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News flash: You’re probably not the only person in the world doing what you’re doing.

What sets you apart? Why should someone pay money for your product or service when they could just find someone cheaper?

Building a brand is about fostering an identity and finding a place in this world. It’s about finding what makes you tick and what sort of expression you want to display.

Part of that expression is determining what makes you unique. As someone in a noisy, brand-saturated world, how are we supposed to stand out when it seems like everyone else is doing something similar?

In this episode, we’ll be talking about how to figure out what your unique advantage is and how to leverage it to make your brand stand out.

Highlights, Takeaways, Quick Wins
  • Brand uniqueness is something key that sets you apart from similar brands.
  • Have something that someone else doesn’t have so people have a reason to remember you.
  • Uniqueness positions you as the obvious choice for certain clients or customers.
  • When you leverage your uniqueness, you can help other people find their own uniqueness.
  • Uniqueness builds loyalty.
  • Have someone who knows you and your brand help you evaluate your strengths.
  • Your unique advantage could be in the experience of your brand.
  • Trying to be radical and different for its own sake doesn’t always translate to success.
  • Understand yourself and know who your audience is.
  • Niche down using your strengths.
  • Say no to a few things and focus on a small number of things.
  • Figure out what it’s going to take to get where you want to be, and start doing that today.
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Show Notes
  • 01:57 Cory: Last week we talked about narrowing your focus, specializing, and what that can do for you. On this episode, we want to talk about what specifically makes you unique—not your field or your niche, necessarily, but what makes you unique as a person or as a brand, and how that’s going to help you stand out.
  • 02:23 Kyle: What does “being unique” mean for a brand? Can you define that?
  • 02:31 Cory: I think uniqueness is about being able to be separated. It makes me think of high schoolers, because my wife and I live down the road from our local high school here in town. Every morning, every lunch period, and at the end of the school day, there are high schoolers walking back and forth right outside our house and across the street. I love people-watching in general, but people-watching high schoolers is fascinating. We’ve got a lot of kids here who, even in the summer, like to wear these really heavy beanies with long side flaps where you can put your hands in the pockets. You’ve got goth kids, people wearing dresses—guys and girls, in California.
  • 03:44 You’ve got everything, all over the gambit. There is no kid that looks exactly the same. It’s amazing and sometimes terrifying. These kids are trying to express what’s on the inside. They’re trying to be a little bit different in the world and they’re trying to figure out their identity. They want to figure out what makes them unique. Why would anyone pay attention to them? Why would anyone give them an edge in life, either by attention or friendship? How can they avoid just blending in? I didn’t go to public high school, but I’ve worked with high schoolers for a number of years, and it’s all about not wanting to blend in. It’s about trying to figure out who you are, even for the quiet kids.

What Makes You Unique?

  • 04:51 When you’re building a brand and a business, trying to make a living or an impact in this world, it’s important to ask yourself, “Why would anybody pay attention to me? Why would anyone look at what I’m doing, come into my shop, go to my website, or pay me money to do the thing that I’m doing?” That’s why we talk about uniqueness.

Brand uniqueness is something key that sets you apart from similar brands.

