If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.
-Henry David Thoreau
Now that you’ve completed the important task of figuring out who it is you want to reach with your blog, it’s time to figure out how to stand apart from the competition and deliver unique value. What’s the angle that will capture attention and attract regular readers who eventually become loyal customers or clients?
The following five step process can help you speak to your intended audience in a way that allows you to develop a distinct, authoritative voice in your niche or field of expertise, and also facilitates your business goals.
1. Evaluate the Competition
It’s inevitable that you came across your competition when you were identifying your audience. With the growing popularity of commercial blogging, it’s often quite easy to stumble across those who already have a presence in your area.
It doesn’t hurt to take another look however, to make sure you’re not missing other competitors, as well as blogs that are complementary or industry focused. These can make for excellent link sources and are invaluable at providing inspiration for a differentiating focus.
Two excellent resources for blog research are:
Now that you’ve done an exhaustive identification of the players out there, evaluate each of their approaches. Can you spot the unique focus of each competitor?
You may find that the only unique thing about the leading blog in your niche is that they started blogging before everyone else did. While being first has big advantages, a “plain vanilla” market leader should be viewed as an opportunity, not a deterrent.
2. Employ Lateral Thinking
Many people feel that the key to differentiating yourself can only come from off-the-wall creativity. And while lateral thinking is crucial to separating yourself from the norm, a logical justification is also required.
Here’s the thing about lateral thinking—it is creative thinking that also provides a logical bridge within the context of your subject matter. It does not mean coming up with some flaky idea that is divorced from both common sense and the needs of your audience and prospective customers.
Some of the best advice I’ve ever heard regarding lateral thinking is to make jokes about your business, and then take the joke seriously. Humor contains truth, and truth, uncomfortable or not, is an excellent starting point for innovation.
3. Identify the Difference
What fresh angle are your competitors missing out on? Often, you’ll have a clearer view of something that another blogger is touching but not capitalizing on. They’re too busy writing the blog to see it, or are locked into a certain theme, while you have the benefit of an outside view and a clean slate. What is incidental to them may be your ticket to a unique new approach that works.
Another tactic is to mentally abandon the way things are currently done in your field. Just as many business innovators draw on best practices from other fields in order to shake up their own, look at other blogging approaches. Will they work in your field?
4. Maintain Your Credibility
Often the exciting new angle we discover puts us outside our comfort zone—in fact I’d say that’s a prerequisite. If there’s not a nagging bit of worry that you’re out of your league, you’re likely not taking a truly unique approach.
However, there are scenarios where credibility can be strained. Writing about the intersection of the field you know inside and out with another that is brand new to you represents an opportunity, but do your homework. Blogging allows for an immense amount of leeway and “learn-as-you-go” time while ramping up, but make sure not to hide behind false confidence or arrogance.
Take people on the journey with you.
5. Communicate the Value
Time and again people drop the ball when it comes to communicating their unique benefit to readers, and that’s the whole point of copywriting. No matter how crystal clear you think it is without elaboration, you need to expressly communicate what makes you, your business, and your blog unique. More importantly, you need to make it expressly clear how that uniqueness benefits the reader, or this entire exercise has been for naught.
Remember the importance of your blog’s About page. A well conceived and executed “about” page is not really about you or your business—it’s about the unique benefit to the reader that you’re offering them with the free information you provide via the blog. That benefit is your ticket to a seat at the table with scores of prospective customers and clients.