Whether you’re currently a desk jockey, a freelancer that’s just getting started, or a thriving business owner you’ve surely felt the anxiety and pressure that comes with competition. It could be competition from your co-workers for a big promotion, competition from other freelancers to land a lucrative client, or a competition from another business to dominate your market.
It’s no secret, starting a business is hard. It’s damn hard. Whether it’s a side hustle, a freelancing operation, or a startup with dreams of landing massive amounts of capital — there is nothing easy about it. In fact, according to Forbes magazine, 8 out of 10 small businesses fail within the first 18 months in business.
Let’s get real, no idea is truly original and most likely you are going to try something that’s been done before, is currently being done, or is soon to be done by a lot of people. Before Facebook there was Friendster and MySpace. So regardless of your idea, you will face competition. Lot’s of it.
For example, I work as a personal trainer in San Francisco which is a very crowded marketplace (i.e. lots of competition). A quick Google search returns well over 1-million results and a Yelp! search returns 1,519 listings — yet somehow I’ve been able to not only make it, but stand out. Hmmm.
I may not be operating the next Facebook, but I have a pretty sweet little personal training business here in beautiful San Francisco called Action Jackson Fitness. I was recently named San Francisco Magazine’s Best Personal Trainer For Abs, and I’ll be speaking at this year’s Business Movement event.
How did I do it? Below I’ll outline the 4 simple steps that I took in order to become a local authority, set myself apart from my competition, add more value to my clients, make more money, and dominate my market. I don’t have to compete with other personal trainers any longer. Until someone shows up that’s a lot better than me and targets the same niche market, I’m in a category of one and will continue to dominate my market.
I’ve also got momentum on my side so I’m way ahead of the competition. And I’ll show you how to do the same. Don’t think you don’t have to be in the fitness industry to apply this same technique — it can be applied to any industry. Onward.
COMPETITION ISN’T ALL BAD
Hey, competition can be a good thing and can be very healthy for you. As Tim Ferriss pointed out in The 4-Hour Workweek, eustress (good type of stress) can be the cure all to procrastination and get you to actually produce and deliver instead of plan and perfect forever like so many of us tend to do.
On the other hand, too much stress can also lead to severe procrastination, unnecessary information gathering, and endlessly planning and perfecting until the opportunity passes us by. Ultimately, the end result can be classified as a failure.
Whether you’re still dreaming, just starting, or already hustling the question we need to ask ourselves is this:
HOW DO I SET MY PRODUCT OR SERVICE APART FROM MY COMPETITION?
It’s simple. Let’s go back to Marketing 101 and your unique selling proposition or USP. Do you have one? When was the last time you revised it? Do you even know what a USP is?
The reason most freelancers fail is simple: they don’t differentiate themselves and they get lost in a crowded and competitive marketplace marketing/selling to anyone that will pay them. As a result they become another “me too” option for clients. There is nothing distinct about their product or service and there is really no reason for clients or customers to pick your product or service over anyone else’s.
That’s where your USP comes into play. According to Jay Abraham in his fantastic book Getting Everything You Can Out Of All You Got, the cure-all for a mediocre “me too” product or service is a unique selling proposition (USP). Even if you have a business that’s doing well, with some refinement to your USP I bet it can do a lot better.
In order to truly thrive, you need to develop something that allows you to stand out from the competition and gets prospective clients to notice your product or service. And when you follow the steps below and get really good at this, you’ll find people don’t just notice you but they’ll demand to work with you. They will begin to think that you are the only person that can solve their problem and they’ll be right. That’s when you are truly in a market of one.
HERE’S YOUR 4-STEP FORMULA FOR USP SUCCESS:
STEP 1: WHO DO YOU HELP? DESCRIBE THE PERSON IN 1-3 SENTENCES MAX.
- Here’s mine: Males age 28-38. Interested in physique training (six-pack, lean muscular physique). Lives in San Francisco (Castro, Mission, Soma).
If you aren’t sure, who you help just think about your current roster of clients — especially your favorite type of client. It’s the type of client that you get excited about helping, are damn good at helping, and would love to have more of. To be clear, it’s not just your favorite client as a person. We are concerned with the type of client here as opposed to one specific individual.
If you don’t have any clients yet, check out Billy's blog on creating a client avatar based on your niche to get juices flowing.
