1 little thing to get ahead

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Let me start this with: I don’t have the answer to what the 1 little thing is. Sorry. It’s going to be inside your business somewhere. It’s been there the whole time.

Now that we got that out of the way, let’s talk about the 1 little thing: what it is, and where to look for it.

Here’s an example, which is how I came up with the idea for this post. Remember the Sears Catalog? If you don’t (she’s too young for you, bro), it was this GINORMOUS catalog that came in the mail and was basically your version of porn when you were a kid. They had EVERYTHING: Toys, games, weird shit, trampolines, electronics, you name it. You’d dog-ear pages, circle hundreds of things, and then make tough decisions about what really got to make the Christmas list that year.

The Sears Catalog wasn’t totally original though, mail order catalogs have been in existence for decades. But what made Sears’ catalog rise to the top and get everyone’s attention? One thing:

In order to stand out from competing catalogs, Sears simply printed theirs on smaller paper so when a stack of catalogs were delivered, theirs would always be on top

I mean…brilliant, right? When I read that, I was blown away at the genius behind that….I almost said “1 simple trick” but this isn’t clickbait, this is real life. But the sentiment stands: Standing out doesn’t have to be difficult, or cumbersome. Finding a way to stand out in your niche takes a little bit of creativity and tweaking. It means looking at something that has always been the status quo and turning it, just a little, to get you ahead.

Thinking back to my skincare line, my Sears Catalog was: sunflower wax. It was what I used instead of beeswax (or carnuba, etc) in my lip balms. I saw everyone making lip balms, everyone, but they were all using the same boring ingredients that everyone used, and consequently they all had the same marketing. So when I stumbled on the existence of sunflower wax, I flipped out because I knew that, if it performed well, it was my edge.

Luckily, sunflower wax worked incredibly well and set me ahead, so much so that my lip balms were the product that received the majority of awards for my business (“Best New Product,” “Most Innovative Use of Materials [!!!!],” “Best Lip Cream in Brooklyn”). (PS – I’ve still got a few left in my outlet if you want to give them a spin)

This sort of goes back to the idea of USP, or Unique Selling Point, but not really. Basically, USPs are “what’s your shiny object for your business?” But, thinking back to Sears, making their catalog a smidge smaller wasn’t a USP, it was a marketing tactic. Sunflower wax, I don’t believe, was my USP, it was just a cool ingredient that stood out. My point is, this 1 little thing doesn’t have to be high level, put-it-in-your-business-plan sort of thinking. It just has to be something that makes you feel just a little clever, because it’s hiding in plain sight and your competitors don’t even notice.

Going back to the lip balms again, another 1 little thing? Oval tubes. Everyone and their mom used round tubes at the time, and you would not believe how many times I had heard at shows “I’ve never seen them in a tube like this before!” Yeah, that’s right, my lip balm tube blew their mind. Now the oval tube isn’t as unique, but at the time buyers were like “what is this strange and mysterious shape?”

Getting it yet? If you’re making cards, what’s some clever little trick you can use with your packaging that will make people stop and take notice? If you’re in stationery, remember when people first started putting profanity in gold foil and pretty fonts? Clever, girl. Or how when jewelers began to package delicate jewelry in test tubes with corks? Brilliant. I remember the first time I saw someone packaging t-shirts by rolling them up and putting a band over them, and then stuffing them into a cube grid at a show. It was like they had created an entirely new display system, people were blown away.

So your challenge for this week is to take a step out of the trenches and look at what aspect of your business you can tilt, ever so slightly, to make you stand out.

What’s your smaller catalog?

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