How to harness the awesome power of perspective and stand out from the crowd

Sharon Tanton

If you want to make your business stand out in a crowded market, get clear on your perspective. Here’s why this matters and how to uncover your unique point of view.

Perspective

Ever wondered why some businesses and experts are so memorable?

How is it that you can tell a Seth Godin article from 20 paces (probably without even reading it. Bald head. Orange. Fifty words. Must be Seth.) Or you can spot a Velocity SlideShare even if the name on the screen is hidden. (Who else in the B2B world would be so audacious as to lead with Crap!?) And why you can’t wait to read some newsletters, because you know they’re always a mile away from boring and guaranteed to make you think. (I’m thinking of you, Blair Enns)

Seth Godin, Velocity Partners, Blair Enns – what links them?

Very different in style, but they all have a clear point of view and they’re not afraid to share it. And the people who love them really love them, and as for the others, what does it matter? They can pick and choose who they work with, and we can all learn a thing or two from them. On confidence, on chutzpah, and on perspective.

Selling ideas in a crowded market

Unless your business is truly one of a kind it’s likely that you have more than a couple of competitors in your field. The skills and knowledge that you have acquired over the years are not unique – you’re not the only sales coach, designer, lawyer or recruitment expert in town.

But while there are a lot of people who know a lot of the same stuff as you, they don’t see things the same way, and that’s the crux of it. ‘People come to you for your knowledge but they hire you for your perspective’ (says Blair Enns).  If you’re in the business of selling ideas, like most of our clients, then your perspective is vitally important. That’s what will differentiate you from the rest of your market.

Share your beliefs

Sonja and I were lucky enough to listen to Blair speak last month, and were struck by his view on positioning. Positioning, he says, is everything. If you can’t differentiate through WHAT you do (and few of us can) then you need to find a way to show your difference in WHY you do it the way you do. That’s where sharing your beliefs comes in. ‘People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.’ (Thanks, Simon Sinek.)

Blair’s own business demonstrates this beautifully. He wasn’t the only business coach in town with a design agency background. Even in his (narrower) field of business coach to creative agencies, he wasn’t unique. What made him unique is his Win Without Pitching perspective.

Kill some dragons

Now he is teaching businesses to disrupt the market, to gain the upper hand by derailing the expensive and time consuming pitch process, and to position themselves as experts, not service providers. Blair saw a dragon in the way the design industry and has gone all out to slay it. If you’re searching for your perspective, then looking for dragons to slay is a good place to start.

We share a dislike of pushy interruption marketing, so so content, and wishy washy websites. It makes us sad when we see good businesses struggling to win clients because they’re marketing themselves all wrong. These are the dragons that inspired us to write our Valuable Content Marketing book (and write it again), and launch Pub School (a more inspiring, supportive and action orientated way to learn). It’s what’s driving us to get Pub School online, so we can teach more people how to win more work from the web and create marketing people love. It’s given us a perspective that helps us stand out in the increasingly crowded ‘content marketing’ space. It even got Google to give us a ring to create a workshop for them.

Valuable content manifesto

Perspective is powerful.

Perspective before brand

For anyone running their own business and struggling to define what it is that makes them different, ‘perspective’ is a far easier launch pad than ‘brand’ or even ‘story’. You don’t need a brand agency to tell you what you think and what you believe. Your perspective is purely down to you, and all the experiences you have had that have brought you to this point. It’s completely within your control.

Work with a brand agency once you’re clear on your Why, not before, and the exercise will be worthwhile.

As Simon Sinek says,

“There’s no such thing as “rebranding.” A brand’s Why is either clear or it’s fuzzy. And if it’s fuzzy, changing the look won’t help.”

So how do you find and share your perspective? 

1. Have an opinion and don’t be afraid to use it

Dividing the room is okay. A lot of marketers really didn’t like my Remarketing Rant, but those that felt the same as me liked it a lot.

2. Write more

Writing is thinking clearly, so write your way to clarity. If you don’t know where to start, begin with answering ‘what’s the point of what you do?’ (Imagine the question posed by your 13 yr old daughter if you need a push to get you started.) 

3. Share what you learned, not just what you did

Show your thinking, not just your activities. Your method springs from your perspective, so build this into your case studies from the ground up. Think WHY and HOW as well as WHAT.

4. Be more niche. Be so niche it hurts

Say no to more things. Focus your business on helping only the kinds of clients who allow you to do your best and most profitable work. Specialise. 

5. Look for opportunities to talk on stage

Putting yourself in the spotlight (literally) is a surefire way to straighten out your thinking. Terrifying at first, but it’s a fast and excellent way to start building a memorable reputation that will build you work. (If you want some coaching we recommend Chris Grimes.)

6. If the right event doesn’t exist, organise it yourself

Gather people together and build a community around what you do. We started the Bristol Content Group. Ryan James hosts Curious Conversations. The Do Lectures have built a really compelling brand shaped around their view of the world and their vision for the future. Share the passion for what you do, and shape it around your beliefs.

Hosting a valuable conversation that gets people talking and taking action helps build your reputation and spread it far and wide.

Where to start, and how to know when you’ve got it right

So where to start? Find your dragons. Being clear about what you’re against makes it much easier to articulate what you’re for.

When you’re really clear on where you stand you’ll be able to write a manifesto, like this brilliant one created by Andrea Howe at the Get Real Project.

Get Real Manifesto

A manifesto is a perfect manifestation of your perspective – illustrate it, stick it up on your wall, turn it into valuable content and share it with the world. Let everyone know what you stand for, and it will help the right people find you.

“A manifesto is the perfect manifestation of your perspective.”

[Here’s how to write a meaningful manifesto for your business]

A good test of whether your perspective is clear is when you can write a blog and be sure that no one else could have written the same one. When your writing sounds unmistakably you, you know you’ve got it right.

What’s your perspective?

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4 Comments

  1. Terrific post.
    Thanks for including us as advocates of such an important thing.
    We’re huge believers in world view/perspective and sharing the ‘why’ behind your work.
    You’ve explained why, in your usual, pithy way.
    Bravo!

    Reply
  2. Sharon Tanton

    Thanks very much Doug. I really enjoyed writing this one! Velocity are superstars at sharing the WHY and thriving because of it. You often come up as an example of how to do it at Pub School!

    Reply
  3. Great post, totally agree. Thanks for giving me permission to be negative! (as a prelude to making a positive point, rather than rant for the pure pleasure of it, of course)!

    The world is full of people who profess to be passionate about what they do but their posts are pure vanilla… if you are really passionate you don’t have to tell everyone…it’s obvious.

    Let’s hear it from people who have the courage of their convictions, and are not afraid to tell it how they see it, instead of those just trying to cosy up to a target audience.

    Reply
  4. Sharon Tanton

    Cheers Jim! Here’s to no more vanilla! – (except in ice cream.) Thanks for commenting. Great to see you at Curious Conversations this week too.

    Reply

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