Making Your Brand Stand Out

A few days ago I had the opportunity to work with one of my clients on one of their RFP’s. We talked through presentation ideas, from content to binding and discussed key elements. What we all soon realized, however, was that our primary goal was this: simply stand out.  Not by the cover or the way the document was going to be tabbed—but in the proposal’s one-page introduction.

Now it may seem obvious, but it’s actually harder than it sounds. In a stack of RFP’s in which the contenders are in the same industry, generally doing the same thing, being different isn’t easy. Being different means taking a risk, it means having to be willing to prove that you truly are unique—and that the uniqueness of your company and its brand is a good thing.

I suppose it’s time to let the cat out of the bag here: this post isn’t really about how to win an RFP. There are dozens—hundreds even—of posts out there that posit precisely how to win one, or why you shouldn’t care about winning them or a host of other discussions. What the experience of dealing with an RFP called to mind for me was the importance of developing and sharing the right message regardless of the type of project you or your business is working on.

Whether you’re working in healthcare or horseshoeing, the fact is that if you don’t know what you do better than your competition, and don’t have a way to share those differentiating factors, you will never be able to successfully achieve your goals.  In fact, not knowing what sets you apart will ultimately waste your time and money as you chase after business you may never win, and ignore business that could easily be yours.

One of my favorite articles about brand building is this one from Inc. At its core is the principle of proper messaging—and standing out or being different in the right way.  As noted by Carlos Martinez Onaindia, co-author, Designing B2B Brands: Lessons from Deloitte and 195,000 Brand Managers (Wiley, 2013):

“Differentiation is not about differentiation from your competition. It’s about how you engage your people and your stakeholders so they feel in their minds you are different.”

My clients won’t know for a number of weeks whether or not their RFP will be the winning one and, as with any company going through the RFP process, have a lot of work ahead of them. But as noted by one of the sales team after receiving the introductory page I prepared for their review, “Wow…it’s different from any [industry] bio I’ve seen, and that’s exactly what we need.”


Being different makes a difference to companies of every size, in every industry. Do you know what sets you apart?  If not, I hope you’ll contact me. And in the meantime, I’ll leave you with a little RFP-style humor:


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