If you’ve been following a niche for long enough, you’ll know that most web sites and marketing begin to look very samey.
Weight loss has before and after photos, so does fitness. Internet marketing has pictures of fast cars, yachts and beaches. Plus probably a rags to riches story or some information about how the product creator took forever and a day to discover the one secret that made all the difference and that they’re now going to share with you for just $7.
There’s a crowd or herd instinct in almost every market online. Partly because (deep down) we’re herd creatures.
Very few of us are loners. And very few of us are comfortable enough to do anything other than blend in with the crowd. Even if that means we don’t sell as much of whatever it is we’re promoting.
How can you buck this trend and stand out from the crowd?
One option is to examine what the crowd is doing and then do the opposite.
That doesn’t mean swapping the pictures of fast cars and large mansions for a scooter and a cardboard box. But it could mean ignoring that imagery altogether – save them for your vision board instead.
Or it could mean a layout change.
Maybe moving from a busy design (think sites like Buzzfeed) to an almost clinical design like Wikipedia. Or the other way around if almost all the sites in your niche are staid.
I’d also suggest that you can stand out from the crowd by being yourself rather than pretending to be someone else.
For instance, I don’t like being on camera so almost all my videos are slide show or screen capture style with me doing the voiceover. Other people are happy being the star of the show and take every opportunity to be centre stage.
The same goes for the words you use on your site. Whether they’re typed like these words or spoken on a podcast or video.
If you can’t identify your voice on your website (even if it’s written) then you’re not likely to stand out from the crowd.
I’ve been asked whether or not I’ve personally written various pieces (I outsource some of my written words via sites like iWriter depending on the site and the niche) and can normally tell within the first two or three sentences whether it’s my words. The same goes for testimonials, even if they’re just a distant memory.
You should be able to do the same – you’re not a civil servant, creating sanitised content that has to be approved by a committee.
And you need to show that to people.
Even if that puts some of those people off and causes them not to buy from you.
Maybe you could court controversy like Howard Stern.
Maybe you could be folksy like Paul Myers.
Just don’t be boring because that won’t get a reaction from your visitors. And in turn that won’t get sales or newsletter signups.
It’s way too easy to be someone different when you’re behind the protection of a keyboard. That’s how Twitter trolls work.
If you’d say something to someone face to face then it’s fair game to say it on the web.
If you’d recoil at what you’ve written then you need to re-work how you do things. Maybe give yourself a cooling off period (overnight is good) before hitting publish if you know that you’d rather the earth swallowed you up than the words get out onto the web.
But be yourself – you’re not an actor, so don’t pretend to be someone else.
Be your potential customer
The closer you can get to being inside the mind of your potential customer, the better.
That’s why the movie Being John Malkovich worked so well.
It’s easier to do that when your memories are more recent.
If your rags to riches story happened decades ago, chances are it won’t resonate with today’s consumers. After all, they’ve got instant access to the web on their phone whereas you just had classified ads in the paper.
If that’s the case, it’s time to home in on a new story – maybe the well worn “what would I do now” tactic, maybe something else.
And if you’ve never been your potential customer, maybe that’s not a market you should be considering.
I couldn’t market to gym rats for instance because the inside of a gym or using a fitness machine is an alien concept to me. Likewise I couldn’t sell prepackaged, junk filled, diet meal replacements because it’s not something I’d ever consider using – I’m much more in the as little processing as possible, pronouncable ingredients if it is processed, camp.
Of course if I was about to get into a new market and wanted to learn alongside my potential customers that’s a different story. That can be a really good way to move into a new market – people can follow along, identify with the inevitable mistakes you make and genuinely feel they’re learning with you.
The closer you can get to being inside the head of your potential customers, the more likely you are to stand out from the crowd.
Ideally your site visitors should feel as though they already know you by the time they’ve read a few pages or watched a few videos.
This doesn’t mean give up after a day.
But it does mean don’t do the internet equivalent of flogging a dead horse.
If something hasn’t worked in living memory and the only person visiting your site is you when you need to update WordPress then it’s time to rethink.
That could mean changing tactics – I’ve done that with varying degrees of success on sites I’ve neglected.
Or it could mean not renewing the domain.
You’ll instinctively know when the site you had high hopes for has turned into a wasteland with no hope of recovery.
And you’ll probably have an inkling when a site has a chance of being revived if only you’d put in some regular effort with it.
That could include revamping the look and feel of the site – chances are you’ve not actually looked at it from a regular visitor standpoint, only from the WordPress dashboard side of things.
Maybe a new theme.
Maybe some stock photos.
Maybe some videos.
Or some extra content.
Whatever it takes to turn the site from boring and conventional to standing out from the crowd.
Stamp your personality on your site.
If your office desk surface hasn’t seen the light of day this decade then your site probably shouldn’t be pristine either.
And if you’re a neat freak and your site looks like it’s just had a flash crowd stampede through it then it’s time to change that to better reflect your personality.
But if you’ve renewed your domain year in, year out, and still had no success then maybe it’s time to fail fast-ish and accept that what seemed like a good idea at the time hasn’t worked out.
Pay attention to the site or lead page or video that’s been quietly working for you despite your neglect.
Play to your strengths and compete with yourself
Things hide in plain sight all the time.
One of the products I promote in self help has ticked over for me for at least the past 5 or 6 years.
I see sales coming in like clockwork yet I rarely create new content for it.
You’ve possibly got something similar.
OK, there’s a school of thought that if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.
But that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been a ton of new content created by your competitors that’s slowly pushing you down in the rankings.
Compete with yourself!
You can do that in several ways including:
- Expand the content you’ve already created. I’ve been shocked when I’ve looked at some of the pages on my niche sites that are getting views – two or three hundred words when the norm is now one or two thousand.
- Create a new video – not the 30 second one you had created on Fiverr way back in the mists of time but a real video that actually helps people
- Give away the answer – I’ve done that on more than one occasion and it’s helped me get sales. It’s unlikely you can write a whole book as a blog post (few people do that) so some visitors will be thirsty for more information and happy to pay for it.
- Re-examine your squeeze page and giveaway product. Is it still compelling? Would you sign up for it? Or does it repell you and maybe even seem sleazy?
If your strength is written content, do more of that.
If you like creating podcasts or videos, home in on those.
Don’t try to force yourself in a different direction where you’re perpetually feeling awkward because that will show through.
Equally don’t just stay well inside your comfort zone otherwise you’ll stagnate. OK, the Pony Express has almost gone full circle with bike couriers but I doubt we’ll be sending telegraphs again any time soon. So don’t let yourself become a museum exhibit for how things used to be.
The saying “no man is an island” is very true.
We’re all connected somehow, even if we’re not quite sure how or why.
And not even the biggest headed person knows everything.
Pick an area you need help in – whether that’s something you want to learn or something you’d like to take to the next level.
Then track down the most likely places you can get help with it.
- It could be buying a new product or book.
- It could be taking a local or internet class.
- It could be subscribing to a weekly nudge.
- It could be some tailored coaching.
- It could simply be tasking yourself to actually do whatever it is rather than talking about doing it but never actually getting round to it.
Whatever help works best for you, remembering that what worked well last year may or may not still work well.
Above all, do whatever you need to do to stand out from the crowd and make your mark.