Do you keep a close eye on the competition? Or do you go boldly where nobody’s been before? Are your clients looking for the same product and price from you that they can get elsewhere or are they looking for an Industry Original?

It’s a line we dance around in business and an important line to dance away from if you want to position yourself as an Industry Original.

An Industry Original is unique, bold and independent. I like them because my job is all about reputation, positioning and publicity. It’s a lot easier for me to do when a business is breaking from the pack and carving a niche.

I have a great recent case study and the client has kindly agreed for me to use their names. I had a call from Nnamdi Oranye five years ago. He was running a successful business and heard I ran media campaigns for businesses. I asked him a series of questions and then had to break the bad news. I couldn’t work with him. Why not? The business wasn’t doing anything differently; no new technology; nothing very different from anyone else who did what they did. They were not Industry Originals. What would I say to media about them that could make them stand out from the crowd?  Sadly, there was nothing. He understood what I meant but was disappointed. I was disappointed too! He had come to me via a terrific referral and I hate knocking them back.

About six months ago Nnamdi rang again. He’s sold the business and is Business Development Manager with a company that’s doing something absolutely unique in their market. Could we talk? He’d never forgotten our conversation and the questions I’d asked to test his earlier business for originality.  He was calling because he thought he might be onto something this time.

And he was right. He’s working for Percepta Australia; a company that’s taking call centres in-house. Yes, you read that correctly. Amongst all the fuss about contact centres being moved overseas; here’s a company creating in-house contact centres. They’re carving an extraordinary niche. In fact it’s only a drop in the ocean of the entire contact centre industry; but one that’s working for them and becoming their core business. Could I work with them? I asked a few more questions. Yes, they were definitely Industry Originals and yes we could generate a media campaign out of their business.

So how do you become an Industry Original when you’ve been running with the pack? I’m not suggesting you turn your business model upside down or even digress from what you do best. So take some baby steps. Listen to the business you might have been knocking back or perceived as ‘too hard.’ There might just be something in there. How could you have solved those problems-what if you had a program or product that answered that need?  Mention this ‘new service we’re developing’ when talking to prospects and clients; gauge interest.

This is what Percepta did; responded to client demand. A major client had asked more than once if they would run an in-house call centre for them. Eventually they realised there was something in the idea. And now they’re running with it.

Take a look at what your clients are saying and asking for. You might just find a unique new stream of business and look out…you’re on your way to becoming an Industry Original.