STEP 2: WHAT DO YOUR CLIENTS WANT? WHAT’S THEIR END GOAL OR DESIRED OUTCOME? KEEP IT SIMPLE, STRAIGHTFORWARD, AND BRIEF.
- Mine is “six-pack abs” and/or “lean muscular physique.”
- Another example might be increased website traffic, social media followers/engagement, or even increased sales.
Focus on the outcome and not the features of your product or service!
STEP 3: HOW ARE YOU HELPING TO SOLVE THEIR PROBLEM? DESCRIBE HOW YOU SPECIFICALLY HELP YOUR IDEAL CLIENT. WHAT’S UNIQUE ABOUT THE SERVICE YOU OFFER TO THEM?
- Mine is “customized exercise and nutrition programs that are proven effective and get results quickly” as opposed to some cookie-cutter program in a magazine or on Bodybuilding.com. Most people are also accustomed to working out, doing the same thing over and over, and getting little to zero results. My programs are different than anything they’ve ever done and get results in a weeks, not months.
- Another example might be “creating and posting social media content” or “increasing SEO ranking for existing content”
STEP 4: PUT IT ALL TOGETHER.
- I help [your ideal client] [accomplish their goal] by [specifically how you help them].
Here is an example of my UPS based on the exercise above:
I help busy men in their 30s get lean muscular physiques by providing customized exercise and nutrition programs that get results quickly.
- I help professional bloggers double their sales in less than 6-months by tripling their website traffic with increased SEO rankings.
Here is a breakdown of my USP: I addressed several concerns of my ideal client, I narrowed down who he is, I’ve used his language, and I’ve even told him what he will get (the desired outcome of my service in his language).
GO WHERE THE FISH ARE
If you need new clients today, right now, all you have to do is go where the fish are. Before, you had no idea who you were targeting or how to find them. Now, you have an arsenal of information to access and leverage to find these people. Look over the information you wrote about your favorite/ideal client. Where could you find these people, if you needed to, today? Seriously, if you absolutely had to find 5 prospects today — where would you go to find them?
When I first got started in personal training, I had a crappy website and no real online marketing strategy so I got a majority of my clients from in person prospecting. I’d meet people on the street, in a gym, at a restaurant, and I even once met and sold a guy I met in a movie theater. I know my ideal client so well I easily can pick them out in a crowd. I know exactly who I’m looking for and as a result I’m able to filter out the excess and focus on who might actually be interested in training with me.
Don’t think this is limited to personal training because it isn’t. This can be done for any industry. Let’s say you are a freelance iOS developer and you are targeting new startups looking for a minimal viable product (MVP) or a prototype to show to investors. Where would you find these people?
Using Meetup San Francisco you can easily drop in on more than a dozen meetup groups in the next few weeks all of which will be filled with people in the startup game. You can even narrow it down by industry if you want and focus on those in the financial, gaming, or productivity niches.
For a final example, if you are a yoga instructor I’d bet you’d have some luck getting prospects by hanging out in the vegan aisle in Whole Foods. It can be that simple; don’t overcomplicate it. It just takes a little guts and grit to get outside your comfort zone and talk to people you don’t yet know. Just show an interest in them and come with a helping hand and they’ll be happy to talk with you and even come in for a free session. Note: don’t ever say, “You look like you could use some personal training.” Practice makes perfect.
TAKE ACTION TODAY
There is a lot of information here. I know. Just take it one step at a time, break it down, and execute. The key is not to wait and say, “I’ll do it later.” Take 1 step today. However small it is, even if you just do Step #1 above — do something today to build some momentum and commit yourself. If you wait you’ll either forget and never do it or you’ll psych yourself out, fear will set in, and you’ll never take action.
To summarize, here are the steps you need to take:
- Who do you help? Describe the person in 1-3 sentences max.
- What do your clients want? What’s their end goal or desired outcome? Keep it simple, straightforward, and brief.
- How are you helping to solve their problem? Describe how you specifically help your ideal client. What’s unique about the service you offer to them?
- Put it all together:
- I help [your ideal client] [accomplish their goal] by [specifically how you help them].
Use this insight to craft your marketing messages, add more value to your target client, create new/better services, etc. This will help you appeal directly to your target market, add more value to your clients, break away from the competition, and stand alone in a market of one.