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The Cookie Cutter Conundrum + What It Takes to Stand Out in the Crowd

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The Cookie Cutter Conundrum + What It Takes to Stand Out in the Crowd

We have an honest question for you, from our team to yours:

Why be the same, when you can be different?

Now, here’s what we know your business-focused mind might be thinking: There are industry best practices. Trends are trends for a reason. Tried-and-true brings predictable results.

You’re right. But here’s the thing: Being different -- what we like to think of as not being cookie cutter -- doesn’t have to mean ignoring best practices, shunning viable trends, or completely forgetting what’s worked in the past.

It does mean taking that delicious cookie dough you’ve created and developing your own molds: your own voice, your own process, and your own results.

It’s the cookie cutter conundrum: How do you respect the things you know to be true while setting your business apart from the crowd?

Why cookie cutter is dangerous in digital marketing

We’re not just coming at you from a crunchy-mama, “I-don’t-buy-mainstream-products” viewpoint. We’re coming at you from a “we-know-professional-services-and-you-better-believe-it’s-a-crowded-market” standpoint.

Cookie cutter means doing what the guy or gal next to you is doing. Cookie cutter means subscribing to the “shoulds” -- you should still be using billboards; you should update your website every two years; you should spend $50k on developing a hip website.

Cookie cutter, above all, means being okay with having your voice get lost in the crowd, instead of taking the time to figure out what sets your business apart.

[Insert gasp here. It’s scary, right?]

That, fellow business owners, is what makes cookie cutter so dangerous when you’re operating in a saturated marketing where content and messaging is pumped out on the regular. If you’re doing everything the same, then it’s likely you’re saying everything the same. Tough sell, indeed.

What makes your business different?

Before diving full-hog into a project with a new client, we like to start by asking a few introspective questions. Here are two of our favorites:

What are your customers’ main pain points/problems -- and how does your service solve them?


What sets your business apart from the competition who’s providing similar solutions?

Of course, at first glance, these questions are easy. But when you really dig into them, they’re what gives the ultimate insight into how your business is different.

The magic, of course, comes in identifying what it is that’s working in your industry and amongst your competition, and then figuring out how you can capitalize on that while exercising your own ethos.

In the hot seat: Out & About Communications

We’re about to get vulnerable. You see, we’re a digital marketing agency -- which, to be frank, are about as common as taco stands here in San Diego. Needless to say, if we were okay with being cookie cutter, we most likely wouldn’t still be here.

Being a digital marketing agency might be a relatively “new” thing, considering the proliferation of digital strategy in only the last 10-20 years, but there are still quite a few industry best practices, “shoulds”, and tried-and-true trends hanging around. Here’s are just a few ways we’ve rectified our own cookie cutter conundrum while standing out from the crowd:

Best practice:

Entering clients into standard sales funnels and selling practiced packages.

Out & About mold:

We put together customized proposals based on our discussions to date -- not something we did for the last company we worked with. Is our intake process and onboarding streamlined? You better believe it. But it includes all the time each client requires to take to get to know them and their firm before we dive into our work together.

Industry trend:

Building a multi-faceted, in-house team that can address all specialties.

Out & About mold:

We pull in the right talent for your project -- but only on an as-needed basis. Need SEO insight? We can provide that. A project manager? Sure thing. A copywriter specializing in email marketing? We’ve got a few. We’ve followed the trend of multi-faceted teams, but we’ve made it our own by building a network of specialists honing their own skills, who are at the ready when -- and only when -- you need them. Meaning we aren’t passing our overhead onto you.


Determine the best tools + strategies and encourage clients to implement them.

Out & About mold:

Yes -- there are platforms and tools we recommend, and even those we prefer. But when it comes to what makes each and every client project tick, it’s about knowing what’s going to work best in their environment; not ours. Because of that, we not only customize the processes and operations for each project; we also select marketing tools that are a specific fit, whether that’s Google Docs or MS Office; InfusionSoft or MailChimp; Basecamp or MS Project.

In short:

We’ve differentiated our digital marketing services by seeing our clients as an extension of our business. We answer calls/emails. We invite our clients to events. We go out of our way to ensure each client experiences the red carpet treatment. Are we solving a lot of the same problems as our competition? Absolutely. But the way in which we do it is what makes us stand out from the crowd.

Now, it’s easy to talk about this from the 35,000-foot view. But of course, there have been some ups and downs where we’ve seen experiments that have turned out poorly, or endeavors that didn’t bring intended results. But when you hear things like this...

“Wow, you’re the first firm that gets what we want to do.”

"I feel like you're not just telling us what we should do, but you're helping take what we've built and elevate it to that next level."

“I've been through a lot of these marketing strategy meetings, and your session was one of the best. You actually got people talking, brainstorming ideas, and pulling out frustrations related to marketing."

...then you know you’ve officially broken the cookie cutter mold.

You can have your cookies and eat them, too

Knowing what makes your company different is what’s going to help your business stand you when it comes to your digital marketing. Look at the best practices, the trends, and the “shoulds” that are weighing you down, and ask what it is that you can do to set yourself apart.

Then? Do it.

P.S. - Want an even more in-depth look at how we work? Take a peek behind our curtain.