  • 05:35 Kyle: It’s interesting that Cory mentioned the teenager/high school analogy, because that’s very fitting for what uniqueness looks like. An underlying theme in our podcasts is the idea of personification, that your brand is somewhat like a partner in your business. It’s like a person on its own. I asked Cory that question about what unique means because a lot of people hear that and think that everything they do needs to be different. It’s very much that way for teenagers growing up and becoming adults. They’re very unique, because they think that they need to do everything different than other people so that they stand out.
  • 06:32 It’s not about that, necessarily. It’s about finding that one thing that you’re really good at, that makes you different from everyone else, and using that as an advantage. Everybody is built the same—we all have one head and arms, the human structure is the same. We all eat, breathe, and drink water. There are all these things that all of us do, but there are unique things to our personalities that make us stand out. We all do very similar things all the time, even if we try to be unique. The thing that makes us stand out from other people is the thing we can do differently or better than others.
  • 07:54 Cory: There are different ways to be unique. Kyle and I have some generically similar features. We both have hair and beards, but Kyle has red hair and I have rustic blonde hair. We share certain circumstances, but if we were standing side by side, based on what we look like, people could obviously tell us apart. Similarly, if you have two bands that do the same thing or have similar products, maybe they have different visual identities, different logos, different owners, different expressions, and they look and feel different, that’s what helps to make them unique.
  • 08:50 If I was literally a clone of Kyle, then you couldn’t tell us apart. If we were identical twins, most people wouldn’t be able to tell us apart, except maybe our mother. If we looked exactly the same, we would really struggle to figure out what makes us unique, so that we can make a difference in this world by being different.
  • 09:16 Kyle: Emulation is somewhat of a natural thing in the beginning. We assume that that’s a good path to go down, and it goes back to the high school metaphor that Cory used. Someone is the popular kid or the smart kid, and other kids say, “I want to be that person,” so they start trying to do everything that person can do. It’s not them expressing themselves, it’s them trying to express somebody else, the ideal version of that other person. It doesn’t work for them. Once they embrace who they are in a unique way, they’re able to stand out and get friends that really connect with them.
  • 10:11 It’s very much that way for a business starting a brand. You have to mature through that to understand that you don’t have to copy what all these other brands are doing. Sure, there are industry standards and things that you will do similar to the other people. That’s why you wanted to be in that industry in the first place. There are unique things that you do, and that’s okay. That doesn’t mean that you won’t be as successful, because you’re unique. It means that you’ll be more successful.

Why Be Unique?

  • 10:55 Cory: The main reason why you want to stand out is because you’re probably not the only one in the world doing what you’re doing. Clothing companies, musicians, teachers, bloggers, handlettering artists, programmers, developers, designers, business owners… I was in Santa Barbara yesterday, dropping my wife off at the airport because she’s flying out to Baltimore, and I spent the day there working and enjoying the sunshine. Walking down State Street, I saw a store called The Hat Shop.
  • 11:35 There was literally a store called The Hat Shop, and they only sold hats. I thought that was very unique and niche, and I was impressed. I walked 40 steps, I’m not even kidding you, and there was another hat store! How do you have two hat stores within a single block radius? I look at that and I think, “There’s a hat shop. They sell hats. Here’s a hat shop. They sell hats.” Very, very, very niche. You literally just buy hats. Why would I go to that one across the street vs. the one on my side of the street? What is the difference?
  • 12:26 What sets them apart? I used that as an example because you’re probably not the only person or brand in the world doing what you’re doing. If you found some kind of problem that no one else has solved before, maybe you’re the only one doing what you’re doing. Still, there are a lot of people doing a lot of things, and with the expansion of the internet, as more and more businesses start, there are so many more small businesses rising across the world.

More and more people are realizing they can start their own business and make a living off of it.

  • 13:16 That’s just going to continue to expand and increase. As more people do more things, there is going to be a lot more saturation. It’s going to continue to get noisy. Standing above the noise and moving away from the noise is going to improve your confidence, first of all. If you have something that someone else doesn’t have, it’s going to give people a reason to remember you and to choose you over anybody else. Why would anybody choose you? Let’s say you’re a designer. Kyle and I use this example a lot because we have been designers. How many designers are there on the internet? Thousands.
  • 14:12 Kyle: Dribbble.com is a social media platform specifically for designers, specifically graphic, digital designers. We’re not talking about fashion designers or those kinds of things. They have this thing at the bottom of their site of how many pixels there are. Each uploaded image is required to be 800 by 600 pixels at max, and that’s a high definition upload. To this date, there have been 466 billion pixels uploaded. This is just on Dribbble, and some of you listening to this podcast may have never even heard of Dribbble. It blows my mind.
  • 15:12 Cory: This is just on this one particular platform, and that doesn’t even represent the entire scope. It’s an exclusive platform that requires an invite to get in. There are so many other designers out there in the world. Constantly, you go on this design blog and think, “This guy/girl looks interesting.” They say, “Hi, I’m a designer!” You and everyone else. If I’m a client and I need a website, if I go to your website and you say, “I’m a web designer. I will make your website,” what’s to keep me from seeing you as a commodity and trying to find the web designer who has the lowest rate?
  • 15:57 That’s what happens. When you become a generalized brand, clients will find someone else who does exactly what you do at the cheapest rate. They want a deal, the most bang for their buck, so they’re going to find the lowest rate. If you don’t show what makes you unique, there’s nothing to differentiate between you and the 13 year old cousin that everyone talks about that can throw up a website on Wix.com and make $100.

