Do It Differently

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Yoel Ben-Avraham / Flickr

Apologies to Apple, but isn’t “Think Differently” more grammatically correct?

When I was in elementary school, I used to get teased incessantly because of my last name. Kids would surround me in the playground and chant my name over and over and make faces at me. I guess at the time my last name was kinda long and strange sounding, considering everyone else around me was called either “Smith”, “Martin” or “Brown”. It was different from the other names.

Of course nowadays my name would be considered one of the shorter ones, clocking in at only 10 letters, its nothing compared to names like Balasubramanium or Venkatanarasimharajuvaripeta. For the longest time, I wished my name was shorter and easier to remember, but then as I grew up, and as the internet got more popular, I realized that having a very unique, and different name, was actually an awesome thing. I’m so easy to find now! I almost feel bad for the Mohamed Lee’s of the world.

Almost every business book I’ve ever read talks about setting up your startup talks about your unique selling proposition or USP – the thing that makes you different from everyone else. But even though the importance of your USP is stressed, I find that a lot of companies don’t really emphasize their USP in their communications, when really it should be the ONLY thing, or at least the primary thing that they emphasize.

Secondly, your USP should be a REAL USP, and not just your own renaming or re-branding of something which isn’t a real USP. For example, let’s say that you are a consulting company and you are unique because you use an exclusive “biactive process”, but then when your prospects ask what it is, you have to explain that it really just means “collaborative”. That’s not different.

Be different. There must be something about your business which differentiates it. Otherwise, you have to ask yourself, when you put yourself in your prospect’s shoes and say “why would I do business with you? what do YOU know that no one else does? Why do I HAVE TO work with you?”

Because you are different. And if you can look in the mirror and say “well, we really aren’t different” then you need to change. Pull out that difference. Make it shine.

Thirdly, that difference must be communicated so that your clients see the value in the difference, not just that you’re different. For example, lets say that you are the biggest web design shop in Kalamazoo. You could say that, but the answer would probably be, “so?”.

Make sure that you communicate your USP in a customer benefit way. So for the Kalamazoo company, talk about how being in Kalamazoo saves you money, or time for local clients, or that you bring a fresh perspective.

In school, you might have been teased for being different. In the business world, it’s near impossible to survive without being different.

So be different!