It’s not about being cheaper, better or sexier
“There are so many great designers in the world, and I’m not super cheap, why are you working with me?”
Just when I stopped talking, my customer couldn’t seem to wait and said:
“ Instead of giving me the techie jargons that I know nothing about, you tried to understand what we do and why we want to redesign our website.”
What does it mean to stand out?
What I’ve learned is, it’s not about:
- my website’s UVP (Unique Valuable Proposition)
- how full-proof and different my business model is
- my pricing going lower or higher than others
- how many awesome advertisements I put out there
- my beautiful logo
- how my website looks
- how technically savvy I am
To me, it’s not about looking different or better. Instead, it’s about:
- why I started this business in the first place
- how I conduct my business
- why should people even notice me
- why should people buy from me
- why should people care
- knowing what people want
- giving them what they want
The “why” and “how” lead to my behaviour which in turn leads to how others feel about my business. This is what branding is about.
The best way to stand out
This is probably not something you thought you would hear. The best way to stand out is actually NOT to think about being the one to stand out, but by giving your ideal customers the superpower they’ve always been yearning for so that they will be the ones to stand out.
What is it that makes your ideal customers feel that they matter?
In the case of the graphic design industry which I’m in. Most people find it too competitive because they focus only on the selling and buying of the service. It’s a mindset game.
Think empathy, not competitive
Think of how you want to make people feel about themselves first.
When thinking of standing out, think in terms of emotions. I was a new player in the ocean once and I didn’t stand a chance. Instead of coming up with ideas and tactics to catch someone’s eye, I started by putting myself in my customer’s shoes first. I started to think less about myself.
When too many of the same kind of business is trying to make someone buy their thing, the focus and attention are placed on the transaction. This makes people feel that they have to part ways with their money. That leaves them having to make an effort to decide who to choose to exchange their money with for the product or service.
Most people think that the thing they are selling is what the buyer is buying.
When it’s harder for them to decide due to so many options, they get overwhelmed. Rather than span their mental energy and effort to make the best decision, most of them rather ignore the herd. For any business to truly stand out, all it takes is to understand what your ideal buyer is actually buying and put it out there.
Throughout my 14 years of experience, I learned from my customers that people are not buying ‘design’. They don’t want ‘design’ at all. They are asking for ‘design’ or ‘branding’ or ‘graphics’ because those are the terms commonly understood. Sometimes, most of them don’t even know what they want and it’s up to us as service providers to probe.
As Zig Ziglar said:
“People don’t buy drills they buy holes.”
Likewise, Nicolas Cole said about writing:
“People don’t buy words. They buy messages.”
When it comes to design, I would say that:
“People don’t buy colours, fonts or graphics. They don’t buy a website, a logo or a poster. They buy engagement.”
No doubt, most people wish to have more control of their lives from brand consistency, to their daily schedule, to freedom and live life in their own terms. But if we were to run our business just based on these, we miss out a bigger picture of what our customers truly want.
Customers want to feel connected to their communities. In the case of graphic design, the feel of the artwork is the bridge to bring their messages across to the relevant audience. It helps to build trust.
I know what I’ve said is hard to digest, because most customers ask things like “how much do you charge”, or “do you design websites?”. I get it because in the past I hardly come across customers who go deeper to talk about how important design is to their business and life, their goals and aspirations.
Why would they? I realised the more I reached out to them selling design work, they are less likely to speak openly about their needs. All the more they wouldn’t tell me about their strategic plans or anything close to their hearts unless I asked.
It’s my responsibility to care for them, serve them and figure out what they want without them having to outright say it.
Give it to them
Once you’ve nailed what your customer wants, it’s time to put it in practice consistently and live up to it through your actions. A business in a saturated market can only stand out through the test of time. It’s not about being better than others and only you can determine how to be different.
With that in mind, the answer is to figure out what it is you can do that works for your ideal customers, find out what empowers them and helps improve their lives. Then, be the first one to give them that superpower. No matter how big an ocean you are at, you will stand out completely against the rest.
Now, go do it!