What I learned on vacation

While on vacation recently, I discovered a couple of great shops in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. One was a bakery, the other was a stationery boutique. Relaxing by the fountain in Bar Harbor, I enjoyed a whoopie pie and found myself reflecting on why I liked those two stores so much more than the other nice places we wandered into. I really liked them. My traveling companions liked them, too. But I was falling in love. Why?

Aside from the obvious reasons to like a bakery (my affection for baked goods requires no further exposition) and a letterpress shop (I'm a desginer, after all, and got my hands dirty at Dock2 making my own business cards), there was something else going on. It wasn't your typical they-have-what-I-need arrangement. Both businesses connected with me at a much deeper, more personal, level. It may sound strange, but it felt as though they understood me. They were somehow like me. The bakery wasn't just a bakery — the illustration style and design of their logo, the fact that they had milk on tap, the elevated kitchen behind a wall of glass, the toy train delivering samples, even the interior decoration and that massive wood table — it was like I stumbled into something built to my specific taste in every way. The stationery boutique had everything from Pantone® mugs to items I've been coveting from the Veer merchandise store. There was a dog lounging behind the young lady at the cash register,  and even a selection of letterpress coasters. How did they know I collect coasters?

It seems that in both cases, I wasn't just becoming acquainted with a business. I was meeting people who have much in common with me, who share and amplify my interests. In that way, falling in love is a fair description for it. At the very least, it's an emotional connection, and upon further reflection (yes, I do that a lot), it's also the reason I buy from Apple and listen to 5by5 podcasts. They are the products of people who are passionate about a few things, do them extremely well, and are committed to delivering. 

Here's what I'm learning, especially when it comes to business. The benefits of amplifying what makes you unique far outweigh the risks. The world doesn't need another run-of-the-mill bakery, stationery store, computer manufacturer, podcast or designer. It needs passion and originality. When we clarify and highlight our uniqueness, people discover us and make an emotional connection. We give them something to resonate with. I love being that kind of customer, and those are my favorite kinds of clients. 

If you don't have one, consider this simple marketing plan. Step one: Know yourself as completely as you can. Step two: Be yourself as wholeheartedly as you can. Step three: Repeat. Customers are waiting to be swept off their feet.