Uniqueness positions you as the obvious choice for certain clients or customers.

  • 17:08 Kyle: Let’s say that somebody went to the shopping center where Cory saw the hat stores, and they specifically wanted to buy a hat. They came there to buy a new hat. They would go to The Hat Store, just like you would go to the shoe store to buy shoes. Number one, there are more options there, because they have a wide selection of hats. That’s what they specialize in. Number two, you would assume the person there would say, “Here’s a hat that will fit you.” This is someone really invested in getting a hat.
  • 17:54 Maybe they’re a performer, a musician who goes on stage, and they need their new hat to look great for them so that they don’t look awkward wearing it. There are specialists there who understand hats specifically who can say, “Yeah, this one looks the best on you. This will be the best for your performance tonight, and here’s why.” They have all this information about hats that you won’t get by going to Target and going to the hat section and asking somebody. They’ll just say, “We have hats right here,” or, “We have a couple of sizes.” They’re not going to get that specific.
  • 18:42 Being unique leverages for you to be the obvious choice for somebody wanting that specific thing. On top of that, you’re adding loyalty and brand value to yourself. Let’s say this person goes to the hat store, talks to these professionals, and they go to this concert and everybody loves their hat. It’s a viral Instagram thing—everyone was taking photos of the hat, so in some way, it really helped them. They normally wouldn’t wear a hat, so it was different. It fit them and it didn’t look stupid, so it was a great experience for them. They will remember that company.
  • 19:32 Every time you want a hat, you will go back to that company, and every time someone says, “I need a new hat,” you’ll say, “I know this great hat store that specializes in this. You should go to these people.” You’re building this loyal audience base, because they understand that you have something unique that you stand for. They understand that when they come to you, you will give them the best experience possible because you have that unique advantage.

The Payoff of Uniqueness

  • 20:15 Cory: This unique hat store gave the ability to that person to be unique themselves. Let’s say that you ordered a custom hat. You like the look of this one, but you like the brim there. You wanted to special order one so you would have something that made you stand out as an individual. A brand uniqueness gives the ability for others to be unique. That’s why if you hire a professional web designer who knows how to dig into your brand and ask discovering questions, they can provide you a solution that’s not just some template that they found on havesometemplates.net.ru.uk. They can provide you with a solution that makes your website and your brand stand out. That’s the power of uniqueness.

When you are unique and you leverage that, you can help other people find their own uniqueness.

  • 21:41 If you are offering something that no one else can offer, you can charge more for that. It’s not all just about money, about saying, “I’m unique, so you have to pay me $400,000.” If you’re providing a solution, product, or service that you can’t get anywhere else and if you have a group of people who want your solution, you can charge premium for that. People are looking for a better version of themselves. They’re buying into story, into who they’re going to be after they’ve interacted with you. Establish yourself as a person or brand that can improve their life, their story, and they are going to be willing to pay you more to get that.

