How to stand out in your business (without trying too hard)?

Neha Awasthi
11 September 2019

Some people can spend hours watching a sunset and some people can be bored after a few seconds. “What’s new, it’s the same sun that comes up every day.”

Similarly, a single product can’t satisfy everyone’s needs and desires. Which is why you need to market to people who will be delighted with your product or service – and not everyone. If you are marketing to everyone, it’s a losing game because you will be spreading your energy and time too thin. Even big companies like Coke and Pepsi change their advertising to culture-specific contexts to “speak” to the specific audience in that country.

If you notice the magazines on the shelves of a news-agency, you will find that they are all catering to a different types of people. Some magazines are for gossip lovers, some for cooking aficionados, some for sports lovers. Some are for the older, some for young and adventurous and some for the poised ones.

And they communicate very quickly who they are for. They communicate with the their front photos, the layout and the vibe around their photos. Your business also needs a similar sort of a magazine to quickly communicate who you are for (and who you are not for.)

How can you do that in your business? 

It can be done with the power of visuals. And Instagram is my favourite channel to do that as it is inherently a visual platform and it lends itself to creating that vibe really well. It shows your personality bit by bit every time you post without overwhelming your audience. Also, it doesn’t require you to boast who you are, but you can beautifully express in a more elegant and subtle way.

But often in the business world, we think of visual identity is only as your logo and colours. We think, if we slap our logo everywhere, people will start recognising our name. However, creating a connection in your customers’ minds with visuals extends much beyond that. It’s the cohesive look and feel of all the visuals you use in your business.

And the first thought is to use the stock photos. They are free and easy to find. So why not?

Can you use stock photos to promote your business on Instagram?

Have you seen a doctor’s clinic? Most clinics have the same bland boring stock visuals on their walls and in their brochures. And you’d find you can’t differentiate one doctor from another based on that. It fails to even grab your attention, it is boring and bland.

We often think of visuals as simply pretty, good quality photos but that’s not enough. If you are using the same visuals as your competitors, you are also looking “generic” and “bland”- and well..just like them.

Think about a time when someone is really present with you, looks straight into your eyes and make you feel like you are the only one in that room? How good that feels – right?

Visuals have the power to do the same with your audience and when you intentionally create that connection with them. They feel like you are speaking to them, and them alone. When you use the right types of visuals, it not only tells a story about who you are but they also feel like you know what they aspire to be, who they want to be, what matters in their life.

And you’d know by now that generic, bland visuals cannot make your audience – seen or heard.

How do visuals help tell a story and differentiate you from your competitors?

Today as I sit around in my favourite cafe with my flat white and almond biscotti, I can’t help but think of their example and how their visuals have helped make a connection with their brand in my mind.

It’s a cafe, started in Australia called Cibo. It has a distinct brand that reflects the roots of the owners from Italy. (I am assuming they are from Italy.) The brand is based around the vibe and theme of Italy. The visuals are black and red, with distinct themes of Italian beaches which easily transport you to the beaches of Amalfi.

Given a choice, I end up picking that cafe every time because I want to experience a little bit of Italy in my day. And that’s the power of creating a story with your visuals around your business.

Italy is my muse. I must have been Italian in my past life. So obviously I gravitate towards the brand.

 

How can you create similar gravity with the visuals on Instagram?

Firstly, you need to understand that visual branding is much more than the logo. It’s about the whole story you tell with your visuals. 

My clients often find it difficult to translate their true vibe to the visuals. That’s partly because they have this idea it’s only about colours and their logo. So they start putting their logo everywhere. And sometimes, that could do more harm than good. 

Especially on Instagram. 

Instagram is a social platform and not necessarily a buying platform. People go with the intent to socialise, consume content that they are interested in. Not to be sold to or have some company’s logo hammered into their faces. That can be a major put off. 

How do you then communicate your vibe and personality with your visuals on Instagram?

1. Start with some self-discovery 

It starts with knowing who you are as a person. Ask yourself what are your interests? What are your deeper philosophies in life? What kind of things do you enjoy? 

Do you enjoy Museums and Nature in solitude or are you more of a people’s person who loves to go out? Do you enjoy cooking or gardening? 

These things may seem frivolous on the outside but they are really important anchor points for your audience to get an insight into you as a person. We are so consumed with the business thinking that we tend to forget we deal with real people. And those real people need to see the human behind your business to relate. 

