What’s the single biggest marketing mistake that most businesses make?

Here’s an old school marketing fundamental that seems to have gotten lost somewhere along the way.


Way too many businesses spend all of their marketing efforts explaining exactly how they are the same as their competitors not how they are different.

How has this happened? Have we all forgotten the golden rule of marketing our businesses: “you always have to differentiate yourself”?

No we haven’t. It’s just that in our quest to explain how different we are different from our competitors, we’ve actually become the same. And this is a marketing mistake!

Case in point: recently I was researching financial planners and the thirty sites I visited all used the same descriptive words on their home page: trustworthy, friendly, professional and experienced.

"“Most businesses go out of their way to tell potential customers how they are exactly the same as their competitors, not how they are different, and they don’t even realise they are doing it.” "

In other words, they showcased exactly how they were the same as their competitors not how they were different.

But what if you’re a financial planner (for example) and you ARE trustworthy, friendly, professional and experienced? It’s not possible to differentiate yourself without being the opposite of all these things is it?

I disagree. Here are five things you (and any business) can do:

1. Tell your story as opposed to describing your business.

Why did you start your business? What are you passionate about? Where are you heading?

People want to know about the businesses they are buying from, and they want to know more than the services or products that for sale. Make it personal, be passionate, write in the first person; like you are sitting and having a cup of coffee with the person reading your information.

2. Share your success stories

Speaking of stories, turn your successes into story format, explain them from start to finish, covering the good and the bad along the way and the outcomes that were achieved. This is much better than a simple list of services offered (every competitor has the same list).

3. Talk about your failures and what you learned from them

This is a good one for showing that you are human and that you get it wrong, but also that you are smart enough to learn from your mistakes. It’s also an excellent way to clarify what you do and don’t want to do.

4. Explain the problems you can solve

I believe that any business that is really good at solving problems will always be successful. The bigger the problems you solve, the more successful you will be. You need to be able to show that you really understand your market by being able to articulate the problems that you know they face (in fact you don’t really need to even explain how you solve them, just understanding their issues is more than half the battle).

5. Embrace quirky and don’t be afraid of having fun

I had a lot of fun redeveloping my website recently. All of my clients are generally big corporations, more formal organisations, yet I’ve made my website full of very distinct and quirky images, a bobble head version of me features prominently, cheeky one-liners, bold statements – everything. It is a unique site that really does represent my personality. The feedback has been extraordinary, and it has generated a lot of new and very high value business.

But I had to be brave to make a site like this. Most author/speaker sites are fairly predictable, again showing how we are all the same not how we are different.

And it’s not just on your website that you can implement these five ideas. You can use them anywhere: promotional material, proposals, face to face pitches – wherever you can.

And if you’re ever not sure if you’re doing it right, ask yourself the questions: “Am I showing my potential customers how I am different? Or am I reinforcing that I’m the same as everyone else?”

Andrew Griffiths

has developed an international reputation as one of the leading global entrepreneurial authorities. His books and articles are considered street smart wisdom, designed to both inspire and challenge conventional thinking.


126,734 people use Flying Solo to help them create a business with life. Do you?

Connect with Flying Solo

Explore the benefits of membership