Uniqueness Builds Loyalty

  • 22:39 Kyle: One of my favorite reasons for being unique is that it gives your audience something to fight for with your brand. I hesitate to go back to hats. Dippin’ Dots is like this. They basically quick-freeze ice cream into these little pellets of ice cream. They are little beads, basically, in a cup, and it’s ice cream, but it doesn’t really turn into that ice cream taste until it’s in your mouth and it starts to melt and it all becomes one thing. That’s their unique thing. As silly as that might be, it’s fun. You put all these little spherical things in your mouth, and they turn into ice cream. That’s unique for them.
  • 24:10 For all purposes, they’re an ice cream truck. That’s really what they are. They decided to try and make these little micro-sized ice cream balls, which is something unique. That’s Dippin’ Dots. Because they are unique, they’re giving their audience something to use to say, “You should support this brand.” Let’s say that somebody wants to go out for ice cream, and you’ve really enjoyed Dippin’ Dots, so you decide to go there. They say, “No, I like this other ice cream shop better. They serve really good ice cream.” You say, “No, no, I love Dippin’ Dots.” The only way for you to combat what they’re saying is for you to say, “Here’s why I love them. Here’s the thing they do that no one else does. Yes, it’s ice cream, but no one else can give you this experience. It’s so cool. You’ve had ice cream before, but you haven’t had small tiny dots of ice cream.”
  • 25:20 That’s something unique for them. As silly as that sounds, that’s a sale right there. They’re essentially selling your brand, pushing your brand, to somebody else and winning because you’re unique. They can say, “This is why I stick with this brand compared to other brands.”
  • 25:39 Cory: It builds loyalty. As Kyle was talking about Dippin’ Dots and ice cream, my mind entered grocery store mode. You know when you go in the grocery store and you have the name brand items and what everyone knows as the generic brands? Those are the ones that maybe the store chains made in a janky factory. The point of generic is to provide something at lower cost because it doesn’t have a brand name associated with it. My first thought is generic cereal. We’re not doing Cheerios, we’re doing Oaty-O’s. I’m serious.
  • 26:38 Generic cereal doesn’t stand out. We don’t remember the name. I don’t know if it’s called Oaty-O’s, but I know it a generic cereal that you can get in a dumb bag that’s about the size of my torso, and you can get it for a nickel. That’s all I remember about it. It doesn’t taste better or do much for me, but it’s this thing I can get that doesn’t cost as much as the other thing. No one remembers the names or has any loyalty to those brands. They just buy it because it’s so much cheaper than the other options.

Leverage Your Advantage

  • 27:25 Kyle: It seems like a generic thing now, but I think it was 1894 when Kellogg’s Cornflakes came around. That was huge. People still love Kellogg’s Cornflakes, but back then, they were the only ones that made cornflakes. Cornflakes came from a failed attempt to make granola. The original founder was trying to make granola in a unique way, and it flattened or something. Something happened, and it became cornflakes. They realized that it was good, so they started selling it. Their unique advantage was something that seemed to be a failure.
  • 28:20 They moved past failure and decided, “This isn’t a failure, this is really good! Let’s start selling this as a cereal, because that’s our unique advantage. We’re not going to be like all the other granola factories out there. Now we have something different.” It didn’t come from them sitting down and trying to formulate how to make cornflakes—it came from a failed attempt at something that they decided to embrace and turn into their unique advantage.
  • 28:56 Cory: We’ve been talking a lot about uniqueness, but I also want to make sure that we emphasize the word advantage. An advantage means that you have something better than someone else. As an example, you have an army fighting another army. Your army is at the top of a hill and the other army is at the base of the hill, so you have the advantage because it’s easier to use gravity. It gives you an advantage. Or, let’s say that you’re a grocery store, and there’s another grocery store on the other side of town. You have an advantage to reach out to the people who are local to you, across the street or just down the road, because you’re closer.
  • 29:59 Don’t forget that it’s not just about being unique. It’s about what makes you better, what are your strengths that you can play to, and what gives you an edge? Why would people look at you and say, “I want to use that person. I want to buy their product. I want to hire them. I want them to fix my brand or design my website.”

What is going to push you over the edge so that you are noticed?

That is your advantage.

  • 30:35 Kyle: Everybody that’s somebody else’s audience isn’t your audience. Even if you’re doing the same thing, you don’t have the same audience. Don’t try to cater to the same audience. Use that unique advantage as part of your target audience evaluation.
  • 30:56 Cory: We’ve talked about defining your target audience before. You can’t reach everybody, so don’t try.

