One of the biggest challenges creative entrepreneurs face when it comes to marketing online is how to stand out among the thousands of other creatives who offer a similar product or service. Even though handmade goods and creative services by their very nature can be unique, if you’re a crafter, designer, maker or other creative entrepreneur trying to get traction for your business online, you've still probably noticed how much “competition” you have.
The problem is, if you’re indistinguishable from everyone else online who does what you do, you’re going to suffer from low sales, pain-in-the-neck price shoppers, and an uncomfortably long ride on the feast-or-famine roller coaster.
Now, I could go into a long explanation of what a “USP” (Unique Selling Proposition) is here, and you do need to figure yours out and start weaving it into all your marketing, but you can find reams of information on that topic through our good friend Google.
What I want to offer you today is a list of things you can start implementing into your web presence right now, even if you haven’t yet figured out all the details of your USP, so you can start setting yourself apart online in your niche pronto. And the best part is, almost all these strategies are free to implement.
6 Authentic Ways to Differentiate Yourself and Stand Out Online
1. Your backstory or company founder story.
Everybody’s got one, use yours to connect with your ideal clients. Your backstory is one of the most effective ways to differentiate yourself in the marketplace; it helps develop a connection with your audience, which aids in getting them to trust you, and your audience has to trust you in order to buy from you.
By “backstory,” I mean the parts of your journey that relate to your business – how you got here, what caused you to come up with the product/service/solution you offer, your story along the way, etc. The backstory you use should be relevant to the solution you provide. For example, my experience in the PR and Advertising trenches is an important – and relevant – part of my backstory as a copywriter and marketing strategist. A great place to add relevant parts of your backstory is the About page of your website.
2. The kind of content you provide (Or even that you provide it).
What I mean here is that if others in your niche are not providing content at all – and many creative entrepreneurs aren’t – then be the one who does. Create weekly blog or newsletter content that helps your ideal clients solve their most pressing problems or that inspires them in some way. Come up with an “irresistible free offer” to get them to subscribe to your email list.
Heck, have an email list – again, many creative entrepreneurs I see online don’t do this, so if you do, bingo, differentiation. Look to see what others in your niche are doing, and provide content that makes you stand out by helping your audience feel inspired, or by helping them solve an annoying problem they have.
3. A collection of stories that help your ideal clients or customers relate to you.
Similar to your backstory but more comprehensive, your “stories” are turning points, “ahas,”and so on from your background that help your audience connect with you. As with your backstory, you want these stories to be relevant to the solution you provide in some way. For example, one of my stories is that I got accepted to art school, but didn’t go, which is relevant in terms of the kind of clients I serve because it establishes my bonfides as a creative myself.
4. Design. What are other people in your industry doing in terms of website design?
Do something different. When I was updating my website last year, I looked at dozens of other copywriter websites, and what I mostly saw were standard, corporate-looking sites. The content was often very good, but many of the sites were very similar to one another. My site is a work in progress and certainly won’t win any design awards, but I’ve made a concerted effort to make it look different from the standard copywriter’s website by choosing a WordPress theme and a custom header that emanates warmth and friendliness.
5. Your Community.
Think of ways you can build a sense of “people like us,” of belonging, of membership, etc., into your business. I do this on my site with messaging that speaks to “creative rebels” – those who boldly followed their creative calling to make a living, even when naysayers and well-meaning loved ones discouraged it.
6. Your personality or unique “flavor.”
This can be one of the simplest and most effective ways to differentiate yourself, especially if you’re a freelancer or solopreneur. No one else on Earth is precisely like you, snowflake, so let your freak flag fly. Of course, you want to be professional about it, but you can be a trusted business person and still show personality. On my end, I try to bring my fun, irreverent, playful personality into everything I do in my business and on my website.
Keep in mind, it’s not necessary to differentiate in all the categories above to be successful. In fact, choosing 2, maybe 3, and really nailing them can work like gangbusters. If you’re just getting started, choose one of these methods of differentiation and start implementing it into your business today, then gauge the results and course correct from there.
There are many other ways to differentiate yourself online in addition to those listed above, but the six ideas here are all easily implementable, and except for number 5, they’re all completely free. So there’s no reason not to get started folding these ideas into your web presence today.
I’ll close with a quote from one of my favorite marketers, Derek Halpern: “It’s not about finding unique ingredients, it’s about finding a unique recipe.” For example, none of the things I do as a copywriter and marketing strategist is unique in and of itself, but the combination of the elements I use in my web presence is – my backstory, my personality, the kind of content I provide, and so on.
So if you’re struggling to figure out how you can set yourself apart in your market, let finding a unique “recipe” using a few of the suggestions here be your guide.
Kimberly Houston is a copywriter and marketing strategist who helps photographers, designers, stylists, illustrators, makers, and other creative visionaries and tastemakers stand out online with personality-driven web copy that captivates, connects and converts ideal clients. Visit her website to grab your free copy of The Creative Rebel Guide to Writing an Ideal Client-Attracting About Page. You can connect with Kimberly on Twitter and via Facebook.