In 2011 BC (Before Coaching,) I accidentally launched an award-winning creative agency and promptly (and painfully) stumbled across an industry secret many hadn’t discovered.
Various “gurus” talk about it. They say:
If you want to be in the top 1%, you need to do things differently from the other 99%.
I don’t know who said that first (everyone’s claiming it), but it’s an insta-quote I can get behind after my long-winded experience.
In his BANGER of a book, “$100M Offers,” author and business titan Alex Hormozi talks about becoming a “market of one” so that your offer is never considered a commodity and you can’t be compared to anyone. In other words, it’s possible to position yourself so that you never have any direct competitors. Imagine.
So – how do you do this market-of-one thing?
Well, the short answer is that you’ll need to shift your differences into the spotlight and use these as your competitive edge.
Here’s what this looked like through my lens…
First things first. How the hell did I accidentally launch a creative agency?
I had some experience in communications working with Nike, Red Bull, and a few associated advertising agencies, but aside from that, it was a “not much gear and even less of an idea” kinda sitch. But it looked like fun – so why not, right?
I started (when I realised my agency had legs and could actually be a thing that paid me money) by looking straight for the market leader. I needed to see how those at the top of the tree were running things.
Enter swanky Californian comms agency. Super polished. All the buzzwords. They definitely looked like they were the ones to beat. Especially as the starting price to work with them was THIRTY TIMES the price of our highest offer.
I scoured their website. Signed up as a “potential client” to see what their sales process looked like. I studied their offers and packages…nothing wrong with some healthy competition practices, is there?
Then I thought – hang on, WE can offer exactly what they’re offering, and we can do it for considerably less as our overheads are tiny by comparison. My writers, designers, and animators are heavy hitters just like theirs. So, we’ll deliver a comparable high-end quality while billing for a third of the fees – THAT’S how we’ll attract our clients.
I put the strategy in play. We got a few big-name clients and a VERY swift and painful education in WHY the said West Coast agency priced their services where they do.
Dammit, corporate clients want the world, huh?
After a few months of being nickel and dimed, I had a eureka moment. We’ll charge what the other agency charges, but we’ll offer a 5-star luxury experience and give our clients the most exceptional service where nothing is too much for them. Sure, they’re paying more, but working on comms with me and my team will be a dream – THAT’S how we’ll attract our clients.
A few updates to the website copy and a little relaunch and BLAMMM BABY – we were the first class comms experience. And we got a few more clients – bigger names again…along with a burnout baptism of fire. My team and I worked 25 hours a day to keep our clients happy, but that wasn’t enough. We were exhausted. My team was irritable and confrontational, and our operations broke down.
So, I went back to the drawing board (third time lucky, eh?) and decided to offer exactly what the other agency offered for the same price. Why not? We’re offering equal quality with an equally high level of service. We ran with it.
And you know what I found out? I found out it was a ridiculous uphill struggle to justify that kind of offer when your business is 10 years younger than the competitor you’re going against.
Not one to be beaten, I decided we could trump them with our social media savvy.
The California agency was a more traditional setup, and they didn’t have a huge social presence (2022 Kym now realises that they didn’t need a huge social presence…*facepalm*).
So, here we are, tenacious Kym and Co, doing what it takes to compete with the big dogs. My marketing team (all 2.5 of them) flooded Facebook and Twitter with insane messaging, promotions, and clickbait to grab ALL of the attention. In reality, all we grabbed was a big handful of visible desperation. It was a very expensive marketing flop that, even now, eleven years later, I’m still wondering what the hell I was thinking. Though deep down, I know what I was thinking…I’d do whatever it takes to de-throne those smiley, happy-go-lucky, “have a nice day now” Cali creatives ‘cause now it feels like I have a point to prove.
And here’s the brilliant thing:
I’m pretty sure our market-leading competitor had absolutely no idea who we were.
I can tell you that they certainly weren’t concerned with any of our business strategies or marketing stunts. Why? because we didn’t appear on their radar. Not even for a moment. They were way too busy being market-leading. Because they knew they were a market of one.
If I knew then what I know now,
I wouldn’t have been nearly as obsessed with one-upping that goliath of a competitor. And while we managed to sign some impressive clients, overall, my journey was an expensive and stressful lesson in how NOT to do business.
I would focus on what made my agency completely different. We were a small team, yet mighty in our capabilities. We were eager to excel and ready to put in the work to exceed our client’s expectations. We were straight talking – no buzzwords or jargon, just clear and effective communications – we practiced what we preached every day. If I’d have understood the power behind being a market of one, I would have been infinitely more proud of the things that made us stand out, and I would have invested in those things heavily. Like my supposed competitor, I would have carved out a space where we could stand in the spotlight, so there was no way we could be comparable, even if a jumped-up little agency from London tried.
And here’s the kicker – when you realise that you’re already different and unique by design and that you can very easily capitalise on your individual knowledge, experience, and expertise, you then understand very quickly how to become a market of one where you don’t have any competitors, and you can confidently call the shots. And who does your ideal client aspire to work with?
The service provider confidently calling the shots. EVERY TIME.
So, how are you going to communicate YOUR market of one positioning? Why should your ideal clients choose you and what you have to offer?
This is the perfect time to step out of your “humble shadow” – leave your modesty and humility at the door so you can tap into your rockstar and let THEM do the shining. You need to be able to express yourself with bold, no-holds-barred confidence. Easy right?
Okay, maybe not easy, but necessary and certainly doable for you.
This is an opportunity for you to step up and lead in the market as YOU – being your authentic self. What past experiences can you draw from that illustrate your unique and credible expertise in your field today?
What transformations are your clients consistently taking away from your work together?
What are you doing naturally with your clients that makes you stand out?
A quick aside: don’t shy away from “quirky” here. I once worked with a graphic designer who made it a rule that you had to have a cookie before you parted ways. He carried a cookie jar with him, so even if he came to you, something to dunk in the coffee was inevitable. If I’d bothered to look, I might have found a better graphic designer, but why would I bother? This guy was great to work with, AND he brings cookies. He’s made a lot of money with me over the years.
And before you ask – no, doing this isn’t bragging. Michael Port, Author of Book Yourself Solid® defines bragging as “comparing yourself to others and telling the world you’re superior.” You’re not comparing yourself – because you can’t be compared. And as far as I’m concerned, it’s not bragging if you’ve achieved it – it’s facts.
So shout it from the rooftops. There’s NO ONE like you. Boldly declare your strengths, skills, expertise, and your ability to help your ideal client get what they want. Oscar Wilde (supposedly) said it best when he said:
Be Yourself. Everybody else is taken.
Yes, I realise that I’ve hit my limit for insta-quotes in this piece, but I need to let 👏🏽you 👏🏽know👏🏽:
Your client is looking for someone to lead them through the challenge you and your business can help them to overcome, so do so confidently; this is what your clients want and need to hear from you for them to decide to choose you.