I wasn’t always a marketing genius, and I’ve been known to seek out the advice of others. Generally I’ve found that to be a good policy.

When I first got started, in my pre-“marketing genius” days, my first attempt at advertising was using the yellow pages. Ironic since I was starting a web design company. Back then the yellow pages were relevant, and websites weren’t.

I’d never done anything like that before, so I called up the yellow page salesperson and asked how I should get started. Apparently, the yellow page salesperson wasn’t a marketing genius, either. His advice? “Take a look at what everyone else is doing, and do that.”

Seriously? I was expecting hidden secrets and sage wisdom. “Just do what everyone else is doing”? My first thought was “well, that’s a pretty lazy answer.” My second thought was “well, that’s some pretty bad advice.”

“So, your strategy is for me to camouflage my ad by blending into everyone else’s?” He paused a moment, and summoning up the full extent of his marketing expertise proclaimed; “Well, you don’t want to stand out too much or it will make the page look funny.”

Clearly this advice served his needs more than mine.

OK, now that I am a marketing genius (self-proclaimed of course), here is my sage advice:

Don’t be obvious. Avoid clichés and the expected. If you are looking for an image for your website or blogpost, don’t chose images that are the direct visual incarnation of the words on the page. If you’re writing a headline for an article or an ad, consider using a question, or something silly, shocking or controversial.

Pick and choose what to emphasize. If you try to make everything stand out, then nothing will stand out. What makes something stand out is that it’s different, not necessarily loud and obnoxious. One of my early clients, who apparently went to the yellow pages school of marketing, wanted to make sure that no one missed any of his insurance products. He declared that everything on the home page had to be red or flashing. The end result was that the only things that stood out were things that weren’t red and didn’t move.

If you can’t be different, be the best. There’s a lot of mediocrity out there. At a local level, the bar is often pretty low. It can be tough to stand out in the door and window industry, so be different by being the best. Everything from your business cards to your website should be top-shelf. Don’t get sucked into DYI websites and other marketing because it may save you a few bucks in the short term. One or two more clients than you might have otherwise had might be all it takes to make up the difference.

Personality. People want to do business with people, not faceless corporations. Show some personality in your ads and on your website. Don’t write in the third person. Are you on LinkedIn? Yeah…me too. I wrote my own profile, which is why I know you wrote your own profile. Why then would someone post what is essentially their résumé that looks like it was written by some innocuous third party? We know YOU wrote it! Less pretentious, and more personal. Try to sound like someone I can relate to. That goes for your advertising copy and your website.

Don’t be different like everyone else, be different like yourself.

Look at what everyone else is doing, then when the opportunity presents itself, DON’T do that. Do the opposite, or at least do something different. I can make a case for conformity, but I can make a bigger case for clever. Be different, be yourself…or be someone even better.

Want some real advice on how to generate leads? One place you can start is with your own website. Take a look at my “25 GLASS Website ‘Must Haves’” eBook. My treat.

Web Works

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