How to Find Your Unique Advantage

  • 31:14 There are three good questions to ask yourself to determine what your unique advantage is. The first one is, “What are my strengths?” If you can’t answer this, get someone else, an outside source, to tell you what your strengths are and what the strengths of your brand are. Introspection can be really tough. It’s really easy to see your weaknesses. I see my flaws. I look at what I do and I think, “I could have done that better.” It’s really difficult to figure out what my strengths are.

Have someone who knows you and your brand help you evaluate your strengths.

  • 32:04 What do I do really, really well? Don’t look at anybody else at this point. That’s going to help you get to the place where you can figure out what your unique advantage is, because you need to look at what you do really well. The second question is, “What are people doing similarly to me, and how do my strengths make me different?” Let’s say you sell boots. I recently bought a pair of boots. If you sell boots, why should I buy from you? Maybe you have locally sourced leather that is 100% organic and BPA free.
  • 33:00 Are you family owned and operated? Has anyone had problems with your brand, and if they have, can they call you directly? Those give you some strengths. One strength might be that you’re a small brand. You only have three employees and you only make 100 pairs of boots a year. Because you can focus deeply on those boots, you can talk with your clients, meet with them, learn their stories, and make them boots built specially for their feet. That gives you a unique advantage over the generics, because you can design someone a pair of boots.
  • 33:45 If you’re a designer, why should I hire you over the person who does the same thing, but for cheaper? Why are you the person who’s going to address my specific needs? Figure out what people are doing that’s similar to what you’re doing and how your strengths make you different.
  • 34:01 Kyle: Cory is highlighting something really powerful.

The type of product or service you’re offering doesn’t necessarily have to be your unique advantage—your unique advantage could be in the experience of your brand.

  • 34:30 It could be, like Cory said, that you’re a small company, you’re family owned, or you have these principles behind the way you do things. That’s why people see you as unique and different. Two people could be making boots, and for all purposes, your boots might look the same. If your brand has something unique about it, that appeals to someone, that they can get behind, then you have that unique advantage over the competition who is just saying, “We have this.” Taste could be involved, of course. If you go into the grocery store, a lot of people will still go for cornflakes over the generic brand even though they’re more expensive. There’s something there, some unique advantage, that cornflakes has over generic cereals.
  • 35:41 Maybe there’s one ingredient they have that’s different. Maybe it’s nothing about the product. Maybe people enjoy the mission Kellogg’s is on for nutrition, whatever it is that they’re pulling out that’s unique about their approach. It doesn’t have to the the product. It can be in the approach.

The Wrong Way to Be Unique

  • 36:03 Cory: Eric asked, “How can you be unique but not out of place? Some people are unique, but the market doesn’t take it well.” There are a couple of nuances to this answer. First off, if you’re making or providing something that the market doesn’t need, you’re going to have an uphill battle. I’m writing a book right now called Nice to Have, and it’s going to be a book about branding, marketing, and selling products or services that people consider as nice-to-haves.
  • 36:46 In business, the easiest way to make money is to find a problem, solve the problem, and sell the solution to the people who have the problem. That’s something the market will take well. If you’re providing a solution to a problem, people will pay you money because they don’t want to have that problem anymore. If you are creating something that the market isn’t asking for, you’re going to have an uphill battle. It doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. Look at all the YouTube celebrities. That’s not necessarily something that a lot of people were doing.
  • 37:25 Look at the top ten YouTube channels. It’s not necessarily that they are unique in themselves, but the idea of having a show on this online platform, when it first started, was very unique. The market said, “This is never going to take off,” but here we are. Look at some of the things that Apple has done. People were totally fine with their solutions at the time, but Steve Jobs said, “I’m going to show up and make this happen even if nobody’s asking for it.” You’re not Steve Jobs, although you might be the next one.

If you’re doing something with your brand that the market isn’t asking for, it’s going to be very tough for you.

