Everyone agrees you must be different – or differentiated – to succeed in business. But HOW different must you be? Answer: You must be Different enough to set off alarms and Relevant enough to spur action.
Let's start with the first step: Be different enough to set off alarms.
The human mind is excellent at ignoring similar information. This means you can't just be a little different. You must be out of the ordinary. Take any set of information – a highway, a spreadsheet, a bookshelf, a website, a sales presentation, a conversation – and the brain will identify anything out of the ordinary – a parade, a deficit, a best-seller, a broken link, a shocking statistic, or a comment that brings you to tears or laughter. Another term for "out of the ordinary" is "extraordinary." Is your product or service, or are you... extraordinary? If so, the brain sets off an alarm rousing the active mind to "Pay Attention!"
How different must you be to set off an alarm? Different enough that no comparison can be made!
The brain's filtering ability is based on memories. It compares new information to examples and models it has stored. It does this extremely fast, of course. "Have I ever heard a salesperson say this before?" "Have I ever seen a website like this before?" "Have I ever seen a product similar to this before?" "Have I ever heard a description worded this way before?" "Have I ever seen a pricing model like this before?" "Have I ever experienced expertise at this level before?" When the brain discovers information for which it has no comparison, it fires the signal, "This is new! This could be important!" If you're being honest with yourself, are you a little different or alarmingly new?
If you can answer "alarmingly new," congratulations! You just earned a split second of your customer's focus.
That was the easy part.
The next step is far more difficult, but critical: Be relevant enough to spur action.
Even if you're successful at firing off a "this is new information!" alarm, you have a second test to pass before being stamped "important." During the split second of focus you earned, the customer's brain speeds to decide if this new information is relevant or irrelevant. The new information is cross-referenced with the active projects alive in your customer's mind. These active projects are the ideas, concepts, and problems they turn over and over in their heads – both consciously and unconsciously – throughout their day. "How to boost productivity?" "How to complete a project?" "Where to find the right expertise?" "How to train staff?" "How to please the board?" "How to be more important to the company?" Your customer has a sensor ready to recognize and receive information that advances their initiatives. Set off any one of those sensors and you'll be perceived as relevant, which can also be translated as "meaningful to me right now!"
Different + Relevant = Important
What follows the identification of importance? Action. Your customer's next move is to decide HOW important you are by replying with, "Tell me more!"
Are you Different enough to set off alarms and Relevant enough to spur action?
Here's a quick visual that illustrates how different you must be to set off alarms. Most business people think they're VERY different from their competition. They firmly believe their logo, brochure, pitch, features, and benefit message are all distinct. In reality, they're perceived to be so similar to their competitors that they're indistinguishable.
Everyone's fingerprints are unique, right? Yes. But when viewed side by side, not one stands out as different:
To stand out, you have to be out of the ordinary – a distinct individual.
Is there room for everyone to be DIFFERENT? Absolutely!