Getting Past Generic

In today’s culture of advertising overload, how do you capture your ideal market’s attention and get past the same generic claims everyone else is using?

“working hard to be your number one choice”
“leading service provider of…”
“we put customers first”
“we listen”

Do any of these sound familiar?

There are two issues with the generic claims above.  1)  Your market assumes you put clients first, and assumes you are going to listen to them. These aren’t differentiators, they are a baseline to being in business.  2)  Everyone is claiming the same thing (that’s why these phrases are so familiar!), so they don’t help you stand out from the crowd.  They are just more meaningless marketing ‘noise’.

How can your business come up with true differentiators that accurately reflect the benefits you offer, and attract your ideal clients?  You need to start by Asking the Right Questions, and Asking the Right People.

Ask the Right Questions:

Asking the right questions is about digging for your differentiators.  Digging waaaaay down.  Past the outer layer of “corporate-speak”.  Past the second layer of what you think it *should* be.  Past the third layer of what you *want* it to be.  You need to get down to the core, the bubbling source of *heat* that fuels you.  What is that?  If we were working together, I’d start with the following questions:

What’s your story? Why did you really end up in this career? What was the spark that started it all?  How does the spark continue to play out in why you’re still there?

What drives you personally – outside of your “job” – what fuels you?  How is that related to the value you bring to your clients?

What are you *for*, and what are you *against*?  How does that show up in your work? How does that manifest as a benefit for your clients?

And so on…..

Asking the Right People:

“It’s hard to see the picture when you’re inside the frame”.  You can answer the Right Questions above, but you’ll only have half the story as to how you’re differentiated.  The people ‘outside the frame’ – your ideal clients – have the other half of the story.  So, let’s interview them, and ask questions such as:

Why did you choose (your name/your company)?

Why do you stay?

What caused you to look for (your product/service)?

How is (your name) different, and why do you value that?

Finding your true differentiators is a process.  It begins with asking the right questions, and asking the right people.  This starting point will get you much closer than you ever have been, to defining your true differentiators and ensuring you stand out from the crowd to attract your ideal clients.

If you like where I’m heading with this, check out these services:

Differentiation Foundation

Differentation Presentations


8 Responses to Getting Past Generic

  1. Thank you Cristi for sharing some good insight of looking inside and outside the frame of the big picture. Never looked at it that way and it makes perfect sense!

  2. Fantastic insights, Cristi. I’d say that whenever we start with US in any statement about our work, it may be problematic. What if we start with THEM, our clients, our target audiences, start where they are, then tell them what we have to do with them and solving their problem. Yeah? I think that’s what you are up to in your Asking the Right People part–then, our job is to lead with what our clients want/struggle with. Our under-story can be our motivations and drives–I’m totally down with that. NOW, the grain(s) of salt–I’ve been thinking about how to change my own language to match my own advice. Kettle, getting black, I say (meaning, I’m a work in progress, too!). Thanks for the inspiration, CC.

    • Cristi Cooke says:

      Dyana, you are one wise woman, your comment made me realize I need to refine my message just a bit. Yes, I agree with you – from the perspective of marketing materials and messages. Start with clients’ needs first, then move on to how we can solve them. *However*, and this is an important distinction I could have been clearer about – in this case, I am suggesting that professionals, when doing the hard introspective work behind the scenes in sorting out how they are differentiated, must *first* look internally. What is their purpose, spark, story. These insights form the foundation for defining differentiators, and defining an ideal client/target market. When this step is skipped, or not done well, we end up with ‘generic statements’ like “I listen”, because the internal work hasn’t been done properly, to figure out “what truly makes me unique, and how that manifests as benefits to my clients”.

      So, in writing marketing messages, start with the client. But, when doing the hard work behind the scenes to define differentiators, begin with yourself. This, I find, is the most efficient path to then changing your marketing language to something that sticks – both with you, and with your ideal client. Thank you, Dyana, for helping me get better at what I’m best at. 🙂

  3. Cristi and Dyana you both make some very good points. So in a more simple way to put this for me is … without the Passion in YOU, there wouldn’t be THEM…. Would you mind if I shared both of your comments with my clients? I see a really great post pointing out these things.

  4. Yay, Cristi and Lynn! I’m happy to share any of my comments–go wild, Lynn:) Cristi–the distinctions make perfect sense. I’m right there with you! To both of you: please let me know how I may be of service to you as you move through your creative work!

  5. Lynn Brown says:

    Thank you and I will certainly but a link back to your blogs respectively. Actually, Dyana, not sure if we are ‘friends’ yet, so I will find you socially and invite. Would love to keep in touch with both of you gals…. do I see a possible alliance forming? 🙂

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