When Being “Different” Isn’t Enough

I was running into one of my favorite local stores smack dab in the middle of Weekend #1 of Coachella (music festival).

But I couldn’t pull my car into the slot because there was a pair of beautiful twenty-something twins blocking my path. They were practically six feet tall with their platform heels, wearing matching crocheted crop tops and bell bottoms, trying to get a selfie with the vintage VW bus next to my intended parking spot.

In any other time or any other place, they’d probably be downright unforgettable.

But since pretty much the whole town right now is chock full of cute, music-loving, boho-wearing fans looking for photo ops. I wouldn’t have even noticed them if they weren’t blocking my car.

That’s what it’s like when you’re positioning yourself and your consulting business.

You THINK you’ve established yourself in the perfect niche (I imagine the 6 foot tall gorgeous twins in matching outfits expected to be memorable when they walked out the door), but you can’t be certain without fully understanding the “competition”.

There’s a pretty high likelihood that the twins were either the only or one of a handful of similar sets of twins. But the marketplace for unforgettable music fans doesn’t stop at twins.

There were the romantics in flowy chiffon dresses with flowers in their hair. Or the leather girls and boys, including one with spiked chaps and a bustier. Or those who strategically (un)dressed to show off their body art.

The twins might be memorable for their twin-dom, but after that they get lost in the crowd.

So what do you do in YOUR marketplace?

First, be sure you know your “competitors”, how they position themselves and to whom. They may not have the same ideal audience as yours, but chances are your sweet-spot clients will have encountered them at some point. Be sure your audience can tell the difference between you (nobody likes a pale imitation).

Second, decide what really matters to you and your ideal audience and double down. If you care most about helping fashion executives build successful distribution channels, you’ll be walking the line between business and fashion, demonstrating your expertise at their intersection.

Third, embrace being “different” as long as it’s who you really are. Authenticity—the real, visceral sharing of your point of view and personality—builds connections to your tribe. Anything else is poseur territory that undermines your value.

And fourth, remember that while we typically talk positioning as an absolute, in your buyer’s mind it’s relative to who else they know in your space. Are you authentically different ENOUGH to carve out a unique space with your sweet-spot?

Thank goodness consulting is not about the outfits—but if you’re not careful it can be just as hard for your clients to tell you apart.

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