The following is adapted from Come Back to Bed.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought about many challenges for retailers. Even before COVID-19, being a retailer meant charting rough waters and navigating challenges caused by the rise of ecommerce. The sad truth is that not all retailers have made it through and there are many still struggling.
For those of you who are wondering how you can navigate the current environment, the number one thing you can do to survive is: decide to be different.
Why is being different important? We live in an attention economy. If you capture people’s attention, you make profits. Fail to make people look and listen, and business will suffer. Being different can set you apart from your competitors, it establishes your unique value and strengthens your connection with customers.
If you’re wondering where to start, here’s what you need to know first in order to be different.
Why Being Different Works
The human brain is wired to ignore almost everything mundane. Everyday events get processed like canned goods on a grocery clerk’s conveyor belt. But the moment something surprises our brains, we stop and pay attention.
In most situations, our brains are on autopilot. Walk to the fridge, grab the jelly, spread on bread, blah, blah, blah. Our brains are constantly guessing what’s next, and they’re really good at making predictions.
When something comes along that interrupts that schema, our senses focus and our attention jerks toward the new element. If you’re spreading jelly on the bread and a bird bashes into the plate glass window, you’re going to look. And if that bird is colored like a rainbow, you’re going to inspect it.
You inspect the bird because the crash startled you. It was scary. As your mind registered there was no real threat, a mystery began playing in your head. What is a rainbow-colored bird doing in this part of the country? What kind of bird is it? Mysteries are open loops. Brains hate open loops. We want to close those loops. Open loops mean the outcome is unknown. If the outcome is unknown, it could be either threatening or desirable.
Being different works for the same reason. It catches the attention of potential customers and forces them to pay attention. When they’re intrigued by what they see, they’re more likely to engage, creating the opportunity for you to form connections that will support your business’s growth and success.
Grab Attention and Create Connection
Being different matters for two main reasons. The first is because normal and mundane gets ignored. If you don’t grab people’s attention, they won’t listen to anything you have to say. Maybe you want to tell people how a high-quality mattress can deliver better sleep and change their lives. You want to talk about your sixty-two-year-old family-run business and why it should matter to shoppers. You want consumers to know about same-day delivery, financing options, and your friendly people. No one will listen to any of that unless you first grab their attention. And to do that, you have to be different.
The second reason is because a unique brand deepens your connection to people and insulates your company from competition. Rick Anderson is the former President of Tempur-Pedic North America. In September of 2019, Anderson was a guest on our Dos Marcos mattress podcast and cited a staggering statistic: strip away all of its assets and the Tempur-Pedic brand is valued at $3.5 billion. That’s just the brand!
Deciding to be different is the first step to building your brand. A strong brand creates a moat around your business. The store down the street can always beat you at something. They can peddle knockoff products. They can undercut your prices. But brands are nearly impossible to knock off. And when built properly, brands create trust.
Choosing to Be Different
Deciding to be different is a conscious choice. It’s about reimaging a path forward, making new choices, and putting new plans into place.
When making a new decision, you first need to become conscious of current choices.
Right now you’re choosing your mindset. You’re selecting where to put your time. You’re choosing to do what used to work. You and your business are a result of your choices. There’s nobody else to blame.
At this moment, you’ve chosen to operate your business the way it’s operating. You’ve chosen to live in your house. You’ve chosen to drive a certain vehicle. That car may not be your first choice, but you did choose it. You and only you are responsible for the decisions you make.
Odds are, leading up to this point, nobody forced you to do anything. You need to accept responsibility for every single thing that’s happened thus far. And if something happened that was completely out of your control, forgive and move on.
Before you can make meaningful change, you must come to grips with this fact. You get to decide. Once you decide, you must own your choice.
Simply put, choosing to be different requires you to do things differently.
Show Your Uniqueness
Our brains are wired to ignore the expected. This applies to how we process our commutes and the ads we see on TV. If you’re going to get noticed in the current retail environment, you must wake people from their sleep-like state and grab their attention. Being different is how you do this.
Once you decide to be different, take action to show how you’re unique. It’s possible you may receive criticism, but don’t let that stop you. Those who stand out earn reactions and feedback. Some will be negative, some positive. The worst outcome is getting no reaction at all.
Most importantly, remain authentic in how you choose to be different. Authenticity is essential to building trust with your customers. When you decide to be different and do so in a way that’s authentic, you are building a brand that will set you apart and put you ahead of the competition.
For more advice on building your business, you can find Come Back to Bed on Amazon.
Mark Kinsley is President and CEO of Englander, a top-15 US mattress company founded in 1894. Furniture Today called him one of its “20 People to Watch,” and Home Furnishings Business recognized him as one of its “Forty Under 40.” Mark Quinn is the Co-Founder of Spink & Co, Farm-Grown Beds, and the VP of Key Accounts and Marketing for Sherwood Bedding. He’s a top industry blogger at Q’s Views and holds pioneering patents in biometric sleep-space technology. Together, they co-host Dos Marcos,The Galaxy’s Greatest Mattress Podcast (dosmarcos.co), with more than 185 episodes and hundreds of thousands of listens.