If you're a business owner or aspiring entrepreneur, don't freak out about your marketing plan or wring your hands wondering how to stand out from the competition. I have a better way. But first, a story.
In 8th Grade, I invented the Kindle. Let me explain. We had a “Technology Discovery” class because I am old and computers and iPhones weren’t a part of daily life yet, so the school purchased 30 computers and taught us how type, Google things, and use spreadsheets. One day, we had an “Inventions” unit where we learned about everything from the first lightbulb down to MSN Encarta, and to cap the unit, we had to create our very own inventions.
The rules of our "Innovative Ideas" assignment were simple: make something technological and make something new.
At the time, I had about 13 Babysitters Club books in my backpack, along with my textbooks, and it was heavy. “Wouldn’t it be great if all the books could be combined into one book?” I wondered. I found my dad’s Gameboy and studied the way cartridges fit into the machine and had an idea. I gathered cardboard boxes, construction paper, glue, and a shit ton of glitter and got to work. And thus the Amy version of an e-reader was born. I even won the class contest for best invention.
And while it was a striking, glittery, well-executed display of ingenuity on the part of 13 year-old me, it wasn’t original.
Fast forward to today, when I spend a lot of my time talking new and hopeful entrepreneurs off the ledge when they freak out about how to stand out in such an oversaturated market.
And while it’s true that that the sheer number of coaches, yoga teachers, writers, creatives, and makers seems to keep doubling over night, there are a few things you can do to stand out in a crowded market and make your business successful—no matter how much competition you have.
The Truth About Competition, Originality, and Innovative Ideas
First, let’s talk about the truth behind this concept of an “original” business idea. Most creatives will drive themselves crazy when writing their business plans and worrying about sounding too basic or fearing that everything they’re passionate about has “already been done.”
Remember my kindle and how it turned out not to be an original idea? Well, brace yourself: nothing is. The honest truth is that nothing is ever wholly original. Period.
Think of it this way. Just like everything else, ideas have energy, and energy can neither be created nor destroyed, so there are tons of ideas floating around in the ether, existing—with or without your knowledge.
That means that when a particular idea happens to float into your head, it may be floating into the heads of others like you who are receptive to it. The energy of the idea has been there the whole time—you’re only now becoming aware of it.
Ideas can’t be created from nothing (again, this is just a law of psychics) so you can’t conceive of anything that doesn’t already exist—at least energetically—so there’s no use getting twisted up in knots over your ideas not being 100% original all the time. Nothing is.
And this is actually a very, very good thing for making money in your business.
How A Crowded, Oversaturated Market Actually Helps Your Business
Do you like pizza? I LOVE pizza. Within walking distance of my house, there are a total of 6 pizza places of varying degrees of deliciousness. Even though there are so many in such a small radius, they are all successful because:
- Pizza is delicious and people want it.
- People are aware that pizza exists.
- People are aware that pizza is delicious and that they want it.
Basically, they’ve created a product or service that people crave and know about it.
Imagine if you were the very first purveyor of pizza, that pizza were a novel, original creation and not the ubiquitous staple that it is.
You’d first have to teach people what pizza was, and then you’d have to prove its value. Only after doing that do you have the task of proving why your pizza is the best pizza out there.
Because the pizza market is so oversaturated, today’s pizza purveyor gets to skip educating the population on what his product is and why it’s good. All today’s pizza purveyor needs to focus on is making the best pizza around.
Let’s think about this from a health coaching perspective. Let’s say you have a budding health coaching business and you’re worried because there are so many new health coaches entering the field right now.
20 years ago, health coaching didn’t really exist, which meant that those pioneers had to explain to the world what health coaching was and why it was a valuable use of their money. You get to skip that part.
You actually WANT proof of concept because you don’t want to spend too much time educating your audience about what your thing is. In this way, over saturation is good.
In the business world, we always want to show “proof of concept” before launching something into the world. Basically this means that someone else is doing what you want to do and making money from it. If you see a market where LOTS of people are making money, don’t freak out about originality, get excited that the proof of concept exists because that means you can make money, too.