These little interests and hobbies, really help to showcase your human side to them. They can find themselves in those activities as well. Creating visuals around those things deliberately can help you communicate who you are and what you are about in an instant. It’s a powerful thing to attract your people and repel who might not be the right fit. 

2. Understanding your audience 

It’s important to understand what do your people like to see. For example – my audience is not into shallow small talks, they are introverts, and want to learn something, get insight for a better life and better business while getting inspired. 

So it helps me to put out the visuals that help them to see themselves in my visual stories. They dream of travelling more with their kids have space for creative things and it helps me to match the content for their desires. 

On this note, I want to also mention that you must not lose yourself too much to create what your audience wants, that you forget who you are. It’s a fine balance and the priority is always to reflect who you are first. To create authentic marketing that creates trust. When your audience meets you in person, they must feel like they already know you. That can happen only when you stay true to who you are and reflect that on Instagram. 

3. Being consistent with your visuals

I know! I know! Consistency. You have heard it so many times. But it truly is important. Imagine being in a relationship, where you don’t know what to expect. One day same conversation can trigger smiles and another day anger. You’d lose your mind. 

That’s the same with your audience. Your audience needs to see the visuals and same vibe over time, to really understand what you are about. 

If you are using deep and mellow vibe one day, and next day you are using bright red and orange colours – you’d throw them off guard. It would confuse them. So consistency is really important. 

It helps you to stay on brand as well. Once you have decided the look and vibe, you don’t have to overthink it every time. You know what to do and it takes decision making out of the process. 

To achieve this, I suggest my clients create a mood board with colours and the visuals they like and feel like represent them. And using that as a guide to creating their own look with their own elements from their life to stay true to how they show up online. 

Consistent look and feel creates immediate recognition and also triggers the positive emotions in the minds of your audience. Those emotions are the reasons they learn to make the association with you and your brand – and that’s how you become memorable over time. 

___________

Although it’s the same sun that rises up every day, people who enjoy watching sun rises, find a different beauty, a particular kind of solace in it every time. They watch it to feel the sense of calm, abundance and beauty everytime. Sun doesn’t need to stand out, but it needs to rise up for others to enjoy its beauty. So do you. And your business.

 

S-Factor: Why it is stopping you from standing out and selling more?

Neha Awasthi
10 September 2019

I was nine when I read my first Chacha Chaudhary comic for the first time. The word chacha means uncle. It was a comic Indian comic book character, created by cartoonist Pran Kumar Sharma.

Chacha Chaudhary was a character inspired by elderly people in Indian villages help and solve problems by their elderly experience for everyone.
I remember taking them out only when I was sure my mum was asleep. She’d say Comics have ruined your mind. Because I was so obsessed with them that every time we’d go shopping, I’d want those comics instead of a dress. Old second-hand purchases, some brand new ones, I cherished them a lot.

I still remember his name and some episodes, what he looked like. I look for the old copies that I could get my hands on and may be when I spot them I will probably put them up on my wall in my house as a reminder of my childhood memories.

Those comics have a deep emotional connection in my mind. And I still remember them. Those comic stand out in my mind even decades later. As a business owner, we want the same place in our customers’ minds. We want them to remember us after decades. And it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that standing out is a mysterious act of a few bona-fide adults.

I call it S-Factor. 

Superficial factor. The reason most people don’t stand out is because their online presence is superficial. 

The purpose of your social media, website and content is to show who you are but when all your people get to see is the business and not the person who runs that business – they find it hard to connect. 

I see this on Instagram all the time when people dish out boring and bland smoothie photos that say only one thing – that you are a selfish person who is always busy showing off – I can promise you that they are not paying any attention. In fact you are training them to ignore you. 

Our brains remember two types of things: one that we repeat over some time and something we have a strong emotional connection with. This part of our brain is usually very busy so it’s selective in what it remembers. 

Here is a reminder: That there are humans on the other side of the table. 

Another reminder: They are humans with feelings, emotions and busy hippocampus.

They need to feel a connection with us. So while we are focussed on standing out – maybe we should focus on Connection instead. 

Because then we give them a reason to look at us and choose us from 564532 other Naturopaths, Designers and Photographers. 

Most businesses start with what they can sell. Their product. Their service. And no one cares about that. 

People care about what those things can mean for them. So the first question businesses need to answer more than what they are selling – is who THEY are. 

