The pandemic has been a bit of a wake-up call for a lot of artists and entrepreneurs. We’ve been more and more dependent on technology these past few months. A lot of people that should have had websites a long time ago are now playing catch-up.
Whether you’re new to the online world, or you’ve been around for a while, there’s a good chance that you’ve been doing things the wrong way. Let’s be clear: that’s perfectly ok. We have a tendency to try the things that we’re comfortable with, at first. And, we have a tendency to want to copy our competitors in the industry.
COPY WHAT WORKS
Let’s be clear: there’s nothing wrong with copying what works. You absolutely should copy other people’s frameworks. Like the way a certain website lays out their blog? Try it out! Like the ad placement on a different website, try that. There are so many examples out there that you can learn from, so don’t hesitate to do so.
BUT, NEVER COPY THE BIG GUYS!
If your website is new, or you’re launching a new store, you should NEVER copy what a large competitor is doing. Why? Because they’ve got a lot more staff, a lot more money, and a lot more content, and clout, that justifies how they operate. What works for them probably won’t work for you. Instead, study the little guys, and take note of how they’re growing. Lookup your direct competition, especially the smaller websites that seem to be doing well. Copy some of their tactics if you want. But, don’t try to reproduce what a multimillion dollar corporation is doing.
THE REALITY: BILLIONS OF WEBSITES!
Here’s the thing: the web is HUGE. There are just over 1.8 billion websites out there. Billions of Google searches and millions of Tweets are done each day. There are more users on Facebook than there are websites on the web.
GET REAL WITH YOURSELF
I could wax poetic about how to optimize a website so it can be targeted properly or how to write properly for the web. I could talk to you about all of the administrative stuff that will help you stand out, but I’d be proposing ideas that are still too far ahead and too complex for most people.
If you’re new to the Internet, there’s one sure way to stand out: match your online presence with your personality, your talents, and your skills. That’s where you start. That’s the foundation of how to stand out.
And yeah, it sounds simple, but it actually isn’t. There’s something in our psychology that stops us from doing the most obvious of things. We have a tendency to avoid the question “what’s unique about me?”. We want simpler solutions than that. We want quick riches because we heard somewhere that someone got rich on the Internet.
While it’s true that many people have made a lot of money online, they didn’t achieve that overnight. Many online stores weren’t successful in their first two years, and most online stores fail in their first year. It can take years to build a huge audience online. The thing is, you’ve gotta start somewhere.
There are two huge factors that explain why most people don’t manage to stand out on the web, and you should familiarize yourself with them so that they don’t get in your way: impatience, and believing in myths.
First road block: Impatience
Impatience means that you’ll look for the easiest, most obvious ways to make money. You’re more likely to try hard selling, running ads, and yelling out in the void, “why don’t you just buy my stuff!”.
Impatience makes for crappy websites, crappy social media posts, and ineffective strategies. You’re not gonna stand out by being impatient because the impatient person already believes that they have an audience that just needs to be persuaded.
Chances are, nobody knows who you are and if you’re launching your new brand, product or service online, you need a reality check: success doesn’t happen overnight. It won’t happen in a week, a month, or three months, especially if you’re rushing it.
You need time to do this properly. And that means examining who you are, your strengths, what you’re really good at, and what makes you different from other people in your field. What do you bring to the table, in terms of skills and personality, that they don’t?
Second road block: Believing in myths
Yep, there are lot and lots of myths surrounding online marketing. I’d like to cover just two of them for now.
MYTH #1: “SELLING OUT”
“I don’t want to sell!”, I hear this from a lot of artists. People think that performing a skit on Youtube is ‘selling’. People think that blogging is ‘marketing’. Sure, in some ways, it can fall under that umbrella. But so does stage performance.
Think about it: if you create a one-woman show for the stage, and the show sucks, is that good for sales? If you create a magic show but don’t advertise it anywhere, is it marketable? Transitioning your talents to the online world doesn’t make you a sell-out. It makes you smart.
And, opening yourself up to the online world, means that you’re also exposing yourself to new audiences. For Canadians, it means opening up to an American audience. For Quebec performers, it means a new French audience.
If you want to stand out online, you’ve gotta get rid of all of the lies you’ve told yourself and convert them to new ways of thinking. You’re not “selling”, you’re “sharing”. You’re showing people what you can do. You’re creating art for a wider audience. You’re communicating with people who have no idea who you are, and who might fall in love with your talents and your ideas.
Making an effort to stand out doesn’t mean selling out. Standing out means “I’m ready to be myself in front of strangers”. That’s pretty much it.
MYTH #2: YOU HAVE TO BE ‘PROFESSIONAL’
Another myth that seems to trip up people is this idea that they have to be “professional”. For some reason, people think they’ll stand out more if they’re more generic and vanilla, when it’s the complete opposite!
Being offensive for the sake of being offensive isn’t a good strategy either, but most people are more afraid to be themselves than they are to being too open. Even a doctor’s office can insert something special in their online presence to make them less generic. A bit of comedy, a bit of art. I once had a specialist once who was also an avid art collector. There was art everywhere, and as artist myself, I felt I could trust him more!
Your online presence doesn’t have to be generic-suit-and-tie. It can and should be more than that. Professionalism should apply to things like customer service, returns, dependability, kindness. But it shouldn’t be a paintbrush that decorates your brand in shades of grey.
A WORKING EXAMPLE:
Three people start a t-shirt business:
- Person A hires 10 artists to draw random graphics on shirts without a cohesive theme. Just puts up a website, barely posts anything else online. Fails.
- Person B is an artist who can draw his own graphics! He creates beautiful designs for his shirts, and constantly posts pictures of his shirts on social media, but doesn’t post anything else about him, nor his life. He gives up on his store after just two months of posting t-shirt pictures.
- Person C is an artist with a great sense of humour and a toothless dog. He’s already got an Instagram account for his dog that has over 10K followers. He’s also made a lot of new friends online over the years. He decides to launch a t-shirt business. He designs hilarious shirts, and uses his dog as the mascot for his store. He makes videos of his dog walking in his t-shirts. He creates content every day, using his sense of humour to make people laugh. He talks with his fans, and he re-posts their dog photos too! After about six months, he’s able to pay his rent with the money he’s earning with t-shirts. He decides to use some of that money to run ads and after a year, his new tshirt brand is quite successful.
DON’T BE LIKE EVERYONE ELSE
So, I’ll keep repeating it: standing out means creating a brand, product or service that revolves around what’s unique to you. That can take some time to figure out, but there’s a reason why only a handful of people succeed online. Most people don’t take the time. They put up a website that looks like all of the other websites and they link to it on Facebook but it falls flat. There’s no magic. There’s nothing there that makes me want to like them. There’s nothing on there that tells me more about who they really are. They’re just a catalogue.
You know, a lot of audiences out there want to do business with people they trust. And, it’s hard to cultivate trust if you’re nameless or if you put up a wall between yourself and your audience. Let them get to know you.
Once you’ve figured out what makes you unique, there are ways of using the right social networks and the right approaches to marketing to make yourself stand out even more. And, consider that you can always change your approach down the road. Maybe you have many talents and you decide to pursue one for the time being. But maybe later, you’ll discover that it’s your other talents that seem to captivate the public. There is always room for trial and error.
So, before you get ahead of yourself, get down to the basics. Figure out what makes you different. Think on that, and then start building.