There is a vegan butcher in Newtown Sydney. I love that.
For a while now retail has been splitting between cheap bulk chain stores and small niche stores that provide better quality goods and service. Trying to be small and cheap is asking for trouble.
B2B has been going through the same changes but it hasn’t been as visible. Luckily for the knowledge class, the loved demographic of this humble blog, there are plenty of large and expensive B2B competitors out there. They get to do that because of perceived quality, prestige, marketing reach and market power. As they say “nobody gets fired for using IBM“. But there is another thing they are known for, not just who they are, but more importantly, what they do.
That means two important things for you:
- You need to stand out from the big guys by being cool because big companies struggle to be cool. It’s what the people that work inside them envy about you. It’s why they might want to buy you, or you might just want to be happy and successful instead.
- To be cool you need not only to do cool things, but be known to do cool things. Not as easy as it sounds in this age of instagram selfie saturation.
A better way to be known as cool, assuming you are in fact cool to start with (and I assume you are because you read blogs) is to stand out from the crowd because of one particularly cool skill, your best foot forward as they used to say.
The birth of cool happens close to the street
Perhaps the best way to think about this is the BBQ test. When you tell people what you do at a BBQ are they interested? When you talk to a potential client do you keep the scope narrow?
There is an old concept in strategy about depth vs width, it is particularly relevant for professional services firms. I think that stopped being relevant for small cool firms years ago, and being all things to all people never did work very well even then. Nevertheless, there is only niche now.
Being cool is just the start, people good at tenders will tell you not to be too broad for fear of missing some unknown criteria, they say to be precise about what you do or you will miss out completely.
Hone your messages, and then… walk the talk.
Walking the talk, owning the walk
At my other gig, Middle Office, we struggled for a while to define what sort of work we didn’t want to do. We didn’t want to do building and construction, not because we dislike the people, some of our best friends are tradies, but because the complexities in those areas make payroll extremely specialised. We are so proud of what we do that saying no felt disrespectful. It took us a little while to realise it’s ok to be just specialists in white collar. We love that now, that’s our space. We only do payroll services, only for white collar, only for cool people.
I love talking to a cool marketing person more than most, but maybe the best people to talk to are right by your side, having a vegan sausage.