Have you ever had a crisis of confidence? You know what I mean – the kind where you look at all of your competitors, and you secretly think, I’m good, but I’ll never be as good as they are, or I’ll never be able to develop the reputation that they have?
Here’s the secret: the solution is not to try to beat the competition at their own game, but beat them at a different one. Brandon Stanton is a great example of how to do this.
I recently had the pleasure of attending an inspiring presentation by Stanton, the founder of Humans of New York (HONY). Just in case you’ve never heard of HONY, it’s a Facebook community and blog, where Brandon features pictures and stories of everyday people. It’s been wildly successful (more than 20 million social media followers), and he’s about to publish his second book (the first was a NY Times Best Seller).
But he didn’t start out as wildly successful. He didn’t even start out intending to start a community, or a blog or to write a book. After losing his job in the financial industry in 2008, Stanton decided to follow his passion, and become a photographer – the kind of photographer that sells his work in art galleries. He moved to New York City and started photographing ordinary people.
It didn’t take long for Stanton to decide that he would probably never be good enough to receive the critical acclaim that the best photographers do, so he decided to take a different approach. Instead of trying to be the BEST, he came up with an idea to do something DIFFERENT.
His idea was to photograph regular, ordinary people in New York, post the photographs on social media, and organize them by geography. He did accumulate a small following, but he wasn’t exactly killing it.
Then one day it happened – his eureka moment. He posted a photo of a woman dressed completely in green, even her hair was green. That fateful day he decided to do something that he hadn’t done before – he included the story she told him when he took her photograph. “I used to be a different color every day. But then one day I was green, and it was a great day, and I have been green ever since.”
That one small pivot made all the difference. The green lady post got more attention than any of his others. So he did it again. He started interviewing his subjects and including their stories with the photographs. He realized that instead of being a great photographer, he was going to be a great storyteller. He had a talent for telling stories both visually and with the written word, the kind of stories that move people.
By paying attention to what resonated with his audience, pivoting his focus, and redefining who he was, Stanton eliminated his competition. He was no longer competing with thousands of other photographers, because he was doing something that no one else was doing. He was still a photographer taking pictures, but he was presenting them in a new and different way.
The method that Stanton reveals here is something that any business can do. It does not involve waiting for a big, earth shattering idea to hit you between the eyes. Instead, it involves continuing to run your business, and making small pivots based on close observation of what works and what doesn’t work with your audience. As I have advocated in the past, talk to your Top Clients and get a feel for what excites them about your company and what doesn’t. Let them help you create your next offering or refine your current one.
Stay open minded, listen deeply to what your Top Clients are telling you about what makes you and your company attractive to them, be willing to think outside the box and you too can create your own category and be the best at what you do!
Would you like expert guidance to determine how you can become different enough to eliminate your competition? If so, then click through for a complimentary consultation with a Certified Provendus Growth Strategist.
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