In a crowded health coaching market, you get to skip the “proof of concept” piece and jump straight to the piece where you share what sets your health coaching practice apart.
How to Stand Out In a Crowded Market (and See If Your Innovative Idea is Original Enough)
Let’s go back to the pizza place. Remember how I said there are 6 pizza places within walking distance of my house? Well, while all 6 are decent, one is my favorite.
The one stands out because it does things a little differently. Instead of just the typical fare—cheese, pepperoni, supreme—this pizza place has healthy, unique options like a roasted veggie and goat cheese pie with gluten-free crust. It even has a delicious ricotta and honey dessert pizza. Plus, the decor is cute and very Instagrammable. It’s become my go-to pizza place because it feels like they made it just for me.
So why does this pizza place regularly earn my money?
A few reasons:
- They have an original lens (healthy, unique spins on traditional pies),
- They have a specific customer in mind and create everything, down to the to-go boxes, with that customer in mind (health-conscious, environment-conscious, adventurous), and
- They make really freaking great pizza.
It is critical that you develop an original lens, know your customers, and deliver excellence. If you master these three things, you will naturally rise to the top and create fans who crave what you have to offer.
So How Does An Original Lens Work? What Makes an Innovative Idea So Innovative?
Remember how we said that nothing is truly original? Well, it’s not. The lens through which you see the world, however, belongs to you and only you. In fact, the specific combination of atoms, molecules, and genetic material that makes up YOU has never existed before and will never exist again, so your original perspective is the key to your success.
Let’s look at a few successful entrepreneurs and their original lenses.
Sarah Jenks, Health and Weight Loss Coach:
To keep with our health coaching metaphor, let’s look at health coach Sarah Jenks. Sarah studied at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, a school that churns out thousands of new coaches a year, which sounds like a lot of competition. She teaches holistic health and weight loss methods (not super original) but her original lens sets her apart: She teaches women how to “live more” so they can “weigh less.”
Basically, she used her own weight loss struggles and breakthroughs to realize that she was waiting to have a great life until she was thin….but she didn’t lose weight until she starting living a great life, so she teaches women how to live a great life and let weight loss follow. Her original lens isn’t for everyone, but her ideal customers love it. See how “live more and weigh less” is way more original than “10 tricks to lose weight?”
My dear friend Kirsten Filonczuk of Pink Dahlia Photography:
Kirsten specializes in wedding and boudoir photography, a super saturated market. Instead of going with the traditional “you’ll look super hot in these pics” messaging of most boudoir photographers, she uses her original lens of body acceptance and feminism to frame her boudoir photography as an empowering experience that will help women see themselves as they truly are—not as society has cast them.
See how this connects so much deeper?
Sunny Williams of TinyDocs:
Sunny founded an art company that makes health cartoons for sick kids. The graphic design and digital art world is crazy competitive, but Sunny used his original lens—his passion for kids and laughter—to make a new way for kids to communicate about their medical symptoms so doctors can better understand and treat them, and though he certainly didn’t invent comic books, his original lens is having a huge impact on sick kids.
Can you imagine what the world would have lost out on if he had said, “Nope. I don’t think I want to follow my passion for art because the market’s too crowded?”
So…what’s your original lens?
What sets you apart? What can you bring to the conversation that no one else can?
Even if you don’t have a business, you can still bring an original lens to your career and set yourself apart by knowing who you are, what you stand for, and why it matters.
What makes you different? What makes you special?
Take some time to journal out what set you apart, and if nothing comes to mind—or it still feels fuzzy—call in some professional help! Book a call with me so we can think about your journey, brainstorm your path, and create a clear understanding of that special, unique perspective that only you have.
You can book this now and start building your business success today.
It’s natural to worry about competition, but the Universe is a generous place, and I’ve found that when you get clear on what makes you come alive, there are plenty of clients and customers to go around.