You Don’t Have to Be Different

February 26, 2013

11:03 am

The most annoying question asked by content strategy experts is “What is your differentiating factor?” Many people never have an answer for this.

Being forced to answer it, you try to look at your competition only to realize that you’re not that much different. In fact, in some cases you’re far behind them. But you still have to answer that question to get started with your marketing efforts. Since there is no answer, you try to “come up” with one.

Do you know why it is so hard to answer these questions? It’s simple. Because most of the time you’re not that different. You’re doing the same thing as many others are. And whatever stage you’re at, there are other companies that are far ahead of you.

But being the determined entrepreneur that you are, you still want to find a perfect answer for this question. So you Google and stumble upon brilliant people like Simon Sinek who will rightly teach you that people buy why you do and not what you do. You will be completely convinced.

Now, you have yet another big question to answer: “Do you know the why of your business?”

I’d like to encourage you to think harder. Is it that bad not to be different? Is it a show stopper in any way? Do you have to always know your “why” to do anything? Even if you do, can you always know your “why” so clearly?

The problem with these questions is that they do not achieve their intended purpose. To be clearer, they are subjective questions to which you can only give subjective answers.

In contrast, your marketing effort is an objective purpose. You know exactly how much you want to grow from a milestone perspective. Attempting to have a subjective solution to an objective question does not fly. So let’s take a step back and understand how you can get started on the right foot towards your objective marketing goals.


Know this for a fact: you do not have to be different to be in business and grow. Take Richard Branson. When he started Virgin Records, the sole motivation behind it (he mentions in his book) was that he saw the opportunity of selling cheaper records and building a business out of it. Was he really trying to be altruistic and conscious or was the incentive strictly monetary? Let’s leave that question for some other discussion.


Instead of answering how you’re different, imagine how easy it is to answer what you do well and find joy in doing. What’s your passion? If you can tie up the joy of what you do with the value add to the customer, you set the stage for all the marketing material you’re about to produce. Not only will it help your marketing, but it will also help you in the decision making process for your business.

For instance, Zappos is passionate about delivering delight to its customers. Though it started out as a shoe company, it converted into selling customer service. Shoes are now only the medium for delivering happiness. This is an excellent example of the fact that you do not have to know your “why” right from the beginning. But once you know it, you can use it to create the right messaging for your business.

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Jinesh Parekh is the CEO of a Ruby on Rails consulting boutique, Idyllic. Idyllic focusses on building web and mobile solutions led by user experience design that solves real business problems. You can reach out to Jinesh at jparekh [at] idyllic [dot] co.

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