You already know the answer. So what are you waiting for?

A couple of years ago, I decided to have my business cards revamped. There was nothing wrong with the old ones, but I still had 500 sitting in a box between my stress-reliever balls (don’t ask) and a pile of scrap paper. I’d just grown tired of them, so it was time for a change. And then I hit on a great idea: a business card with my photo on it. I’d never seen one before, and thought it would be a novelty. And novelty gets noticed, I told myself. (In fact, I was so pleased with the phrase, I briefly contemplated putting an (R) after it.) And so my new cards were born. Several shades of green, just enough Verdana to look classy, and lots of white space. Plus a not-so-bad mugshot of me. The following Monday, I went to visit a new client. And I was all stocked up with a wodge of business cards. As I took my seat in their swanky offices, I extracted one and slid it across the table. The client smiled. I’d obviously made an impression – but it wasn’t the one I thought. He scooped up the card, peered at it and said, “Ah – another business card with a photo. Look, Andrea!” he said to his marketing manager, who was joining us. “Just like whatsisname – you know, the accountant guy.” He turned to me, and smiled. “He’s such an idiot. And ugly too.”

First among equals

You’ve guessed it – the way to get noticed is to be different. But if you’re going to be different, you need to be first. And that’s not always easy. I’ve written about bandwagons before. By the time you know they’re around, it’s already too late. You need to think one step ahead. What would get you noticed right now? This very moment? What is nobody else doing? And if you can’t work that one out, tackle the problem from the opposite point of view: what’s everybody doing? Figure it out, then do something different. It’s really not that hard. When websites are getting more and more complicated, with flying menus, in-your-face Flash animations and ads everywhere, think simplicity. There’s a reason why Google’s home page is so bare. And why Craigslist, the 47th most-visited site in the world, is so plain. Encyclopedia Britannica has lots of stuff on the home page. That’s one of the reasons why Wikipedia doesn’t.

Plane crazy

When you last flew, did you take any notice of the safety demonstration by the cabin crew? Of course not – because you’ve heard it a hundred times. It’s boring. A flight attendant on Southwest Airlines realised just that, so he delivered his talk with a twist: he rapped it. Suddenly, he had people’s attention. One of them even videoed it and put it on Youtube. The Rapping Flight Attendant clocked up 100,000 views in next to no time. Of course, if all flight attendants start rapping, then we’ve got a problem. But somehow I don’t think that’s on the cards.

I did it my way

Doing what everybody else is doing will never get you noticed. There are millions of blogs out there, so what makes yours different? Are you just aping somebody else’s style in the hope that you can garner some of their success? You can’t. And for one simple reason: they were there first. So do something else instead. Like Darren Rowse over at Problogger. He’s been putting videos on his blog every week for the last year, which is just one of the reasons he’s on my must-read must-view list. So the message is simple: be different, be bold. But above all, be first. Now I wonder if anybody is using rapping business cards? If they aren’t, then that may well be my path to success. Or maybe not. I’ll have to give it some thought.