It’s the greatest maxim of marketing, the idea that you need to be different to sell an idea. It dates back to the very early days of advertising, earlier even than the old print ads Volkswaggon used to run to convince Americans to buy smaller cars.

But does this old truism track for small businesses? Sure, when you’ve the budget of a small nation, running a hilarious and memorable campaign is a great idea. But when you’re a less considered brand, focusing on foot traffic rather than brand image, what can being different offer you as a business?

The need to play the game right. 

For starters, even the big players rely on even bigger prime movers, mainly Google and social media. However, the same thing can be said for every era of advertising, back when getting printed in Forbes Magazine meant the difference between a bumper year in sales or running business as normal.

Knowing the genre of your market, and how to appeal to it, is key to your communication success. Today, that’s so much truer than ever before, because;

  • We consume information in smaller bites. Andy Warhol’s statement that, in the future, everyone will be entitled to their fifteen minutes of fame has constantly been scaled back until today, holding someone’s attention for thirty seconds is considered an achievement. It’s not that people have less enthusiasm for things, but that there is more competition and more interaction with advertising than ever before. If you want to make an initial impression and go from unrecognised to interesting, you have to make it easier to jump on the bandwagon.

  • We’re satisfying an algorithm. Because of the dearth of information online, most content is sorted by an algorithm which is trying to better understand what the user (your customer) is actually looking for. Satisfying that algorithm means hitting key points, based on a lot of available customer data. So, if you know what your customer is searching for, you can write to that point, including the relevant search terms in your marketing. The algorithm will pick up on these terms and, depending on the other available content out there online, prioritise your message over others. So, in short, you often have to satisfy the machines to get seen!

  • Tired, tired eyes. Some product categories have it easy, because they’re advertising in a space that calls for adventure and exploration. Others sell loo roll. Which isn’t to say selling bathroom supplies can’t be done in new and fascinating ways. But people looking for loo roll are looking for a means to an end. Making sure to satisfy the need, over how you see your product, is one of the hardest things to do in marketing. It requires divorcing yourself from your own intimate connection with the product. But, when you go home tonight or check your phone, you’ll likely run into a dozen ads for functional things you don’t care to be excited about. Use that as an eye opener into your product. What closes the deal for you looking at other ads may be a funny line or insight, but ultimately it also has to meet the need that YOU have for that product.

So being different is overrated?

Not exactly. Zigging is good, but you also have to zag to be noticed. If you’re not marketing where people are already looking, you’ll find it much harder to attract an audience. Which is why so much research is spent on figuring out what social media platforms people belong to — it can help tell a lot about the expected demographic.

The other roadblock is willingness to participate, and this has always been a truth of marketing. Your audience won’t sit up and clap because you’ve written something unique. Marketing is essentially asking people for a favour — their time. And that favour has already been asked by dozens of other companies in the course of any given day.

Where zagging counts.

That said, communication channels do eventually hit a point of saturation. 

For instance, only a few years ago the Sales Navigator tool on LinkedIn was THE hot topic for business to business communication. Directors, high-level executives and sales reps could talk to each other on a new platform strictly related to business.

But over time, everyone became inundated with messages to connect. AI virtual assistants began messaging more and more people, until now, LinkedIn campaigns aren’t the surefire success they once were.

Which isn’t to say they don’t work. If anything, a new LinkedIn campaign has to be smarter, bolder, funnier than ever before to make an impression. But, other channels now work better for delivering a message with more consistent success rates.

Say it differently. 

While short and sweet is preferred, and searchable keywords are necessary to ensuring you’re found, boring marketing will get looked over. People know what to look out for in terms of over-promised value. 

The best thing you can do is go back to the drawing board. Outline your ideal customer. What are their real concerns? For instance, it’s Valentine’s Day and you’re a florist. Why is your customer buying those flowers? Maybe their concern isn’t saying ‘I love you’ as much as it is avoiding sleeping on the couch. Or maybe it’s about looking like a caring partner in their office and keeping up with all the other flower givers. Dig deep into their real concerns and you’ll likely uncover some hidden gems.

Delivering real value.

What will always impress others is delivering real value. Not the sales-y promise, but something of actual worth.

Again, return to your ideal customer. What motivates their need to purchase? Maybe it’s not having to think about the problem at all — can you reduce the amount of action they have to do? Maybe it’s trying to sell it to their boss — can you help them do their job better?

Find that nugget of truth.

Interest, followed by intrigue, followed by action.

Your audience will normally respond with minor interest at first, followed (potentially) by a longer product search, and then by action. This isn’t always the case, especially when the product is a low-cost, low consideration item. But the same(ish) rules apply to most products or services.

Think about a hobby you have. How did it start? Some wayward fact or detail caught your eye and caused you to look deeper and deeper, eventually putting a lot more thought and time into the activity. Maybe a friend dragged you in first or a loved one.

The same idea applies here. Think about the ‘breadcrumb’ trail of your audience. When you’ve peaked their interest enough, they may just read a fourteen page document on the benefits of your loo roll. It’s called the ‘sunk cost’ fallacy and it’s how we affirm, after spending considerable time on something, that we are making the right decision.

To get there though you need to hit that kernel of truth about your customer. And that’s what zagging is all about. It’s not in doing marketing so differently that it blows all preconceived notions of advertising out of the water. It’s finding a real way to connect with your customers based on either;

  • Necessity: What do they need?
  • Interest: What excited them?
  • Loyalty: How can it help others that matter to them?
  • Benefit: How will it reward them?

If you can find these truisms about your audience, and do it in a fresh way, then you’re far more likely to get actionable results on your marketing.

We can help!

As a digital marketing agency, we’re forever chasing the glorious tail of customer interest, trying to find the best approach, and the best platforms, to market our clients on. This involves a deep dive into the psychology of our client’s market, trying to better understand where the golden goose lies behind their product or service.

We also love to talk, so if you’ve made it this far through our ramblings, why not seek us out for a free consultation? Contact us or schedule an appointment here, to get the ball rolling.