I’m not the same as my competition- I’m different. But do your customers agree?

It can often be difficult to see your own situation clearly. You see things at 100x more detail than customers do, and have a different perspective. Plus you know what to look for, and are able to easily evaluate between the different service providers.

It’s like when you look in the mirror and see you’ve got a couple of pimples forming, plus a bit of a double chin at certain angles- but nobody else notices. They think you look great, and instead notice how straight your teeth are, because that’s what they notice isn’t right with them.

But most of the time customers aren’t thinking too much about choosing who to go with- they just want their problems sorted. Or it doesn’t matter too much and they just go with what ‘feels right’ in the moment without much thought. They aren’t evaluating you the same way you evaluate yourself and your industry.

Given the different points of view, it can often be difficult to explain to clients that they’re looking a little bit too alike to their competitors. It can sound as though I’m describing a situation that applies to others, but not them.

So how can you tell if this may be you (even if you don’t know it)?

How can you see things like a customer would?

I was trying to explain this concept yesterday while with a photography client.

And as each photograph is ‘custom’ it can make it even more difficult to discern the feeling of ‘sameness’ a customer might get- cause none of them are exactly the same.

I realised how pointing out how 2 different sets of photographs that are different, but asserting they look the same would be just confusing as f***.

So instead I decided to illustrate this by showing this effect by asking my client to be a customer, and choose who to go with in an industry they’re unfamiliar with.

We selected plumbing.

We fired up our trusty uncle Google, and scanned through each of the listings on the first 2 pages in quick succession.

I don’t think we stayed on a single site for longer than a minute.

Whilst the specific wording was a bit different on each, the layouts not exactly the same, and the list of services and offers not exactly the same, the overall impression was the same.

Without fail, they all said the following things:

-How many years of experience they had.
-Areas they service regions, suburbs etc.
-We can help with any problem- no job too big or too small.
-Here’s our list of services and prices:
-We respond quickly
-We are reliable, and people trust us.

In addition to this, most of the sites where white, with blue flourishes.

These websites told you no more than “I’m a plumber, and do exactly what you’d expect I’d do. Call me”.

Which is all well and good to a certain degree. You know you need a plumber, so you look online to find one, and those in the list have a chance of being chosen.

In fact, after being overwhelmed by this decision, you’ll probably feel indecision, and you’d probably just do what most people do- and that’s ask for a recommendation from a friend.

Being chosen will depend on you having a large enough following, so that you’ll have the best possible chance to be recommended. The more people who have worked with you in the past, the more chances you have. Being good at what you do is a minimum expectation, and not something to necessarily rave about- although i you do bad work it goes without saying that you won’t get recommended.

And who does this way of buying benefit?

Those who are already well established- despite you being just as worthy as them for the job.

But let’s say for a minute that you look up Plumbers on Google and there’s one there that instead of saying something along the lines of “24/7 Plumber- Servicing the (your town)Region” it said “We fix leaking pipes”, and if you had a leaking pipe, that listing would probably be the one you’d gravitate towards.

Specialisation is one way to stand out from the wallpaper of your competition, but isn’t the only thing to think about. Point is- if you’re saying something different in a way that resonates more strongly with your customers than what others are saying, you then become the obvious choice of who to go with, and customers may not even consider anyone else.

So, after this, he was starting to get the idea, but I was still sensing a bit of doubt- after all, photography isn’t like plumbing. Plumbing is just plumbing. It’s all the same isn’t it? You call up, get your leak fixed. End of. Right?

Enter: phase 2.

So then we selected from this bunch what we thought were the top three most generic sites that we felt typified what all the Plumbers were saying, and told him to call them up.

We made up a bit of a story about a blocked toilet that wouldn’t flush, then asked the bog standard questions (when, how much, yada yada) before getting to the meat of the matter: We found you on Google, and we’ve been to a few other sites, but not sure what we should be looking for in a plumber…

And you know what? All the plumbers we called thought they were by far the best, and enumerated all the reasons why.

Because they didn’t see things the way we did. They thought they were different.

Then the crux of the matter- getting him to see that the same thing was happening in his market.

We followed the same process and looked up local photographers.

We quickly scanned the sites and noted overall patterns.

Of which there was quite a few:

-Having a similar list of services offered; wedding, portraits, landscapes, babies, corporate/events.
-Having similar prices.
-Saying something along the lines of “You should hire me because I’m passionate about capturing memories- it’s about the people”

On top of this stuff, there were also common themes running through the collection of photographs as a whole- even though they were all technically custom and ‘different’.

-Similar subject matter was taken in the shots; the wedding dress shot, jumping in the air at the beach, babies shot inside ‘stuff’, close-ups of hands and feet, etc.
-Similar photographic styles; in wedding photography there’s a warm yet mid range tone palette in pastel type tones. There’s not too much contrast or chiaroscuro, there’s a bit of lens flaring with the suns glare featuring quite heavily. There’s also a ‘twee’ country bumpkin wholesome vibe- not dramatic, or energetic, or edgy, or other vibe.There’s heavy use of mid range shots in front of a simple rustic flat outdoor background, typically with 2 tones- straw tone grass, with mountains etc.

After first seeing this play out from the perspective of a customer in a foreign industry (plumbing) he was then able to see this pattern in his own industry (photography).

So go on-give it a go!

Go Google the industry category that best fits what you do.

Go through and note all the similarities.

What things are you all saying?

What are you all offering?

Who are you all speaking to?

How do you all look?

You can also do this for any part of your business. You can gather together a selection of ads across your industry, an audit of places and mediums you use to promote your business, or even looking at the characteristics of the people you hire.

Are you all looking and sounding the same? And does doing so serve a purpose?

Because while you’re looking and sounding the same, no one will notice you.

And if it’s harder to get noticed, you’ll have to spend more, and work harder and longer just to be seen.

Do you have the time and money to outwork and outspend others in your market in order to be the go-to choice for customers?

Thought not.

And if you decide to do your own thing in your own way, you won’t have to worry about what your competitors are doing.

You can ignore them.

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