Let's start with the premise that you're good at what you do. Although your mama taught you not to brag, deep in your heart you know you're actually quite awesome.
Since talent and expertise aren't an issue, the challenge becomes standing out from all the other talented and experienced people who do what you do. How can you set yourself apart from the pack? How do you convey how special you really are?
The answer, according to marketing guru Michael J. Katz, is to become remarkable.
Merriam-Webster defines remarkable as "worthy of being or likely to be noticed especially as being uncommon or extraordinary." And it's worth noting that the word's root is the French verb remarquer, which means to "take note of."
Experts like Katz have long given the advice that professionals (especially those who work independently or run a small firm) need to decide on a niche. Instead of trying to be a jack of all trades, choose a specialty that helps people understand the core problem you solve.
That's still sound thinking, but that's different from being remarkable. "Remarkable relates more to the idea of being buzz-worthy," says Katz. "It's about finding the thing that's so interesting, or unusual, or creative about what you're doing that I'm going to carry that story around with me in the hope of finding somebody I can share it with."
To become remarkable, you need to generate interest in who you are and what you do by putting a twist on whatever passes for "normal" (i.e., unremarkable) in your niche.
For example, Katz's company name is Blue Penguin Development, Inc. His title is "Founder and Chief Penguin." And about half of the new clients who come to Katz for help say something like, "You're the Blue Penguin guy! You're kind of famous!"
Or consider Men in Kilts, a window washing and cleaning service whose employees always wear kilts, while doing their work--no matter what the weather is.
Or take a look at Belinda Wasser, who runs a company that provides administrative services for small businesses. If Wasser's firm was named Wasser Associates or Admin Support, she'd blend into the woodwork. Instead, she calls her company RocketGirl Solutions (complete with a nifty graphic of a cartoon rocket).
I know what you're thinking: "That's all well and good for a marketing guy or window washers or a scrappy service provider, but my field requires a more straightforward approach--otherwise, clients won't take me seriously."
But that point of view can make you seem just like everybody else. "Professionals don't make anything, so we sell pretty much what our competitors do," says Katz. "And I find that many of my clients are unwilling to rock the boat. So, in an effort to seem important, they end up wearing what everyone else wears, driving the same car as everyone else drives, and marketing the same way as everyone else in their space."
Instead of hiding in plain sight in your "me, too" uniform, find the one thing that makes you memorable. This could be:
- An avocation. Perhaps you're an avid cyclist or a landscape painter. That's noteworthy.
- A philosophy. Katz likes to say, "I love helping tiny companies outmaneuver big competitors." And my firm promises to put employees' needs first when we create internal communication.
- A promise. Offer something special, like a no-questions-asked warranty or 24-hour-a-day access.
- A fun twist on doing what you do. You might bring corn muffins to every meeting, sport different headgear every day (to dramatize that you wear many hats) or send jumbo-sized greeting cards to thank people for helping you.
The point, advises Katz, is to make sure you don't hide your super powers. Enter the phone booth, break out of the suit and be as remarkable as you are.