We are all competing. Italian restaurant versus Italian restaurant. Phone versus phone. Blog post versus blog post. — But what's the secret magical gut-punching ingredient that gives one brand a shot at the title over another?

Here's How To Minimise Risk And Out Modernise the Competition in an Ever Changing World

Why do you always frequent this tired old Italian restaurant when there’s a hip new Italian right around the corner?

Why do you go broke to buy that brand’s latest phone when you know there are cheaper phones out there that do everything your ridiculously pricey phone can do?

Why do you avidly share the ideas of that blogger when there are better informed and more popular bloggers to follow?

Here’s the answer:

Even though we consider ourselves to be rational and open to choice, we don‘t make rational purchases or lifestyle decisions and we don’t want choice.

And the brands that inspire our often irrational love and often uncritical loyalty appeal to us at an emotional level.

They talk directly to the part of our brain that controls behaviour where our gut decisions are made.

Sure, other brands (and our friends) can give us all the facts and figures in the world, overkill features and benefits, but we often still say:

“Yeah, but it just doesn’t feel right.”

Why?

Because of biology.

Because the part of our brain that controls our decision-making doesn’t control language.

So as a brand, how do you go for the gut?

1. Sometimes you need to admit that you don’t know anything.

And especially if you know you need a design or content makeover, now is the time to get new answers to old questions.

So run a survey.

Ask tough questions.

Get some real honest feedback.

  1. What is the main problem that they have that your brand aims to solve?
  2. How does your business solve that problem?

Go out there and see what people are “really saying” about your brand (and your competitors.)

That might make for painful reading. It might not align with what you thought.

It might even force you kicking and screaming back to the drawing board.

But the pain will be a whole lot less than the pain you’ll feel if you publish a new website or roll out a marketing campaign in a vacuum.

2. If people like your eccentricities or quirks, don’t iron them out, push them to their digital limits.

Remember what we said in previous posts: people like brands that stand for things, who have a “why” they can relate to.

If your why can be further incorporated into your website or make your content truly stand out, don’t hold back.

  1. What are your key branding messages?
  2. What is the one thing that differentiates you from everyone else?
  3. Where did the game-changing idea come from?

We all started somewhere.

We all have a backstory.

But be specific.​

People like to know where you stand whether they end up standing for or against you.

They don’t like not knowing where you stand.

Or having to guess.

So be clear.

Be bold.

Be remarkably and unmistakably you.

There are many great reasons to follow the herd when it comes to design and content best practices.

At the very least, you won’t stick out like a sore thumb.

But being modern and new is not the same as blindly copying every new trend.

3. The herd isn’t always right. And the herd often likes the lazy option.

Don’t be lazy. Don’t assume the herd is always right.

If your website is designed and written for “everybody” or sounds similar to everyone else you’re making it extremely difficult to position yourself.

Put simply: Nobody identifies with “everybody”.

So don’t follow, lead.

Look at your competitors and out modernise the competition.

  1. How ‘modern’ is their design?
  2. How on trend are their marketing messages and content?

Remember that most of your customers will look at you and them together and ask:

  1. Who is the real innovator and leader here?
  2. Who is going to keep pace with change and adapt to meet my needs now and tomorrow?

If that’s you, great!

But if not — and be honest — put a modernising strategy in place that will put clear blue ocean between you and your competitors.

At the same time, don’t limit yourself to the competition.

Look at the news sites and social media sites that talk about your niche.

Ask yourself:

  1. Which fonts do they use and how does their design choices differ from yours?
  2. How do they talk to and interact with their audience?

After all, their audience is your audience too. If they are doing it better than you, learn from them.

The brand evangelists and arch bloggers who talk about you and your industry want to be able to confidently back the winner too.

Make sure that is you.

4. Never stop trying to up your game when it comes to how new customers experience your brand.

At every step from the search engine listing to the homepage to your social media profiles even down to your sales emails and newsletters, you’re design and content are being judged.

If you’re sloppy in one area or out of date in another, if there is a mismatch in your messaging, fix the problem.

And never waste any opportunity to dazzle your potential customers with something new and unexpected.

As an artist, Rimbaud’s point was that copying or repeating and regurgitating great past works was pointless.

If one wanted to be remembered like the old masters, then one had to do what they did and become a master of the new.

To create the next thing.

The new thing.

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And if you like that kind of thing, here are my four “Do New Always Principles” to create just that ..

Yours for those blockbuster breakthroughs,

Stephen

P.S

  1. Do New Answers — Throw out the rule book. Throw in your ideas. Don’t think you know what your customers want, ask them.
  2. Do Not Accept — Cookie-cutter templates. Pre-existing design. Agency prices.
  3. Difference Not Average — Aspire for better. Focus on the details that make you stand out and push them to their digital limits.
  4. Dazzle New Audiences — Create experiences that new customers can learn about your brand in new ways.
  5. Drive New Approaches — To old problems. And be ready to approach new problems the same way.

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A “bad” marketing strategy will fail at all the above, rapidly burn through your marketing budget, and provide little return on investment.

A "good" marketing strategy will help you find new clients, help them see the world through a “better” lens, then quickly turn those prospects into new appointments.
Stephen Shaw. Founder of An Artful Science.
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