Off-Peak Performance

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, my immediate family decided to gather in Atlanta last weekend for an off-peak version of this annual event.

Was it because we were hoping to save money on the cost of a bird? No, but you raise a good point.

Rather, it was because with my three grown children spread out across the country like election night journalists – Atlanta, Denver, Portland Oregon – and my wife and me living in Massachusetts, the logistics of getting everyone together for a Zoom call, let alone a holiday, can get pretty complicated.

So, we decided to meet where one of them already lives and enjoy the reduced airfare, smaller crowds, fewer flight delays, and abundant availability of turkey-cooking-bags that comes with not celebrating the holiday at the same time as everyone else.

In other words, and as we marketing gurus like to advise, we took steps to “stand out from the crowd.”

Look for the Edges

You need not be a marketing guru (did I mention that I am one?) to appreciate the importance of differentiating yourself from those who sell what are essentially the same professional services: financial planning, management consulting, leadership coaching, etc.

The challenge in doing so, however, is that these types of services are difficult to sample (you can’t get 10 minutes’ worth of an estate plan to see how you like it), heavily trust-based, and at their core, pretty much the same as what’s offered by everyone else in your field.

So we develop a specialty, or narrow our target market, or experiment with different ways to describe who we are and what we do. All good ideas; all worth working on.

The often missing piece, though, is that when it comes to the marketing tactics we rely on, we forget about differentiation and tend to fall in line and do the same things in the same way as everyone else … the exact opposite of standing out from the crowd:  

We send greeting cards once a year at the holidays…

We launch a podcast in which we interview other business people…

We offer a free “get to know me” 30-minute session to prospective clients…

It’s all fine – it’s just not particularly interesting or different, and it certainly isn’t remarkable – all things that you, as a person marketing themselves, should be striving for.

You Don’t Need to Be Crazy

I am not suggesting that you rent a hippo, paint your logo on the side of it, and parade it through town (although, now that you mention it, you’d probably get people talking, if not hear directly from PETA).

However, I am saying that you look for things “at the edges,” where you can tweak the standard tactics and approach in a way that other people will notice:

Instead of sending holiday cards to your list at the exact same time as everyone else, what if you sent “Happy Adele’s Birthday” cards every May 5th?

Instead of opening each of your podcast episodes with that same used-car-commercial-voice-over guy announcing it, what if you had your 7-year-old introduce you?

Instead of creating power point slides filled with pithy bullet points, what if your next presentation had zero words and just pictures?

Instead of naming your company something like Innovative Strategic Marketing Solutions, what if you named it after a flightless aquatic bird (that’s just a hypothetical)?

Same tactics, more or less, but each with a little added zing, oomph, and “hey, look at that.”

Here’s the Bottom Line

It would be an oversimplification to say that the only purpose of marketing is to stand out from the crowd. But that is a key component.

So, in addition to differentiating yourself based on who you are, what you do, and how you describe it, spend some time creatively spicing up your marketing tactics themselves.

Let me know if you want to borrow a hippo.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Have you ever rented a hippo?
  2. When is your birthday?
  3. What zesting thing do you do to differentiate your marketing tactics?

Share your answers below…

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13 thoughts on “Off-Peak Performance

  1. Charles Alexander

    1. I was going to, but it seems so silly when you can buy one for just a few bucks more.
    2. Dads with three kids don’t have birthdays anymore. We just get older without presents.
    3. Use an animated video of myself for introductions. It’s a job hazard:)

    Great newsletter as always sir!

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Excellent point about #!1. I can’t believe how much money I’ve wasted on rentals.

      And by the way, don’t know if you noticed, but I linked to you within today’s newsletter as an example of developing a speciality. Yours is one of my favorites!

  2. Janet Falk

    2. My birthday is 1/26, same as my daughter.

    3. I refer to myself as follows: “I’m not a round peg; I’m not a sqaure peg. I’m an octagonal peg, with diversified experience in the legal, financial, small business and nonprofit sectors.” My logo is the letter F (for Falk) embedded in an octagon.

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      Cool to have a shared birthday (tell the truth, were you holding her in at the end to make it happen?).

  3. Michelle Morris, CFP®, EA

    1. No but many years ago we bought the game “Hungry Hungry Hippos” for my nephew’s birthday and he screamed “I’VE WANTED HUNGRY HUNGRY HIPPOS MY WHOLE LIFE!”. We still joke that.

    2. 9 days after Adele’s

    3. I give away a book that I’ve read recently at the bottom of every newsletter. I’ve had people say ‘I rarely read your financial mumbo-jumbo, I just scroll down to see the book’.

  4. Mark Wayland

    Hi Michael, Two things:
    As you know I’m a southern hemispheric heathen. So celebrating Thanksgiving is not a thing here. But you did remind me of a discussion with a US colleague (back in the days when I had a real job) about the iconic nature of Thanksgiving in the US. Then he told me about FDR changing the date to the Thursday a week earlier. He said it allowed people to shop for Xmas presents for an extra week. How fundamentally American is that… making the holiday good for business. Anyway, he obviously changed it back… in 1942. So that means it’s Thanksgiving’s 80th birthday this year.
    Secondly, this week’s theme being the commercial interplay between us as an individual and us in a social group is reminded me of the work of Victor Gruen, who is primarily responsible for that other great American icon… the shopping mall.
    Thanks again, Mark

    1. Michael Katz Post author

      As always, it’s the non-Americans who know much more about our history than we do, Mark! Wishing you and yours a safe and happy Next Thursday.

  5. Judy

    1. Never rented a hippo. Decided not to after having watched one lumber around the shore of Lake Naivasha (Kenya) and then get into a horrific fight with another one. Bad tempered with big mouths and scary teeth. But then I could be a coward and it was just having a bad day.
    2. July 22 – right on the cusp so half cancer the crab and half leo the lion(ess).
    3. At the moment, my marketing tactics are ever so boring. Working on it, though!

    And enjoyed your post – most helpful. But then they always are and bring smiles along with it.


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