Let's get some things clear...
People throw all kinds of words and phrases around, and I just want to simplify things for myself - and for you - because being confused is no way to run a brand - or a business - now is it? So let's make things simple...
There are 3 elements that will distinguish you from your competitors.
(Usually, I don't even care about competition because I have done many collaborations with supposed competitors of mine, but let's say you want to STAND OUT in your industry. That means comparison is needed.)
And the 3 elements are:
- Your Core Message
- Your Mission Statement (or as I call it, Purpose)
- Your Unfair Advantage
If you have these 3 elements, then you're already standing out in your industry.
Why would you want to stand out?
Obviously, every industry is super competitive and people are already tired of most things, which means they only pay attention to unique people - aka creative rebels - who have unique and authentic things to say (and do). To be unique, you need to discover what makes you unique, and become known for it.
Ask yourself, Am I standing out or blending in? Have I been focused on blueprints and expert advice or on what I want to do for and say to my peeps? If I were to differentiate myself, what's the first thing that comes to mind?
Answer honestly and then we can proceed.
Now back to the 3 elements of standing out - Core Message, Mission Statement (or Purpose), and Unfair Advantage.
So your Mission Statement is your Purpose - it's what you do, how you do it, for whom you do it, and why. (The why part is just as important as the rest, don't forget that. Watch Simon Sinek's talk about it on TED.) Your Core Message, on the other hand, is what you want to tell your people over and over again. It's your unique pitch, and it often stems from your mission statement.
Sometimes it's gonna seem like your Core Message and Mission Statement blend together and become the same thing, which is a good thing because your message comes from your purpose and vice versa.
(They're so closely connected, they can both be your brand's tagline.)
For example, my Purpose is:
My Core Message is:
You are unique, and everything you do should be.
You see how the two are closely related? One is what I DO and the other is what I SAY to people, but basically, they are one and the same.
As for your Unique Advantage, it's YOU - your personality, strengths, etc.
Since nobody can be good at the the same things you are and they haven't had your experiences, your only advantage is YOU.
I have long discovered that betting on your strengths is much more powerful than any market research or idea you can come up with. In my own creative business I have gone all out on ME and the things I do better than others.
To discover yours, take a test that is reliable like the StrengthsFinder test, 16personalities, or the Enneagram test. (Read Now, Discover My Strengths - the StrengthsFinder test comes with it and it is the best tool for discovering your top 5 strengths. You'll discover things you didn't even know were strengths!)
Finally, remember that focusing on your weaknesses is pointless and that some of them aren't even weaknesses in the first place.
How did I discover mine?
One day the phrase "creative rebels" appeared to me, I shared it, and people resonated strongly with it, which is why I kept exploring it and experimenting until one day it was clear that I was meant to work with people who - like me - had lost their way and needed to reawaken their inner rebels.
From there, the WHO, the WHAT, and the WHY from my mission statement were obvious, and when I wanted to get even more specific, I realized that what I'm most concerned with right now is helping people build their most authentic brands and businesses.
Finally, the message just appeared one day, just like the creative rebels.
In the end, you need to follow your gut, especially any phrases or sayings that come to you from thin air, but end up meaning everything.
Then take those and keep playing, exploring, and experimenting.
To discover your purpose,
First, fill out the blanks in this mission statement:
I am drawn to helping________________________________ to_________________________________________________________ by_________________________________________________________________ because___________________________________________________.
The first blank is the PEOPLE you want to help, the second is WHAT you want to help them achieve, the third is HOW you're going to do it, and the final and perhaps most important is your WHY, the reason you want to do it.
Second, tell your story and look for underlying themes. For example, my story is that I was bullied growing up and eventually, I lost my voice and confidence, and ended up wanting to be someone else. I had to build myself up again and re-discover the parts that made me unique, that made me different.
I had to stop trying to be like other people and reawaken my inner rebel.
Now I want to help others do the same because it's important to me. :)
If your reason is not compelling enough, then maybe what you think your purpose is may not be anything more than a temporary whim. To make sure that your purpose goes deep enough, ask yourself, What is so CORE about me that it's always going to be true? So true that it rarely ever changes?
Third, examine your favorite influences. I'll start...
Caroline Kelso Zook's purpose is "Helping creative rebels create their most authentic brands and businesses" because she worked in a dull environment (advertising) where she felt she was turning grey. One day she chose to go with her gut and finally regained her colors, and now she helps others.
Sian Richardson's purpose is to "help people get stoked on winning at their own game" because she got tired of everyone trying to win at other people's games. Thing is, there are as many mission statements as there are rebels.
stop trying to blend in; it's time to step into the magic of standing out.
That's another message I try to convey to my peeps.
If you take anything at all from this article, let it be this - You were not born to be like everybody else, and if you do things like everybody else, you risk losing yourself, and the war. Winners differentiate themselves.
It's the reason I hate the word "expert." If I were ever to chase any sort of title or label (which I don't really like to do), it would be "thought-leader."
Anyone can be an expert, but not everybody can be a thought leader.
Now it's your turn to choose which one you want to be. :)