In 2001 Jack Trout published a book called "Differentiate or Die: Survival in the Era of Killer Competiton." It's still as relevant as ever, because the ability to set yourself apart from the crowd is at the heart of successful marketing, no matter whether you're networking, using social media or giving talks.
And the competition is stronger than ever too: potential clients need to know why you're the best choice for them.
In the book, Trout talks about how we often take the easy route to marketing, such as jumping on the latest technology band waggon, or saying what everyone else is saying, rather than first putting time and thought into disovering what makes us different.
If you are a Financial Planner (or a massage therapist, or social media consultant - pick any business!) and I have several representatives of your industry lined up side by side in front of me, why should I choose you? After all you're all probably offering similiar services or products, or the same benefits.
It may come down to personality or chemistry or because you're an all-round nice person, but you can't depend on that.
There are a multitude of ways to figure this out. Here are a couple of ideas.
One of the easiest and quickest ways is to ask yourself: "What are the most frequent client complaints in my industry?" Once you have that information, then ask: "How do I, or could I, do it differently?" For example, if people in your industry are notorious for not returning phone calls, or for calling back days later, and you are great at responding within half a day, this may have a seed in it that you could build upon to make yourself stand out. Or perhaps you're a chiropractor who allots more time per patient that is usual: this could also be developed to your advantage.
Another way - this one takes more time - consists of honing in on the three words that describe you and your company, AND that your clients care about. I describe myself as creative, adventurous and fun, but my clients don't care that much, because these qualities don't help them in their businesses. When I went through a structured process of digging deep to find out what really connects me to my clients, I came up with completely different words that resonated with the wants and needs of my clients.
Once you know what makes you stand out, the next step is to make this part of your core marketing message and integrate it into ALL your marketing. It lets potential clients see that you have something they want, something your competitors don't, can't or won't offer.
And now you're ahead of the game.