5 min read

Do You Stand Out or Fit In?

How are we meant to stand out when everyone expects us to fit in? It's the puzzle we need to fix if our business is to grab and hold the attention of new clients.
Do You Stand Out or Fit In?

On my walk this morning, listening to a Steve Bartlett podcast, something caught my eye. I took a photograph and have used it as a heading for this article. 

What is the first thing you notice?  

The contrast between the green and the red.  Is this because red is a powerful colour? What if I had taken a photograph where every leaf was red? 

It's the contrast that made me stop.  It’s the difference. The red leaf stands out.

The Desire to Fit In

When it comes to business, how do we stand out when we want to fit in?  Why do we compare and copy what our competitors do? 

All tradespeople say they're reliable and can be trusted. Professionals claim to be qualified.  All photographers take photographs. All accountants produce accounts and promote Xero or QuickBooks. 

And when it comes to creating a website that is meant to stand out from their competitors business owners focus on what they do (and web designers let them).  No one is interested in what you do. Let's face it, you do what your competitors do, better (but that's subjective).

What I want to know is how are you different from everyone else

We are only interested in what we are left with after you have done what you do. What I want to know is how are you different from everyone else and can I trust you with certainty that you will fix what I need fixing?

Obviously, entrepreneurs yearn for a sense of belonging within their industry. This desire often manifests in adhering to established norms and adopting the practices of successful peers. It's why we want to fit in.

For example, consider a boutique skincare brand that uses the same organic certification as its competitors. By doing so, the brand conforms to an industry standard, making it more appealing to a specific segment of the market that values organic products. It's a strategy that fosters trust and builds credibility.

The Need to Stand Out

On the other hand, it's imperative to differentiate oneself to garner attention in a saturated market. Standing out doesn't necessarily mean being radical or offbeat; it means offering something unique, be it a product, service, or business approach.

Take the case of Tesla in the automotive industry. While it conformed to the larger goal of transportation, its unique approach to electric vehicles made it stand out in an industry dominated by gasoline-powered cars. Tesla's mission, combined with its innovative technology and branding, attracted a new kind of customer and created a new market segment.

The Art of Being Different

Being different isn't about being different for its sake; it's about carving out a distinct identity that resonates with your target audience.

One way small businesses and sole entrepreneurs can attract interest is through storytelling. Your story isn't merely a marketing tool; it's a way to connect with your audience on an emotional level. Remember, people people buy on emotion and then justify with logic. People buy you first, yet in this desire to fit in we miss the opportunity to stand out. 

A fine example of standing out is TOMS Shoes, which made its one-for-one giving model a central part of its brand narrative. People didn't just buy shoes; they participated in a social mission, something that set TOMS apart from countless other footwear companies. The "One for One" program means that for every pair of shoes that a customer buys, TOMS will donate a pair of shoes to a child in need. This initiative was founded on the idea of using business to improve lives, and it set TOMS apart from other footwear companies. 

 TOMS has expanded its mission to other products as well. They have used the "One for One" model with eyewear, providing sight-saving surgery, prescription glasses, or medical treatment with each pair of glasses purchased. The company has also ventured into coffee, linking purchases to providing clean water in various countries.

Balancing the Equation

The key to navigating the tension between fitting in and standing out lies in understanding your core values and your target audience's needs and expectations. It's about finding common ground where your unique attributes align with the values or needs of your customers.

A personal example can be drawn from my own video marketing company, where we've utilised cutting-edge drone technology. While fitting into the broader landscape of video marketing, we've distinguished ourselves with the unique perspective that aerial videography offers. This nuanced approach has not only resonated with clients but has also allowed us to carve out a distinct and affordable niche in a competitive market.  

When it comes to digital marketing, content reigns supreme, and video has emerged as a compelling medium when it comes to engagement. However, the successful integration of video into a marketing strategy requires more than technical proficiency; it demands a strategic understanding of the entire marketing landscape.

Unlike most videographers, who specialise solely in video creation and editing, my experience in the video marketing business is enriched by over 40 years of extensive expertise in sales, and marketing, at corporate and small business levels. 

So apart from providing high-quality video content, I am in a unique position to provide strategic advice on how video fits in with an overall marketing strategy. And if a client doesn’t have a strategy, my marketing know-how is a bonus and is what separates me from my competition.  

Video May Not be a Priority

I always want to know where video fits into marketing strategy and process. If all you know is video, video becomes the solution, which is not always the case.

Let me explain. Often, business owners and entrepreneurs approach me with a desire to invest in video, believing it to be the missing piece of their marketing puzzle. However, after a careful and thoughtful assessment, it may become apparent that other aspects of their business might be more of a priority.

This is where my multidimensional perspective shines. By understanding the intricacies of marketing and the unique challenges faced by each business, I can guide clients toward a strategy that might include video (and might not). We might discover that some aspects of the way they do business are of greater importance and deserve priority. 

For example, a small local business might initially seek a flashy promotional video but lacks a robust social media presence or traffic to its website to showcase it. In such cases, my guidance would involve creating a joined-up digital marketing plan that integrates video but also addresses other fundamental elements like website development, SEO, and social media engagement. These are areas of marketing I understand but not services I personally provide. 


Your difference isn't a drawback; it's your distinct signature. Recognise it, embrace it, and have the courage to let your difference guide and attract those who resonate with your vision and approach to business. 

Who you think you are is not necessarily who others think you are. Now, that is a discussion in itself.