The Worst Marketing Advice I Ever Got

conformity is overrated

Be Different…Just Like Everyone Else

I wasn’t always a marketing genius, and I’ve been known to seek out the advice of others. Generally I’ve found that to be a good policy.

When I first got started…in my pre “marketing genius” days, my first attempt at advertising was using the yellow pages. Ironic since I was starting a web design company. Back then the Yellow Pages were relevant, and websites weren’t.

I’d never done anything like that before, so I called up the yellow page sales person and asked how I should get started. Apparently, the Yellow Page sales person wasn’t a genius either. His advice? “Take a look at what everyone else is doing, and do that”.

Seriously? I was expecting hidden secrets and sage wisdom. “Just do what everyone else is doing”? My first thought was; well that’s a pretty lazy answer. My second thought was; well that’s some pretty bad advice.

“So, your strategy is for me to camouflage my ad by blending into everyone else’s?” He paused a moment, and summoning up the full extent of his marketing expertise proclaimed; “Well, you don’t want to stand out too much or it will make the page look funny.”

Clearly this advice served his needs more than mine.

OK, now that I am a marketing genius (self-proclaimed of course), here is my sage advice:


Don’t Be Obvious: Avoid clichés and the expected. If you are looking for an image for your website or blogpost, don’t chose images that are the direct visual incarnation of the words on the page. If you’re writing a headline for an article or an ad, consider using a question, or something silly, shocking, or controversial.

Pick and Choose what to emphasize. If you try to make everything stand out, then nothing will stand out. What makes something stand out is that it’s different, not necessarily loud and obnoxious.

One of my early clients, who evidently went to the Yellow Pages school of marketing, wanted to make sure that no one missed any of his insurance products. He mandated that everything on the home page had to be red or flashing. The end result was that the only things that stood out were things that weren’t red and didn’t move.

If you can’t be different, be the best. There’s a lot of mediocrity out there. At a local level, the bar is often pretty low. If you’re in an industry where it’s tough to be different, then be different by being the best. Don’t use free business cards or do-it-yourself websites.

Personality: People want to do business with people, not faceless corporations. Show some personality in your ads and on your website. Don’t write in the third-person. Are you on LinkedIn? Yeah…me too. I wrote my own profile, which is why I know you wrote your own profile.  Why then would someone post what is essentially their resume that looks like it was written by some innocuous third-party? We know YOU wrote it! Less pretentious, and more personal. Try to sound like someone I can relate to. That goes for your advertising copy and your website.

Don’t be different like everyone else, be different like yourself.

Look at what everyone else is doing, then when the opportunity presents itself, DON’T do that. Do the opposite, or at least something different. I can make a case for conformity, but I can make a bigger case for clever. Be different, be yourself…or be someone even better.

Want some real advice on how to generate leads? Contact us, I see, and personally respond to every inquiry myself.

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