  • 38:20 If you’re doing something that the market is asking for and you have something that gives you a unique advantage, leverage that. Know who your audience is. Eric does watercoloring. It’s really, really fantastic. I want him to have a store so that I can buy some of his paintings. There is only going to be a certain group of people who like watercoloring and want those paintings in their house. He’s not marketing to everybody, but he’s marketing to the people who like watercoloring. You can be unique in a place where most people aren’t interested in what you’re doing, but there are probably people who are. You just need to find those people.
  • 39:18 Kyle: There’s something important in his question. It isn’t written in there, so I don’t want to misconstrue his words, but I’m reading it as, “How can you be unique and not out of place? Some people are trying to be unique, but the market doesn’t take it well.” I think that’s where the question stems from. When people try to be unique, a lot of them fall on their face and things go wrong. It’s not a principle you have or a value that you have, it’s just you trying to say, “I’m unique!” Years ago, when I first started doing design work and making things in Illustrator and Photoshop, I thought that, in order for me to stand out and for my work to be desirable, I needed to be unique.
  • 40:26 My “style” had to be unique, so I went on this journey of trying to figure out how to make my style unique. What made me different from everybody else? What’s my thing? At the end of the day, that search is worthless, because it wasn’t me doing what I do. Over time, the reason a designer stands out and is recognized is because they have a process and they do things a certain way, and that’s their natural way of doing it. Personally, I don’t see my work as consistently the same style. I don’t sit there trying to make everything look exactly like the last thing I made, but it’s a result of my process, of me doing things a certain way.
  • 41:15 That’s a unique advantage for me. I have a style that people can recognize. I don’t even recognize it in myself. That may not be completely where Eric was going, but a lot of people try to be unique. They don’t start their brand, look at how their brand runs, and then say, “This is something unique that we do.” Cory mentioned earlier that someone might pull out, “We are a small, family-owned business.” That didn’t come from them sitting down one day and saying, “Alright, we need to get all the family in here to make this business with the family, because we want our unique advantage to be that we’re small and family-owned.”
  • 42:06 It came from them doing that naturally, and they pulled that out as their unique advantage. You’ve heard this over and over, Cory, I’m sure. “We want to be the next Facebook!” They try to take that idea and attempt to make it unique artificially. They aren’t saying, “We’re going to make a new social platform that does this,” and people start to realize that this is different from Facebook and that they like it.

If you’re trying to be radical and different for its own sake, it doesn’t always translate to success.

You Do You

  • 42:59 Cory: There’s a difference of focal point. Where are you looking to create what you’re creating? In Kyle’s example, where you’re trying to be unique for unique’s sake, you’re looking at your competition, and that’s all your focusing on. You’re saying, “What are they doing? I guess I’ll just do it opposite.” Instead, say, “What do my audience members need? The people I’m trying to reach—what do they want, and what makes them tick? What makes them come alive? What am I doing for them?” When you look at that, that’s what’s going to help you. Obviously, you can look at your competition, at least to make sure that you’re not breaking any copyright or trademark laws.
  • 43:50 Also, you want to make sure you can continue focusing on your realm without reinventing the wheel or doing something that no one else responded well to. This goes into Scott’s question. He asked earlier, “If you’re just starting out and you’re trying to find your niche or your style, how do you avoid blending in?” The answer to that question is something I love that Gary Vaynerchuck says often. He says, “You do you.” Look at yourself. What are your strengths? What makes you come alive? All of this branches from a keen understanding of who you are as a person, as a brand, as a company, a brother, sister, son, daughter, mother, father, or friend.

You need to understand yourself.

Who are you, and what are you bringing to this world?

