ANYWAY. What I'm about to say is going to be a bit of a spoiler, so read at your own peril but I just cannot resist writing to you about this because it's the perfect example of everything I've been talking about for yeeeeaarrrrssss! Years, I tell you! Years, Susan! (There's got to be somebody on this email list named Susan. HI, SUSAN!!!!!)

So what happens is this:

  • Basically they start the bakery.
  • No one shows up.
  • The old man across the street stumbles in and says, “there are four other bakeries within a 4-minute walk from here—what makes you so special?”
  • They have no real reply except, “taste it and you decide.”
  • But that's a common misconception that most people have in business: that they can compete on the fact that they're good. EEEEETTTT, wrong. Being good only helps you after you've got customers. But if you're good and no one knows about it, you're screwed.
  • So they sit there and stare at one another for a long time.
  • They get wildly discouraged.
  • Some making out happens.
  • Then we see more really adorable scenes from Notting Hill. (Which is funny because I always love Notting Hill in movies and then in reality I'm never as charmed as other parts of London. And yet, I keep going back to Notting Hill because I keep wanting it to be as good as it looks in the movies!)
  • And then finally one day lightning strikes when a foreign-born client walks in, and their kid wants a familiar bakery treat from their home country. This hatches an idea in which they decide: London is such a multi-cultural city—no one wants some strawberry fraisier they can't pronounce and have no idea what it is. They want a slice of their own home.
  • This prompts a business pivot in which they begin specializing in making treats from all over the world. They call the campaign: “Around the World in 80 Bakes.”
  • It is genius.
  • This new positioning saves the day—and they are able to keep on baking and doing what they love, all thanks to a simple shift in the way they packaged their work.

This is what I call “finding your edge,” and I've been talking about this endlessly for twelve years now (can you believe The Middle Finger Project has been in business for TWELVE YEARS?!).

Because it is impossible to compete as a generic “bakery.”
It's impossible to compete as a generic “coach.”
It's impossible to compete as a generic “writer.”

You don't have the budget to do that; the nature of online marketing requires that you have an edge. Something you can hang your hat on, that other people can associate with you. It's the only way you can stand out from the crowd without a multi-million dollar marketing budget and gather enough traction so perhaps LATER you can expand, but for now?

You need an edge.

I liken this to what would happen if I opened up a Frank's Hot Sauce Café. I always talk about opening up a Frank's Hot Sauce Café, where everything on the menu is bathed in Frank's Hot Sauce. Most people think this business idea is RIIIIDDDIIICULLLOUSSSS!!!! “What about all the people who don't like hot sauce?!” they say. “Why would you limit yourself like that?!”

And that's because they don't understand that in limiting the scope, you're amplifying the love.

Because I can tell you what: if I went to any city in the world, and I saw a Frank's Hot Sauce Café? You better believe you wouldn't be able to hold me back! I WOULD STOP TIME! I would interrupt whatever we were doing, and I would be BARRELING TOWARD THAT CAFÉ AT 100MPH, because I would HAVE to go to that café. Even if I wasn't hungry. Even if I was on a schedule. I would have to go in. And that is the power of finding your edge: other people can finally see you.

Were the name of that café something entirely different, like “Martha's Kitchen,” I'd never have a reason to go in there. Yes eventually I'd be hungry, but then it would be a choice between Martha's and 1,000 other restaurants I can choose from—which means that Martha's isn't actually even in the competition:

They're invisible.

You need to give your clients and customers a reason to get excited about you. The simple fact that you're in business isn't exciting to anyone but you. Those folks in the movie who were opening that bakery were so excited—but unfortunately, they hadn't carved out a reason to help other people get excited, too.

Part of this is smart marketing, but an even bigger part of this is strategic business building. If you do it right, you bake the marketing right in—no pun intended.?

So watch the movie when you get a chance! See what I'm talking about. Figure out what your edge might be. Give someone a reason to see you. And then double down.

Because while it might seem like you're limiting yourself by focusing?

All you're really doing is helping the right customers focus.



Unpopular Ideas for Living a Happier Life.

More Posts from: