Is Your Marketing a Comparison Trap?

We spend so much time worrying about the other guys.

How do we stack up? How do we convince people we’re better?

We want to stand out. We want to be the go-to financial planner for young professionals or the preferred webinar software for solo-entrepreneurs.

But something I’m noticing is that so many businesses build websites or curate social media feeds that look and sound exactly like everyone else in their space. They model themselves after another financial planner or webinar software that’s already successful. Thinking they’ll be like them “but better” (faster, cheaper, more convenient, etc)

When we’re that focused on our competition our marketing tends to fall into a comparison trap, and we wonder why we’re not “breaking through” or getting noticed. Which leads to a whole lot of frustration because we think we’re doing the right thing. It worked for them, why isn’t it working for us?

Here’s what we’re forgetting…

If you look and sound like the other guys then you’re setting yourself up to be pitted against them. You’re asking to be compared. When your website or social media looks and sounds like every other financial planner or webinar software you’re making your potential customers work extra hard to figure out if you’re right for them. People don’t have the energy for that, so they go for the most popular option. They pick the category winner.

If you’re going to play the game the way everyone else is playing it then the only way to win is by coming out on top. By having the resources to be a little bit faster or cheaper or louder.

For a lot of businesses, especially those just starting out, this isn’t possible. Not to mention it’s exhausting.

What if you focused less on competing and more on positioning? What if instead of trying to become the category leader, you created your own category?

I’m not saying you should ignore your competition or industry standards. It’s important to know where you stand in your customer’s eyes and what their expectations are. It’s important to know what’s worked in the past and what rules exist in your industry.

Take all that information, get really clear on who you’re for, and carve out a space that’s all your own—something that’s unmistakably you. Know the rules so you can choose which to uphold and which to break. Familiarity is important (you want to remind people of something else they already understand) but you have to set yourself apart.

It’s about coming across as the only option, not the best one.


Cheese Magic! Taken at Kensington Market in Toronto.

About the author

Kate Smalley

Kate is a marketer, maker, and freelancer living in Toronto. She works with small businesses to help them narrow in on their purpose, share their ideas, and tell their story.

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