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As a designer, the idea of Differentiation is always at the forefront of essentially all of my work. I may be approached with projects to revamp a website, design a new look and feel for a marketing piece, or even design an updated look for personal images through photography, but really, all of these are code words and phrases for “Hey, I want to differentiate myself from what others are doing. I want to be unique.” And that’s fair enough. After all, that’s only what I’m here for.

Eventually the question arises, “What’s the best way to differentiate myself?” And here’s the answer.

Be Authentic.

It sounds too simple to be true, yet it’s just that. The truth.  Be authentic, and you’ll work with exactly the people you should be working with, you’ll have exactly the followers you’ve always wanted in your social media platforms, and your potential fans and customers will strive to do business with you. Think about it.  Taking a big picture approach, life is all about relationships and the strength of those relationships. Quality vs. quantity. Relationships of any kind won’t last long without a good mix of both. You want to have good relationships with people (well, most of you do) and you want those relationships to be strong. If you’re short on quality or you don’t know how to form these relationships, you’re probably not going to accomplish your goals anytime soon.

How to Differentiate YourselfSo, back to Authenticity.  Authenticity is part of the qualitative approach I’m talking about here. Your fans need to know they’re communicating with an authentic person. That’s really important. And the best thing about being authentic? There’s only one you. The authentic you. That is why you’re different, and that’s the key to differentiation. At this point, you should be getting some ideas about how to promote this differentiation by taking a serious look at how and why you’re different, and what makes you different. These are the questions to answer.

These are interesting questions, no? Why are you different? What do your friends value about you? Why do your customers do business with you? What makes them choose you over everyone they had to pass up to get to you? What is your bond? It’s common to generalize when answering these questions, but the more specific you are, the more accurate your answer will be. Please keep in mind that you will not be able to form relationships with everyone. The more you try to be all things to all people, the more you will become a commodity. You don’t want to be a commodity. You want to stand out for exactly the right reasons.

Instead of taking the common “shotgun” ‘approach, it’s best to evaluate just who it is that you really want to appeal to. This way, you’ll be communicating with just the right people, forming valuable relationships capable of lasting a lifetime. Being true to yourself is a great way to begin your own personal or professional evaluation. It’s the only way you can really promote the authentic you and the only way to form true, lasting relationships. Once you know the parts of your personality (personal) or culture (as it relates to your specific business) that you want to promote, the rest is relatively easy. That’s how we develop the right online presence, graphics and imagery that’ll make you a success. Everything works hand-in-hand as it should, supporting your presence in a positive, supportive way.

A good designer will work through this differentiation phase with you to ensure all key qualities are reflected in the work they’re doing, so always know that help is available. I’m always happy to work with clients to refine the qualities we want to promote and I’ll walk you through the process, one step at a time until we arrive at a highly refined, authentic, effective container of qualities on which we wish to focus. Sometimes, all you need is a fresh perspective, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with that.

I hope this helps you understand what’s really important about the general idea of differentiation. Of course, much has been written about the subject and there are many theories, but these are the essentials. If you’ve experienced challenges in differentiation, please respond in the comments below or contact me personally to discuss your unique situation. I’m always interested in your experiences and would love to learn more about you!