Written By: Matthew FerraraIt’s a sea of sameness out there. Whatever business you’re in, most likely you have a lot in common with your competitors. Perhaps, too much in common.
Pull up your website or personal credentials. Compare them to the “next choice” a consumer might find in your business: If you aren’t different enough, it leaves very little for customers to base their selection upon.
Other than the worst criteria: Price.
Put On Your Yellow Pants
Successful people stand out in a crowd. Not in some sort of “marketing gimmick” or crude attempt to “go viral.” Rather, they’re authentically unique when compared to their competition. Beyond what they possess in common with everyone else in their business – training, knowledge, technology – great performers show consumers they offer something uniquely different. When everyone promises to deliver platitudes – service, quality, blah, blah, blah – market leaders don’t need to make promises at all. They stand out by virtue of something only they possess.
What are yellow pants? They are the set of unique qualifications, skills or experiences that only you possess. They are the bizarre deals, particular business practices or idiosyncratic efforts you use to get the job done for your clients. They’re your personal super powers that you bring to your career, by integrating your favorite hobby or special skill into the way you conduct your business and deliver outcomes.
Yellow pants are what set you apart from everyone else, because only you possess them.
Try a simple exercise: Look at your professional biography with a critical eye. Now, cross off anything that anyone else can possess. Be honest: If anyone else can be in the business as long as you, have the same certifications as you, do as many deals as you, and use the same software as you, cross them off. Now, what are you left with? Maybe not too much. So dig deep into your personality, traits, and unique experiences. Start talking about those noteworthy traits and skills that are wholly yours: Do you leverage your love of poetry to write marketing copy? Does your passion for cooking play a role in your work? Does your special photography skill give you an eye for putting together deals?
Those are your yellow pants: Nobody else can wear them except you. Start wearing them in your presentation of value to customers, to give them a real choice.
Let Out Your Inner Pirate
Highly successful people practice being good pirates. They aren’t afraid to cause a little chaos, especially in the sacred spaces that everyone else fears to tread. Like pirates, they throw out the rules and make a mess of things – starting in their own lives and careers. While others stay in safe waters, pirates head into any port and brave the biggest storms.
Leveraging your inner pirate can energize your career and personal life. It’s not about disrupting other people’s lives or careers. It’s about disrupting yours. Start with things you’d like to do, but haven’t yet begun. Maybe you want to try a new business practice or new career entirely. Perhaps you want to throw some customers overboard, to make room for new ones. Are there rules or customs have find frustrating, yet haven’t broken because it would be too chaotic?
Here’s where your inner pirate comes into play. Gather a crew around you, a few people to support you when you start disrupting normal patterns. Then, draw a treasure map, placing a big X on one end of a piece of paper, representing the treasure. Add islands and dragons, representing the stops along the way and potential risks on the journey. Add a legend at the bottom, listing the tools or techniques or customers you’ll need to learn to complete your adventure.
Acting like a pirate can be scary and energizing. On one hand, you’ll feel excited as you break rules: You’ll experience new things, as you work differently, charge different prices, or meet with new people. On the other hand, you’ll be scary – to yourself – as you leave safe patterns: Some of your efforts will backfire, when you take on new jobs or sell different products. A few deals may blow up, or you might work longer or harder for a while. Maybe you’ll just feel uncomfortable for some time – and you’ll make others uncomfortable, too, as you disrupt your normal.
Learning to be comfortable in your yellow pants takes time. Purposefully pirating your practices takes courage. But I never expected to see a small crew of pirates rowing their way down the Hudson River, causing bigger and fancier boats to make way for the unexpected. Likewise, when the man in yellow pants walked into Piazza San Marco in Venice, he stood out against the graying walls and grayer people dressed in look-alike fashion. He made the shot; with everyone else as faded background.
Now it’s your turn.