When you know the answer to this – it becomes easy to communicate that. 

What you will tolerate. What you will not tolerate. 

And work on amplifying that in your marketing.

 

Because anyone can sell what you are selling but the key to standing out is inspiring others to rally up with you and make it matter. 

Why do you need to find your Target Audience (and why selling to everyone is a bad idea)?

Neha Awasthi
2 September 2019

Last month I joined a Zumba class.

In a local gym. For the 134868 time. I convinced myself that this time it is going to work. I am going to love it, and this is going to be my next obsession. Like most Indians – I love curry & I love dancing. 

I went to the classes for 4 weeks, but I had to really drag myself to the class every time. I wasn’t motivated. I wasn’t feeling it. I wondered why. Normally, I’d go to dance classes and find them a lot of fun. But I got bored in this class very quickly. I love high energy classes where instructor is full of enthusiasm and that energy rubs off me.

However, in this class, the instructor played the same music, never interacted with the participants, and kept looking at her own moves in the mirror. 

I felt it lacked energy and was too regimented. Even though that class is always full – it just wasn’t for me. 

When I signed up, the person who signed me up at the counter paid no attention to what I wanted, what my preferences were, what my problems were with the other gym and what exactly I was looking for. And that left a bad taste in my legs.

And that’s the case with a lot of businesses too. 

We think our goal is to get all the customers and any customer possible. Shouldn’t everyone buy what we are selling? 

The answer is No.

Infact work very deliberately to dissuade wrong type of customers. Customers who are not at the right level to use your service, have the right value alignment or are simply not the right fit for your services. 

Why you should actively repel wrong customers?

I held an Instagram workshop the other day and I found one of the attendees didn’t even have an Instagram account. Now, whilst I was teaching the basic Instagram Marketing, she still found it overwhelming. Fair enough!

It’s only natural for someone who doesn’t have an account or knows how to post – to feel overloaded with the strategy part.

I kept thinking about all the things I could have said in my marketing to make it clear who it was right for and who it wasn’t right for? It was my fault. Not hers. 

When we buy things we don’t need or we are not at the right level to make full use of it – we are only left with disappointment for that brand or business. No one wants to think they made a bad choice but now they feel the pang of it.  It is the responsibility of the business and brand to make it clear who is the specific kind of person it is right for. 

You can only do that when you know clearly who is your product or service right for. What kind of person will use it best? Who is that person who will not only like it but will be delighted with it?

This is why finding the right set of people or right niche is important. Not just from a profitability purpose, but also from an overall satisfaction perspective. 

We don’t want to push our services on everyone. We are always seeking to find out who our services are the right match for. Who will not like what we have to offer but infact love it? 

 

This can be the difference between coercion and connected selling. Coercion pushes anyone to buy. Connection inspires selective people to buy who are going to love it. 

This is the difference between coercion and connected selling. 

To find people who love it.

When we use manipulative techniques to persuade and coerce people to buy what we offer instead of making sure it’s a right match and can really serve someone – we almost always end up getting customers who feel the remorse of buying from us.

At the heart of marketing, we must always ask “Who our services the best fit for?”

The benefit of asking this question is there will be a beautiful alignment with those people. They will love working with you, and using your product and you will find it not only easy to sell but love to sell them.

We don’t need the whole world to buy from us unless you are creating an empire for world domination. I know I am not. People like you and me who want a sustainable, small business that fulfills our soul and funds a good lifestyle. We don’t want to be using any cheap tricks or crush our souls to persuade and convince people to buy.

So figuring out who is that person can save a lot of headache and heartache. When we know who we are for and who we are not for, we don’t have to inflate things more than what they are.

We have to just create clarity, create an environment of genuine conversation that helps them to decide whether they want this or not and make an offer to help them decide if they’d like our service and product or not. 

When we have the right type of people buying from us it creates a ripple effect of those people attracting more right people. And business can feel great. As we are spending time with people who we enjoy working with and dealing with.

From profitability point of view, it helps the clients to come back and spend more money and become long term customers. 

People spend more when they feel first time was so helpful and when they got more value out of it than they expected. They actively spread the word as they are so happy with what they got.

And that’s why you should also prevent people from buying from you. As wrong type of customers, will always feel disheartened and disappointed with your service or product and create problems down the road.

When good customers become evangelists, wrong customers actively spread the bad word.