  • 44:47 You do you! Build on that. Don’t look at Mark Zuckerberg and think, “He did it that way, so I’m going to try and figure out how he does his thing. I’ll wear the same grey crew necks that he wears. Steve Jobs had the turtle necks, so I’ll try and do that with the round glasses. Maybe I’ll try this and that.” What are you bringing to the table? What is your style? You. Make things and continue to grow. Pursue what you are doing, what makes you come alive, and your voice. You can only find your voice if you speak; you can only find your style if you create. You can only find what makes you unique and what makes your advantage if you study yourself and figure out what makes you tick and how that can change the world.
  • 45:57 Kyle: It’s very obvious when people try to be unique, when they’re grasping, trying to imitate something else, or going so far against the “norm” that you can tell they want to stand out. Instead of letting that happen and embracing who they are or who their company is, they’re trying to grab something different. Most of the time, that doesn’t work out. Cory mentioned Steve Jobs. People know him for the long turtle neck shirts and the same type of shoes that he always wore. Reading through his biography after he passed away, that came from him finding someone that made them custom for him, and he just ordered 30 of them or something.
  • 47:12 That was what he filled his closet with, because he decided that he didn’t want to have to go through his closet and figure out what he was wearing each day. He thought, “These are comfortable. I like wearing them. They work in pretty much all weather conditions. I roll up the sleeves if it’s hot.” So that’s what he did, and that became a unique thing for him. Marketing used that as a unique thing, but it didn’t start with Steve Jobs saying, “I need to stand out with my wardrobe, so let’s figure this thing out.” He wasn’t artificial about it. Naturally, he did what he was doing, and that became something that could be highlighted.
  • 47:56 Cory: The first question was, “What are my strengths?” Figure that out, and if you can’t, get someone to help you with it. Second question, “What are people doing similarly, and how do my strengths make me different?” Third is a simple question: “Am I niche enough?” Go back to episode 3 and your target audience. We’ve talked about this a lot. Are you niche enough? Can you go down another level? Can you add a couple of details to who you are, to your job title? If you just say, web designer, that’s not very niche. If you say, web designer for scuba divers, that’s pretty niche.
  • 48:45 Wrap all of those things together, and that is going to help you determine what your unique advantage is. As you figure out what your strengths are, you can look and see if you can niche down using your strengths. You can make your uniqueness part of your identity, and that’s what people will see you as, and that’s how you stand out.

Where to Focus Now

  • 49:23 Scotty Russell of Perspective Collective asked, “I’ve determined my greatest strength and passion and found a sweet spot where I can provide a unique service. However, there are so many options I can focus on to build my brand and my expertise, and they all align with my goals. What would your advice be to the person who knows that they are unique, but they can’t decide where to focus and be known for something? For example, right now I could do public speaking, teach workshops, coach, and consult, and even make products. I’m not sure where to focus my time to grow my brand recognition. Or, is exploring all options most important?”
  • 50:07 You need to say no to a few things and focus on a small number of things. It may seem harsh. We talked about this in the last episode (Related: e019 Narrow Your Focus and Win With Specialization. It’s all about focus. Where are you focusing? We only have a certain number of hours in a day. Everybody’s got the same amount of hours. You need to figure out where you want to be in five years. Do you want to be shipping posters or do you want to be a public speaker? Scotty is an illustrator. He’s a hand lettering artist. Scotty, if you’re busy making products, shipping out posters, and running customer service, you can’t focus on improving your speaking or your consulting.
  • 50:55 If you want to be shipping posters, then focus on that. If you want to be a public speaker, focus on that. They don’t have to be mutually exclusive, but something is going to need to take precedence. Look far in advance and work backwards. I talk about this in my free guide you can get on when you sign up for the newsletter at BehindtheBrand.com. Where do you want your brand to be in a year, five years, and ten years? Figure out what it’s going to take to get there by going backwards.
  • 51:33 Let’s say that in five years, you want to be making a million dollars a year. What do I need to do to make a million dollars a year? For a million a year, I need to be making X amount a month. What’s it going to take to get there? I’m going to need ten employees. What am I going to need to build to get to ten? First, I need to be able to hire one. Keep working backwards until you’re at the present time, and now you move forward.

Figure out what it’s going to take to get where you want to be and start doing that today.

