“Be you. Everyone else is already taken.”
This great advice for life generally is also true for your business.
Because even though there are other health coaches or Facebook ad strategists or photographers out there, not one of them does what you do in the way you do it.
But what IS your special sauce? What makes you stand out from the crowd?
And how can you turn that distinction into a plus even if it feels like an eccentricity?
Here are some reliable strategies for finding your special sauce and using it to position yourself as an expert.
Education and Training
Your special sauce might be how long — or what — you’ve studied.
I have a friend and client who’s a business coach with a master’s in psychology. She helps her clients identify their self-sabotaging behaviors and gives them productivity hacks and tools for building habits.
Her special sauce is helping people build new, better habits that ultimately help them attain their business goals. Of course, she helps people figure out the goals, too. But that’s what all business coaches do, right? What this coach does that’s different is to help people get out of their own way so they can make lasting changes in their business habits and achieve their goals.
Maybe your special sauce has to do with your career path and the skills and experiences you’ve gained.
I have a friend and client who’s a career coach for people in their twenties entering the workforce for the first time or changing career paths. She worked for 20 years for huge corporations, much of that time spent in upper management with huge teams.
Her special sauce is that she’s been the supervisor and knows exactly what traits, behaviors, and habits made her associates successful. She can now coach young people to cultivate habits of success with the confidence of knowing exactly what companies are looking for when it comes to hiring and promoting employees. Talk about a special sauce!
Awards and Recognition
You don’t have to wait for expert status to arrive via other people acknowledging your mad skills, but if they already have, you should own it!
If you’re received awards or fellowships or honors or been recognized by a committee that other people have heard of, go ahead and flaunt it.
This recognition is your special sauce because it shows that you stand out from the crowd. You know how to do what you do better than the average bear, and you’ve got the plaque to prove it.
Mix of Opposites
I have a friend and client who’s a talented portrait artist. While she can take the best glamour shots of anyone around and put a mean dent in senior portraits, she specializes in personal branding. That is, she helps entrepreneurs create the perfect look to represent who they are and what they do.
And her secret sauce is that she got a dual degree in fine art photography and marketing. Could there be a better combo when you’re shopping for someone who’ll not only make you look stunning, but also put you in the right colors in front of the right background to make your ideal customers eager to give you a call?
These two opposing ways of thinking — creative right brain and analytical left brain — set her apart. While she’s making you look your best by telling you exactly how to tilt your head so you don’t look like you have extra chins, she’s also calculating the pose that would best show you as “reliable family doctor” or “trustworthy accountant.”
You might have a Mix secret sauce that’s a little more elusive. Maybe yours doesn’t come from what you studied, but from work or life experience.
I have a friend and client who’s a mad genius of Facebook and Instagram ad strategy. She came from a policy background at a big ol’ government bureaucracy before working as a coach for creatives and entrepreneurs. Weird mix, right? But her special sauce is that she understands the data and the trends, but cares about her individual customers and their change-making businesses. It’s the best of both worlds if you run a mission-driven business and want a personal connection to your marketing strategy — but you also want your marketing strategy to bring in tons of leads!
The Mix is a really powerful special sauce to have, so take some time to see if this is what you’ve got going on.
What state would we all live in if we could? Did you say Hawaii? Because I did. OK, maybe you’re not up for the humidity year-round, but at the very least you’d like to soak up some of that island calm, right?
I have a friend and client who’s a household concierge. She helps famlies and small businesses get through their to-do lists without going bonkers. And she hails from Oahu. Her special sauce is that she brings the Aloha feeling into people’s hectic lives. What sets her business apart is that the focus isn’t on getting the chores done, it’s on getting to that place of calm.
She also falls under the opposites special sauce category. Because even though she exudes calm, she worked for years as a project and operations manager. doesn’t that sound good? Someone who knows exactly what needs to be done in what order, but who takes care of it without getting into an anxious, go-go-go state?
Your background could be where you’re from. It could be the values you learned growing up or by living in a certain place for a time in your life. Your background could be your beliefs or what you’ve overcome to be where you are. Your background could even be your current life choices or culture — for example, living in a tiny home or being vegan.
Think of your background as the non-work related milieu that influences your daily choices and actions.
The Same Boat
Your special sauce might be that you’ve been where your customers are and you know exactly how it feels to be there — and exactly what it takes to get where they want to be.
This is the big daddy of special sauces. It makes you an expert in the people you work with. This is especially powerful if you’ve made a recent shift in your career and you find yourself doing something that you haven’t been doing for ages or that you didn’t study in school.
When you’ve been where other people are, they’ll know that you get them and that you’re committed to their success.
I’ve struggled with procrastination my entire life. (Or, as I often say, I didn’t struggle: I was excellent at it!) Part of my special sauce is that I’ve been exactly where my clients are. I know all the excuses about why it’s better to write tomorrow than today. I know all the reasons why it’s necessary to scrap the project and start over. (Especially as you get close to actually being done and publishing…)
The other thing I have in common with my clients is that I didn’t study writing formally. I’m entirely self-taught. Since I had to figure it all out myself, I cooked up tons of writing wtrategies and recipes that are now the backbone of my business.
The other part of my special sauce is writing X-ray vision that allows me to look at writing and reverse-engineer it into a template that a client can use to write a book or that I can use to write smashingly good sales copy. This skill grew out of my background in philosophy and my years teaching literature. I learned to read deeply and ask “Why?” This makes me an excellent brainstorming partner, as well as a kind but adamant coach as you decide what to leave in your blog post or website copy or book — and what to cut!
If you’re a health coach who’s gone through your own health crisis, or a relationship coach who’s been through your own messy divorce and lived to tell the tale, the same boat special sauce positions you as a different kind of expert, but an expert nonetheless.
What’s your special sauce? What do you do that sets you apart? Share in the comments!