A few years ago I took a trip to India for work. As part of my visit, myself and a colleague from Germany left the work site and went on a tour of a 2000 year old temple away from the hustle of the major city where we were working. During our visit to this temple some young boys approached us and proceeded to take pictures of themselves with us. Why, you might ask? Because we were different from almost anyone they had ever seen before. We were far enough off the beaten path that a blonde haired blue eyed person was something different.
Much the same phenomenon happens in blogs. Recently after the election ended with Trump as president elect, every blog had a post about what would happen to personal finance based on our newly elected president. It certainly was an important topic, but after reading the same thing on about 4 blogs I had had enough and found myself searching for anyone with a different topic.
Which brings us to today’s topics. If you recall a while back, I wrote about crafting and protecting your image to enhance your business and career. Well, there was one thing I left out of that post, the importance of differentiating yourself from others. If you blend in with others too far then you will become expendable, your business won’t succeed, or you won’t get ahead.
So, what does that mean? Well if you are running a personal finance blog like mine it’s about trying to position your blog to provide a unique perspective. In my case for those who may not get it yet, it’s about taking a formal finance/economics background and presenting those concepts in a fun format where some learning will occur but mostly the post will be fun. My line for success is that my wife, whom hates discussing economics, likes a post where I speak to a financial topic. Is that a unique enough topic for the personal finance world? Check back in a few years.
I will say though that the most successful blogs in personal finance are obviously providing a unique perspective. You have the in your face methodology of Mr Money Mustache, if you want the take of a former bank employee in one of the most expensive cities in the country you want Financial Samurai, or if you want a physician then White Coat Investor. Granted over the years many others have entered their niche, but since the early years of blogging they have prevailed. Differentiated and thus generating their own unique following. So to start any business you need to be prepared to differentiate your offerings.
Choosing a Differentiated Career
In the same way, if you are going the more traditional career path you will be best served by differentiating yourself. Whether that be by being one of the hardest workers or even before it begins choosing a career that will differentiate yourself. Take my career. I’ve made a living as being someone with a detailed business knowledge, and actually working in the business, with IT capabilities. Had I been purely IT, I would have long since been outsourced, and yet I prosper as the guy who can go from area to area translating topics into IT needs. My career has touched on all types of areas: Finance, Logistics, Supply Chain Planning, Distribution, Sales Analytics, and Marketing. Yet through all of these what got my foot in the door was the IT background. Now, I’m not saying that’s the right path, as everyone has a different path to take. What I am saying is if you are just starting out choosing a college major or a career path then consider an area where it will be easier for you to stand out if you want an easier path forward.
Differentiating Yourself as an Employee
So, you’ve already chosen your business or job? You can still differentiate in the way you execute. In a corporate world that would mean going the extra mile. Volunteering for difficult assignments that might get you noticed. Figuring out where in the company there is a distinct lack of knowledge and learning that area. Or even as simple as putting in the extra hours. In a small business world that might mean superb customer service, presentation (think Apple), or speed of delivery (think Fed Ex). In either case look for your niche to improve your odds of long term success.
Differentiating your Business
One final example to leave you with. A few months ago I spent some of an afternoon walking around in the Shanghai markets. The problem with each of the vendors is they all sold the same thing. 100s of stores selling the same thing where the only outward difference is perhaps the price. As a business person you don’t want to compete on price as that’s eventually a losing proposition. Competing on price will ultimately result in no profit margin as the market corrects ever downward. So how did they get around this? Well one particular vendor stood out. He had made up his store to look much more professional then the rest. He also had someone talking over a loud speaker promoting his store. He stood out and differentiated on presentation. As I sat observing I noticed he did much more business than the other more haphazard stores. He had found his niche, his differentiation. It truly showed differentiation in action.
How do you differentiate your career or small business? If you’re a blogger how do you differentiate your blog?