And we must do so without holding any judgements. Everyone has their reasons and preferences and that’s ok. There is enough in the world to go around for everyone.

In this selection process, we don’t want to become wrapped up in who they are as a person. We must look at them objectively , and if they don’t seem the right fit, we must either guide them towards another direction or resource we think will work for them.

___________

So when I found the right Zumba class where the instructor spoke no English at all, but she had the enthusiasm I was looking for. She created a sense of camaraderie in the class and I didn’t have to motivate myself to show up for the class. It felt easy and fun. I showed up every single time. I wanted to be there. 

That’s exactly what finding the target audience can do for your business. You don’t have to push or coerce. They stay. They buy because they love what you do. And they show up. 

 

How Instagram can help you have repeat customers in your business?

Neha Awasthi
2 September 2019

In India, there is a popular brand of biscuits – Parle G. I grew up eating Parle G biscuits. Anytime I go to my local Indian grocery store here in Australia, and I spot the pale yellow packs with a cartoon of a girl in red – I hold them in my hands like a delicate piece of art and admire them for a few seconds. It brings a deep feeling nostalgia. It makes me feel closer to home.

Indian guy humming punjabi songs standing in the aisle, looks and smiles at me. I know he can relate with what I am feeling in that moment.

Parle G is a brand of simple biscuits I grew up eating in India. They are plain, rectangle biscuits, made of flour and sugar. Their design and packaging hasn’t changed much over all these decades. It’s still retro. The same pale yellow.

It makes me think of numerous times I have dunk those biscuits in my masala chai. 

Feelings are powerful.

Feelings bring memories. Memories entrenched in our subconscious. They help us to think of the place or person related to those things again. They keep reminding us of those specific people over and over again.
Your Instagram has to do the same thing.

Evoke feelings in your customers. When we post on Instagram regularly, it helps to keep you on top of mind of your potential customers, build a deep relationship with them that helps them to experience your brand in a certain way. It helps to tell a story of your brand and business and what you are about. It helps to deepen the relationship of strangers and slowly over time, if done properly, can create a deep connection with your audience.

 

Instagram helps to tell a story of your brand and business and what you are about.

How does it correlate to sales in your business? 

People have to feel a certain level of comfort and know and like a brand they want to buy from. We have become savvy with how we spend our money. We want to give money to the brands and companies who are a value-match to us. We have a lot of choice to buy services and products from in the market.

So why someone would bu from you?

Especially if it’s not a everyday commodity like chips or socks that they truly need in a civilised society.

To create that sense of know, like and trust, we must work intentionally on creating an image around our business product, or service that can attract the ‘right’ people to our business and us.

A strong emotional resonance may not directly lead to sales but it eliminates a lot of common problems before they occur in the sales process. It helps to create a factor of familiarity in your audience which means you may not have to work too hard in communicating who you are or try to convince them or persuade them with hard sales tactics.

How does Instagram help you create know, like and trust?

64% of consumers report that their relationship with a brand is tied to shared values.

So when you help your customers understand your shared values and tell stories based on that, it propels your trust-worthiness and helps them to understand you better. It helps them to make a decision if they want to stick around or not. If they want to do business with you or not.

With use of the right visuals that communicate your personality, values and vibe – you can communicate within seconds who you are, and what kind of person you are. It helps your audiecne to make the decision quickly, if they want to stay around and interact with you more or not.

Over time, when you do it consistently, it helps to reinforce your identity and it creates trust in your audience’s minds. The beauty of Instagram is that it helps you to do it slowly, organically without being pushy or boasting. This is one of the reasons I love Visual storytelling method and creating stories around a personal brand or service to help communicate that and create resonance.

Instagram is a powerful tool, free to use, where you can create a unique place for customers to gather and interact with you on a more personal level. Instagram being a visual platform helps you to create a vibe that communicates in an instant who you are and what it would be like to interact with your brand. Which are two important factors in creating know, like and trust factor in your potential customers’ minds to help them decide if they’d like to take the next step with you in future.

 

When there are hundreds of brands of biscuits lying on the aisles in a supermarket – all made of sugar and flour, more or less – the factors I rely on choosing which ones I will money for, come down to who I am most familiar with, which brand I love the most, relate with most.

As a customer, I will go for the products that help me feel the same feelings of nostalgia that I crave for. the brands that make me feel being closer to home – consistently.