Click here to subscribe in iTunes; or, listen to the audio version below:

It was my wife’s birthday last week. A milestone. So I decided to order one of those wonderfully corny, slightly embarrassing lawn signs and have it secretly set up in the middle of the night.

But when I Googled “birthday lawn signs” for my area, I was stunned. There were dozens of companies that offered this service. (Clearly the lawn sign business is competitive!) But they all seemed alike.

All had pictures of lawn signs on their websites. All had midnight delivery service.

The “sameness” from one company to another made it difficult to choose. So I just randomly phoned a few and asked questions.

The guy at the second company I called said something that immediately sold me. He said, almost matter-of-factly, “We don’t just write your wife’s name on the sign with a marker, like most companies do. We use a professional calligrapher who hand paints it on artistically.”

Wow.

You can guess why that persuaded me! Which would I rather my wife see on the front lawn in the morning? Her name scribbled in magic marker? Or hand painted in professional calligraphy?

It was a no brainer.

But if I hadn’t called that company, I wouldn’t have known that. Because they did NOT have that information on their website!

Instead their website looked the same, and said basically the same things, as every other lawn sign company.

As a result, I suspect they are losing sales because it’s not blending in that gets you the business. It’s standing out.

And the best way to stand out is to take something that differentiates you – a feature, an advantage, even a quirky characteristic – and put it up front in your marketing. Make it jump off the screen or page.

Think about your own business for a moment.

Say you’re a copywriter and specialize in writing websites and newsletters for coaches. There are a lot of other copywriters who can say the same thing. What makes you so different?

It might be that you were once a professional coach yourself. Would your prospects see that as an advantage? Of course they would.

Say you’re a corporate trainer specializing in leadership. There are more leadership trainers around than there are coffee beans at Starbucks. How can you stand out? Well, perhaps you’re one of the few who specialize in working with executives who manage virtual teams spread out globally.

Say you’re a graphic designer. What could get you noticed in your local market? Perhaps you’re the designer who volunteers teaching and mentoring students throughout the town. Your website features pictures of you with students… whose parents may be local business owners.

Whatever it is that makes you different, emphasize it on your website and in your other marketing materials.

It doesn’t have to be a huge difference. Even a minor feature, characteristic or advantage you have that few of your competitors don’t have can be enough to make you stand out and get noticed.

And by the way, if you ever decide to put up a lawn sign for your wife’s birthday, make sure it doesn’t state her age for the whole neighborhood to see. Just some friendly advice!