Scientific management. Direct marketing. Management by walking around. Search-engine optimization. Kaizen. Social marketing. Lean Six Sigma. Content marketing. What do all of these have in common?

Each of these theories and processes was once, if not currently, the dominant trend in management or marketing. Many innovators became extremely successful by employing these methods, and many late adopters followed them diligently, only to fall short. Just as there’s no one path to success, there’s no systematic business approach that will work every time. As more people learn about and apply certain techniques, competition increases exponentially, which makes it harder to set yourself apart.

If you’re reading this article, you’re probably the kind of person who is always looking to learn as much as you can about whatever can make you and your business as successful as possible. Well-tested methodologies are a great place to start. However, when virtually everyone is reading, watching, and studying the same things you are, it’s essential to have a way to gain an edge on the competition.



Fortuntately, there is one.



Do What’s Worked Before--Up to a Point



Within every new commonly accepted way of doing things, there are multiple variations. To gain the benefits of business methods that work--and still outcompete everyone else who knows about them--you need to seize on the variations most of your competitors are using and move sharply in the other direction.



For example, if you’ve decided that content marketing is good for your business and observe that most organizations in your industry are putting out tons of blog posts, launch a podcast instead. If the majority of businesses working with social media are focused on Facebook and Twitter, stake your claim on Google+. And if the typical manager in your field does periodic side-by-side coaching, try using group seminars instead to up-train your employees.



In business, as in life, there’s a fine line between emulating success and rehashing old ideas. By taking the less popular approach within a popular school of thought, you’ll increase your chances of navigating this line and emerging victorious at the end of it.