The advice you’re not being given

I want to get something off my chest.  I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve read or heard the phrase ‘You really MUST do this if you want to succeed’, or ‘The 5 things that you MUST do in order to make your business profitable’.

Among the biggest culprits at the moment are proponents of social media and online marketing.  You MUST have a profile on Facebook, or else you’re losing out.  Or another one – ‘you MUST identify your unique selling point, otherwise no-one can distinguish you from your competitors’.

Let me tell you something.  I’m not on Facebook, I’m not on Twitter, yet I’m thankful to say that my business is successful, in what is an increasingly competitive market.  I don’t really have a unique selling point either [ok, let me clarify that… I don’t have a written unique selling point… I just have me and what I do – the combination of those two are definitely unique :)].

Now, before I go any further, this is not an anti-social-media rant.  One day, I may have a business page on Facebook; I don’t know.  (Plus my long-time client Mary Thomas would have it in for me (in the nicest possible way of course, she’s not fierce!!), she runs a Social Media Consultancy, with a lovely recently re-vamped website).  And nor is it a blind ‘well I’m the best, so people will buy from me regardless’.

But this is a rant discussion about people who seem to have lost the ability to think on their own two feet.  We seem to have turned into mindless robots who have forgotten how to rationally weigh up and challenge advice that is being churned out across websites, social media, at networking groups, and anywhere else you might find it.

Yes, a lot of advice may be good.  Or at least it might have at least some good bits in it.  But how do you know?  I hear you say, ‘Well, X is really successful, they’ve built up an amazingly profitable, well-respected business; I’m going to follow their advice because I want to do the same.’

Yep, they may have built up an amazingly profitable business.  But I guess that a large chunk of the success that person has had is down to who they are, their attitude, their ability to think on their own two feet, to challenge the status quo.  And that’s not about going away and signing up for an account somewhere on interland.  It’s about using those age-old skills that we have been given.  This is YOUR business, run by YOU.  Don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo.  Often in doing so, you will carve out your own Unique Selling Point or Points without realising it.  You will generate ‘buzz’ and get people talking about you without even being on Social Media.

From my own experience… I thought long and hard about USPs when I first started in business over four years ago.  I really had a bit of a panic when I struggled to find anything unique.  But over the years, it’s happened naturally… my USPs have gradually risen to the surface simply by me doing what I do.

Another point to consider is context – what works in one context may not work in another.  I could tell you here that the way to distinguish yourself from your competitors is to:

  • Provide a high quality product without ripping people off
  • Treat people like people and provide a personalised service
  • Do what you say you will do, on time.

Sadly today (although perhaps a good thing for me), in the world of web design, a combination of these three things is pretty rare – and hence that’s how I’ve carved out my place in the market.  But in your business/industry, that may not be the case.  And so think about context – what works for me might not be the answer for you.

Instead of mindlessly following advice (and I know I exaggerate, but hopefully it gets the point across), use your brain, use your eyes and ears – listen to what your clients are telling you, look at what your competitors are doing (& do it differently, do it better), and think about whether the advice you are given is REALLY valid for YOU and YOUR business.

Now, don’t just accept what I say… think about it, and argue back.  I look forward to hearing from you!

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