To become a successful business owner or blogger, you must know how to stand out online.
But here’s the real, painful irony: in pursuit of writing a popular blog or getting clients, so many of us (including me) get caught up in trying to use other people’s formulas.
It’s nearly impossible to avoid clicking on blog posts with titles like “5 Blog Post Templates That Will Knock Your Readers’ Socks Off” or “My Simple 7 Step Formula for Getting a Bajillion Email Subscribers in 2 Days.”
These posts promise quick results for little thought or ingenuity.
As fallible humans, we want results and success fast. So we do our best to imitate the strategies of others. Only to make blogs that are the same as everyone else’s.
And then we wonder why we’re not getting thousands of readers like the “gurus” we’re attempting to imitate. We’re left thinking there’s something wrong with us for not being able to use these formulas to catapult us into instant success.
But here’s the truth.
Formulas won’t make you stand out online.
Formulas won’t make you a success.
Formulas won’t bring you instant wealth and fame.
Only your own ingenuity, creativity, and intuition can make you stand out online. Only your inner wisdom, grit and determination will bring you the success you are looking for.
So throw out the formulas. Don’t expect someone else’s blog post or online course to give you the keys to the castle.Want to stand out online? Be authentic.Click To Tweet
What you have inside of you cannot be replicated. It’s your secret sauce. Your magic juice. And no one else has it.
So, how do you access that magic juice and use it to stand out online? Here are a few ways. (No formulas included. I promise.)
1. Use your intuition to come up with blog post topics.
Throw out your lists of headline hacks and blog post templates, and instead, rely on your intuition to guide your planning.
In a recent episode of my new favorite podcast, Unthinkable, The Role of Gut Instincts in Content Marketing, Jay Acunzo and Tim Jensen explored the idea that your gut feeling or intuition isn’t some magic spiritual thing. It’s actually your subconscious mind, which is guided by your deep well of experience and knowledge.
You probably know a lot about your topic, your unique approach, and your audience. So you can trust yourself to use that knowledge and insight to inform your blog post ideas.
Sit down and do some deep thinking.
Feel into your intuition and ask yourself these questions:
- What do my readers need to know right now?
- What message am I aching to share?
- What deep questions am I grappling with?
- How have I profoundly helped someone recently?
- What’s a simple thing I know a lot about?
Let your blog post ideas come from a desire to genuinely serve your readers and clients, rather than from an attempt to make something that you think people will like.
2. Reframe how you think about your online marketing
All too often, we think of our blogs like megaphones, our email lists like cash cows, and our online marketing activities like tentacles intended to draw people in. Ick.
Let’s reframe that.
Your blog is meant to be a conversation starter and an entry point for people to learn about you.
Your email list is meant to create a relationship between you and your readers. It’s a list of people whom you can serve and from whom you can learn.
Your online marketing is an opportunity for you to find ideal clients, collaborators, and mentors, and to build genuine relationships with them that are beneficial to both of you.
Even though you can’t see your readers or email list subscribers, they’re actual people. (If I sound condescending, know that I’m writing this to myself just as much as to you.)
So follow the same social guidelines you would in person.
Be helpful. Be curious. Be real. Be open.
Start conversations. Connect on an emotional level.
Forge genuine connections. That’s how you’ll stand out online.
3. Stop trying to grow your email list
Have you noticed that most bloggers are obsessed with growing their email lists and page views?
I get it. Believe me.
But the reality is most of your email subscribers and readers are on a bajillion email lists and read thousands of blogs. So seeing those numbers creep up doesn’t actually mean that much.
While everyone else online is trying to get more, more, more, you could be doing something truly remarkable: trying to get to know the people who already showed you they’re interested in your offerings.
Imagine you’re at a party, and you’re talking to someone who seems fairly interesting.
After a few minutes of conversation, he asks you if you want his business card and he takes yours in return. As soon as you pocket his card, he immediately moves on to someone else. The next day, you get a generic email from him that makes it clear he has no idea who you are (probably because you’re one of dozens of people he barely talked to at the party).
But at the same party, you meet a really nice guy who takes the time to get to know you. He asks you about yourself. He hangs out with you for awhile and asks some deep questions. After talking to him, you feel seen and heard. And when he emails you the next day, he mentions something you discussed the day before.
Which of these guys would you be more likely to hire or do business with? Probably the second.
Unfortunately, in the online world, most people are like the first guy. They want your email address, and they want thousands of other email addresses, too. But they don’t take the time to actually get to know you or what you need.
So, how do you stand out online? By being like the second guy. By inviting actual conversation with your readers. By getting to know them. That’s how you’ll convert visitors into clients.
Can you still grow your list to thousands? Of course.
But first, focus on understanding your current subscribers. Figure out what they want, what drives them and who they are. Then use that to grow.
4. Be realistic about what you can solve for your readers
Many online marketers will tell you to figure out what your readers are struggling with the most and then create something that solves their problem.
Which sounds good and all. But often, our readers’ greatest struggles are large and complex and can’t be solved with a free PDF or email course. (I know, I’m disappointed, too.)
But, ever the good students, we try to create quick solutions to problems that can’t be solved that easily. And our resulting freebies leave our readers feeling like failures.
So instead of trying to make something to solve your readers’ greatest pain point, make something that actually solves a small problem, instead.
My friend Kathy was struggling to grow her email list. Then she created some beautiful goal sheets for a talk she was giving in Sonoma California, where she lives. She decided that since she’d already made them, she would put them up online and see what happened.
Her email list grew by hundreds and then thousands. It’s 2 years later, and she still gets about 20 opt-ins per day. (Yeah, I know.)
She told me that she thinks people are downloading them in droves because she made them to be used.
What can you make to be used?
5. Trust yourself
What drives us to search for easy, quick formulas and solutions?
In my experience, it’s uncertainty, fear, and perfectionism.
This online marketing thing is hard. So is owning your own business.
It takes courage to write a blog post and put it out there, to email a group of people you’ve never met, and to ask for a sale. It’s freaking scary sometimes.
So we go on a search for the “right way” to do things for fear that we’ll make a mistake.
But making mistakes is actually a good thing. It allows us to learn and hone our craft. It is part of the process of making something truly unique.
When we try to take shortcuts, we end up short circuiting our creative process and making stuff that looks like everyone else’s.
But you don’t have to do that. You can trust yourself.
The next time you feel that fear, that doubt, that anxiety creep up, ask yourself, “How would I move forward with this? What’s my best solution right now? How can I get playful and creative in this moment?”
Trust yourself and make something that’s truly a reflection of you.
To stand out online, stop listening to the blogging gurus and listen to yourself, instead.
- Use your intuition to guide your blog post ideas.
- Reframe how you think about your online marketing
- Instead of focusing on growing your list and page views, get to know the people who are already in your community
- Be realistic about the problems you can solve
- Trust yourself
Here’s one final thing to think about.
This is not just about learning how to stand out online. It’s also about giving yourself the permission to be real, to be creative, and to make genuine connections. Which, in my mind, is far more important.