Standing Out (#57)

Ten to twenty times a week, I receive generic solicitation e-mails asking me if I am the best person to talk about IT services at my company (I’m not) or if I would be interested in telling all my clients about someone else’s new product (I’m really not). What I find both fascinating and baffling is that none of these approaches talk about my company, show any understanding of what we do or convey how we could benefit.

While these efforts must produce some results at scale to be continued, I often wonder why people don’t take the time to reach out in a smarter, more personalized way. I always respond to real, personal outreach.

History shows us that those who find a way to stand out and be clever among the noise have seen great success.

Take, for example, Cole Warner, an aspiring Home Depot intern. He must have spent a whole day on his application but it was this creative and thoughtful submission that got him the job – and the attention of a Home Depot recruiter on LinkedIn over 20,000 other applications.

Then there’s Derek Sivers of CD Baby, who I wrote about a few weeks ago. One of the things that propelled his business in the early days was a clever order confirmation e-mail he created. It was so compelling and funny that it went on to be forwarded by customers and fans, generating millions in advertising value and has been cited online 20,000 times.

In our increasingly technology-driven world, it becomes tempting to take something that is low quality and automate it at scale, believing that will produce meaningful results. Instead, what we really need to do is channel energy on quality and find a way to stand out from the noise by doing a few things exceptionally well. I haven’t read many success stories or case studies about a half-assed effort done at scale.

Cole Warner spent time and effort on his application and got the job he wanted. His peers likely spent ten times that amount applying to far more internships in a generic way. In the process, Cole also showed his future employer exactly what kind of intern he would be. There is a powerful lesson for us all in that.

Quote of the Week

“The world accommodates you for fitting in, but only rewards you for standing out”

Matshona Dhliwayo

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