Why Is It So Difficult to Talk About Your Difference?

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I come from a creative firm background. So I bleed for creative firms. When my creative firm clients can’t talk about their difference and value, I feel it, too.

When I talk to creative firms about what makes them different, there’s a lot of hesitation. Because we do so little to market ourselves and rely on word of mouth and referrals instead (which sounds great but has its own set of problems – but that’s a whole other discussion), most of us don’t really know what, if anything, we do that’s different or why anyone actually should buy from us over the other guy. We all say the same things – we’re creative and customer focused, results-driven, fun to work with, etc. etc. – the same things clients hear from everyone else. And our websites all look pretty much the same, too – we show our portfolios on absolutely gorgeous sites.

We all look the same.

There are an awful lot of you guys out there, and so many of you do fabulous work – put yourself in your prospective client’s place: how would you decide who to work with? It’s so confusing for them, and we give them so little to go on. So can we blame them when they choose based on price? Or on the fact that the designer they chose is their son’s coach’s next door neighbor? We’re not really helping them choose when we don’t know ourselves, what makes us different.

It’s scary.

There’s also a lot of fear wrapped up in communicating your difference, and it’s the same fear our clients have when we try to steer them towards narrowing their niche or putting a stake in the ground with their positioning. It’s difficult to do marketing and design for a client who can’t decide what he is, when he wants to market to “the world” – and it’s no different when it comes to your own promotion. The fear is that if we say “this is what we do, this is who we are, this is what makes us different,” we’ll lose a portion of our market – and wouldn’t it be better to appeal to a broader audience?

They need to love you.

You know better than that. You know that the more specific you are about who you are and what you do and who you serve, the more attractive you’ll be to that particular group – and yes, others will fall away, but that’s a good thing. You can’t possibly work for everyone in the world. (Sounds kinda silly when you see it in print, doesn’t it?) I’m sure you’ve been asked before if you’d rather be given a luke warm or cool reception by the masses or be loved and have fierce loyalty by a few, and the answer is always “loved and have fierce loyalty by a few.” Because the fact is it’s a big world out there, and even very narrow niches have enough clients in them to make you lots and lots of money – if they love you. If they’re fiercely loyal to you.

And they’re not going to love you or be fiercely loyal to you if you’re still trying to appeal to the masses. They want to know you’re right for just one group: them.

So help them choose you. Tell them: Who are you? What do you do? What makes you different?

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