  • 52:08 If you want to be known for a certain thing, if you want to have a brand that is unique and has a solid direction, pick something you’re going to primarily focus on and start doing it. Again, you can do the products side of things. Our good friend, Jeff Sheldon who runs Ugmonk, does some speaking throughout the year, but he is primarily focused on products. He makes, designs, creates. He’s focused on building up his product brand. He still does public speaking and is a guest on podcasts. That’s totally fine, but something needs to take precedence. Push off a couple of things so that you can say, “I need to focus on this thing.”
  • 53:05 Kyle: When I hear that from Scotty, the real unique advantage he has and the thing he’s becoming known for is the thing people want to bring him in to speak about, run a workshop for, or want to buy products from him for. The real thing to focus on is the thing you’re already building a brand around, the thing you’re already pursuing as your focus and projecting. All these other things are, in my mind, marketing extensions. It’s like putting Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest on the wall and saying, “Which ones of these do I want to be on and where should I focus?” No one is going to know you as the guy that’s on Twitter.
  • 54:04 You should be projecting your work—in Scotty’s case, his lettering and illustration work. He’s on Twitter sharing his lettering and illustration, so people are going to know him for the lettering and illustration work, not the tweets. It’s the same for public speaking or workshops. They’re going to know him for being an illustrator or a letterer, not for being a guy who runs workshops or does public speaking. You could become known for those things if you want to, but the real thing to focus on is that skill you have, the thing people want to hear you speak about.
  • 54:47 I see what Cory’s saying, but I hope that Scotty’s not losing focus of the thing that makes him unique, because those things don’t make you unique. Those are channels to project the thing that makes you unique.

How Do You Want to Be Remembered?

  • 55:06 Cory: Scotty does illustrative lettering. It’s one of my favorite newsletters to get during the week, because every one of his featured images is hand made. It’s very creative. To be honest, sometimes I don’t know what he’s trying to teach me. I see that, and I think, “Is he the really cool illustrative hand letterer, or is he trying to do coaching?” I met him last year at Creative South, and that was something he was really passionate about. He said, “I want to be a brand coach, business coach, life coach,” or one of those. He wanted to help people find their place in this world and empower them to do great things.
  • 55:53 That’s what he’s about, and I love that. Sometimes, I can’t tell if he’s the letterer or the coach. He can use lettering to emphasize him being the coach, if he wants to do that. Figure out what direction you’re going and what is going to help propell you there. What will give you momentum toward the thing you actually want to be? You can use all those other things. He can use lettering and illustration, for sure, but if he wants to be the coach, consultant, or speaker, that needs to be separate from the pursuit of lettering. Lettering can help, but you have to figure out where you want to be in five years. Do you want to be remembered as the handlettering artist or as the guy who helped people become great?
  • 56:55 Kyle: Scotty, I want to do those things, too. I want to help people. I want them to go beyond where they’re at now. I want to inspire them to do better things and show them that they can move past the place they’re at in life right now. Scotty’s path could be different from mine, but I’ve come to realize that I need to build that first and show people that that’s possible. I need to use my unique advantage of designing icons to build up a company and show that something is possible that people weren’t sure was possible. I also have that passion for icons, so I’m coming from that place.
  • 57:46 I want to teach people to make really great icons, and I want them to feel like they can turn that into a career and show where icons have a place in the design world and why they’re so significant. Beyond that, in the future, I want to help people move forward and do things, to feel empowered to pursue the things that they’re passionate about. In my mind, I need to go through that process and work at doing that for myself. Then, I can take people and show them that side of myself. That doesn’t mean that you can’t encourage people along the way or push them forward through your work, but that’s food for thought.
  • 58:33 I don’t know exactly the road that Scotty wants to go down specifically. If he’s where I’m at, making work in a specific genre of design but has these passions he would like to pursue later, you have to pull the reigns back a little bit and focus on that service that you have. Maybe you start doing prints and making work, and you keep talking about the illustrative lettering that you’re making. Maybe you make courses about illustrative lettering, specifically, and people know you as the illustrative letterer guy. Eventually, you can branch off into being a life coach, talking with people about how to be successful based on things you’ve done. Here’s how I’ve gotten to the point I’m at with my business.
  • 59:41 Cory: Go back and do some introspection. Get somebody on board and hash these things through. Make a mind map. Get out your notebook and write those things down. Only good things can happen from you knowing yourself better. There might be some hard things, but it’s only going to make you better in the long run to know yourself better and to know where you want to be.