Marketing Today: Be Unpredictable

unpredictable jack in the box resized 600The Internet has leveled the playing field for many businesses. Smaller companies are often able to compete with the marketing efforts of larger companies. Often, it’s really hard to tell the size of a company by looking at their website. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that it’s become increasingly harder for any company to stand out from the crowd. Because the playing field has been leveled somewhat, you now have more competition than ever. So how do you get potential customers or clients to sit up and take notice of your company?

Now we’re back to the good news. A lot of companies are pretty predictable when it comes to positioning themselves and talking to prospective customers. The tools for talking to customers may have changed, but fortunately (for you), many companies are using these new tools (the Web, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) in the same old way. They’re still talking to their audience about themselves or their products instead of talking with their audience about the things that are important to them.

You can stand out from the crowd by being unpredictable—by offering your prospective customers help in solving their problems rather than shoving a sales pitch down their throat. Being different from everyone else is a great thing in business (check out Seth Godin’s book Purple Cow).

There’s a difference, however, between being unpredictable and being flat out weird. The goal isn’t to shock people (people want to do business with people they trust—not people who make spectacles of themselves).  So look for ways you can position your company a little differently. If you solve the same business problems as one of your competitors—do it a little bit differently. Look at the problem (and solution) from a different angle. And get your customers to look at you from a different angle.

If you blog, don’t keep pumping out the same tired stuff that you can read on your competitor’s blog. Blog about something your competitor wouldn’t dream of talking about. And write for your customers—not for yourself (that will get their attention!).

Give away free stuff! Sure, a lot of businesses offer “free” downloads to their customers. But far too often it’s nothing more than a thinly disguised sales pitch, wrapped up in a pretty “free” package. Give your customers something that will actually help them.

And if you really want to be unpredictable and stand out from the crowd, listen to what your customers say—and respond.

What are you doing that’s unpredictable and helps your stand out from the crowd?