Sometimes to get noticed you need to let your freak flag fly.
You may be deeply, weirdly knowledgeable about grammar rules, or a classic video games geek. You might feel secretly delighted at your ability to scour financial filings to find the little knowledge bombs tucked inside.
Whatever that thing is, it is probably not something that you talk about on a first date. But in a search-and-share driven online business world, going deep into a narrow subject can be exactly the way to stand out and own that topic.
An example: Chris Brunk took something as mundane as men's t-shirt sizes and exploded it into a universe of specialist data that is the driving force behind a new business.
Brunk had an idea during his commute one day to his hedge fund job in New Jersey. He wondered: Why is it so hard to buy a t-shirt online that fits just the way you want it to? Was it really that hard?
Turns out, yeah it is. T-shirts vary greatly in size from one brand to the next. And you cannot easily uncover the data on each brand's sizing.
"If you call Ralph Lauren and say to them, 'Hey send me all of your clothing data,' they would say no," he says. "That information is proprietary, and they consider their sizing information to be part of their strategy."
So Brunk did the next best, crazy thing. He bought and obsessively measured 800 men's t-shirts to capture the difference in sizing across brands. He weighed and laundered and re-measured. He calculated price-to-weight ratios. He calculated the average size of a t-shirt through 16 wash and wear cycles.
His goal? To create a searchable database of men's shirt sizing that would allow anyone to find just the right t-shirt size for his body type and style preferences. But first, he needed a way to put his newfound knowledge on display.
Brunk expressed all that he had learned in colorful, statistically calibrated charts and wrote an accompanying blog post, called T-Shirts, Unravelled.
"We had spent all this time measuring these t-shirts and didn't think anyone would actually believe that we had done it unless we made a big show of it," he said.
Just about anyone can appreciate the obsessiveness and the usefulness of what he's created. His infographic and accompanying blog post was shared by tens of thousands. The piece was picked up by Wired and Business Insider and Lifehacker, all of them linked to his post, generating a lot of traffic for his new company, Threadbase.
Yet, perhaps as important as this wide appeal: the post scratched a particular itch for influential data scientists and technology leaders who especially appreciated Brunk's rigor. Founders of iconic tech sites such as Reddit and Moz.com -- influential in online tech circles that would provide exactly the early adopters of an online tool like the one Brunk was creating -- tweeted out links to his post.
Adam Savage of Mythbusters, retweeted it to his million-plus followers.
"The blog post helped us acquire our initial users," Brunk said. "Something like 30 - 40 percent of all the traffic our site has received has come from that one blog post."
As smart as this was as a consumer strategy, as a B2B marketing ploy, it was even smarter than that. Brunk's business model is based on capturing referral fees from retailers for sales that originate from his recommendation tool.
Because he was able to move some traffic from his blog post through his site to retailers, he was able to demonstrate to them that his idea had the power to generate leads, opening the door to partnership discussions.
Threadbase has now been used by over 20,000 people to find just the right sized shirts. Imagine what will happen when he moves on to pants?