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How to stand out (even if your business is "boring")

The simple 4-step framework to (finally) stand out from competitors

Read time: 5 minutes

Hey there - it's Brian 👋

Last week, I shared the 6 ways to make your business stand out.

Today, we make it actionable.

At Deloitte, I advised over 30+ Fortune 500s on how they get more customers. Since then, I’ve taken the frameworks, removed the fluff, and adapted them to small businesses.

Today, I’ll walk you through your first steps to figure out which way you’ll stand out to get customers excited about your business.

Here’s the steps we’re talking about:
Brainstorm ways to stand out
• Figure out the upside for each idea
• Figure out how much each idea costs
Choose the best idea

Strap in. This issue is a free mini-course on how to choose the best way to make your small business stand out (in 5 min).

P.S. Stay to the end to vote on which step of the process you want a deep dive on and I’ll prioritize it for next week!

Let’s make your business an outlier: 👇

There’s 6 ways your business can stand out

Okay so quick recap from last week.

Each of the 6 categories has a bunch of tactics. The tactics are what you’ll choose to stand out.

Here’s an example. Let’s say “Networking.”

Check out the screenshot from last week’s issue:

In the screenshot above: see in the bullets it says the different networking tactics you can use?
1. Ecosystem
2. Distribution
3. Partnerships…

So in today’s issue, I’ll help you figure out which tactics you should use for your business to get customer excited about your offer.

I recommend you keep last week’s issue open in a new tab and refer back to it as you come up with ideas for how your business stands out.

If you prefer an offline version download my free Notion guide on ways to stand out (keep section 2 open).

So how do you choose which to focus all your efforts on for your business?

Here’s how you’ll stand out

There’s 4 basic steps to get you from customers overlooking your business to clearly standing out:

  1. Brainstorm: ways to stand out

  2. For each idea: How much upside is there?

  3. For each idea: How much will it cost?

  4. Choose: highest upside for lowest cost

The big picture: Our goal is to fill out a simple template that looks like this:

Let’s walk you through each of the 4 steps.

1. Brainstorm: ways to stand out

First step: write down a list of ways your business can stand out.

Start with column 1

Keep last week’s issue open with the 6 ways to stand out as a guideline. Write down the different ways you can apply each to your business.

The ideas should be structured:
“I will focus on the X market and will stand out by doing Y”

You should end up with a list of 15 - 20 ways to stand out.

Here’s some examples of how other outlier businesses have done it:

  • BrewDog Beer: “Focus on selling beer to rebellious people. I will stand out with loud, rebellious, anti-establishment style marketing.”

  • Zappos: “Focus on selling shoes online. I will stand out by having 10x better customer service.”

  • Deathwish Coffee: “Focus on selling coffee to rebellious people. I will stand out by having 200% more caffeine and marketing it as so deadly it’s only for rebels.”

If you need them, there’s more examples in last week’s Notion giveaway.

If you’re struggling to come up with ideas I’ll write an issue soon on ways to come up with new business ideas.

Can’t wait?

I wrote before about 7 tips to come up with new ideas from when we helped a Mexican bank come up with new product ideas.

Vote at the end if you want to see this deep dive sooner. 🙋‍♂️

2. How much upside does each idea have?

Upside means getting more customers!

Don’t make this a science experiment. You know your customers, so go with your gut for the first pass.

Fill out column 2

Rate the upside for each idea:
• Does the idea feel unique enough (and hit your target customer pain points hard) that they’ll be raving about you? Mark as “high upside.”
• Does the idea feel average. Like it’s sort of unique or kind of hits your target customer pain points? Mark as “low upside.”

Some will be obviously high upside. Some will be obviously low upside. If you’re undecided? Mark as low.

We want you to 10x stand out. Not sort of stand out.

Only 25 - 50% of your ideas should be “high upside.”

Side note: If you’re dying for a more scientific approach to test your ideas for upside, in a future issue I’ll cover how to test after your gut check. I briefly touched upon in the issue on how to use the micro-MVP method.

You don’t need it for the first pass. Keep it simple.

Vote at the end if you want the deep dive in the next issue! 🙋‍♂️

3. How much will each idea cost?

In this case “cost” is BOTH time + money.

You can have the best idea in the world, but if it takes more time or money than you have, it won’t take off at all.

So now, label each idea as high or low cost.

Fill out column 3

Think about what you need to make the idea a reality:
• Will it take you a long time to build new things? Is it expensive to buy new things? High cost.
• Can you quickly build what you need? Is it cheap (or do you already have what you need)? Low cost.

You don’t need to make an excel model. Just roughly estimate how much net new you need.

Honestly, Brian. I don’t know what I don’t know. How can I estimate what I’d need?"

No one teaches you this stuff.

I was speechless the first time my consulting partner gave me this “capabilities model” and said “just fill out the stuff we need.” He said it like it was the most obvious thing in the world.

I had no idea where to start.

So here’s a few categories of things that cost time + money to get you thinking:
People (examples: training, hiring new people, building culture)
Processes (examples: approval processes, workflows)
Tech (examples: new software, databases, analytic tools)

We’ll devote a whole issue to explaining these cost categories.

As always, vote at the end if want a deep dive sooner. 🙋‍♂️

4) Prioritize your ways to stand out

[Exhale.] 😮‍💨

We’ve made it through the hard stuff.

Now we just organize your ideas in a framework to make the choice easy. You’ll want to focus on the ideas that are low cost, high upside.

For example: I came up with 3 ways to stand out for Death Wish Coffee below.

Note: expect to have 3 - 5 high upside, low cost options. Soon we’ll cover how to use tests (micro-MVPs) to narrow down to 1 or 2. 🙋‍♂️

Wait Brian… what if an idea is higher cost, but it still makes strategic sense?

You caught me!

Yes. There’s a strategic override button. But I’m not giving it to you yet.

Don’t delete the other ideas. I’ll cover it when we talk about balancing short term vs long term revenue spikes (spoiler: it’s related to the portfolio mindset issue).

Stay tuned.

Do I need to remind you to vote at the end if you want it sooner? 🙋‍♂️

Congrats on taking your first steps to stand out!

When your business stands out you attract raving fans.

Boom! That’s it.

Geez this issue opened a lot of doors for future content. So scroll down and let me know which topics will help your business the most!

Vote below. 🙋‍♂️

If you found this helpful, please forward this email to 1 friend or colleague. They'll appreciate you and you'll help grow the community.

See you next Thursday 👋

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🛠️ Outlier Resources

Frameworks to come up with unique ideas:
I recommend this book with an asterisk. It’s a bunch of exercises and frameworks to be more creative. It’s best as a resource to flip through, not as a book to read end-to-end.

I live on airplanes so I have to use the kindle version, but I recommend the physical book as you need to flip through the sections.

Make your marketing different:
This week I started this book to make your marketing different. So far I like the book, but a few disagreements:
1) The author says being better is not a way to stand out. I disagree. You need to be 10x better.
2) Their tactics feel shorter term. I like focusing on methods that last longer.

I’ll have more opinions when I finish the book.

Get to know Brian:
This week I’m writing to you from Ha Long Bay, Vietnam. Hot take: it feels pretty similar to last week’s place (Ninh Binh), even if it’s a lot more popular.

I expected the water to be beautiful. But I’ve never seen caves like these!

🙋‍♂️ Vote: Next Week’s Topic

People like you make this community amazing.

So I want to give you the opportunity to pick the topic that will help you grow your business the most (vote to choose next week’s topic below):

🙋‍♂️ Choose the topic you want to learn next week:

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