Do The Opposite Of “Normal” To Stand Out

Every small business owner wants to figure out how to stand out and earn attention for their brand.

And, we normally make it a lot more complicated than it needs to be.

Think about some of the biggest players in your industry:

  • How do they run their businesses?
  • What marketing or sales practices are considered normal?
  • What are the standard operating procedures?

Now, think about the gripes customers in your industry have.

  • What frustrates them?
  • What kind of practices annoy them?
  • Where do they often get stuck?

If your industry is anything like mine, there is a deep correlation between the answers to the first set of questions and the second set of questions.

Industry “best” practices often bring out the worst in customers…

…not because the customers are unreasonable or unintelligent but because industry best practices are based on solving for profitability and efficiency.

Once those best practices spread from one company to another, they quickly become “the way it’s done”––even if “the way it’s done” doesn’t make customers very happy or deliver good results.

The “way it’s done” makes the business happy but it doesn’t make the customer happy. And soon enough, the whole industry gets a reputation.

Look around, every industry has a poor reputation for something based on “the way it’s done.”

Of course, “the way it’s done” is a big opportunity.

Because we don’t have to do business “the way it’s done.” We can do things differently.

In fact, we can choose to do the opposite of the best practices, common policies, and standard operating procedures. We can prioritize exceptional customer experiences (while keeping an eye on profit and efficiency, of course).

And when we do the opposite of what customers expect because we want what’s best for them?

Our businesses stand out. Big time.

Choosing to do the opposite of common practice not only gives you the chance to serve your customers better but it gives them something to talk about––your business. It positions you in a way that can draw attention to the work you do and the unique way you do it.

So, think about your industry again. Think about common customer gripes in your industry.

What could happen if you chose to do even 1 thing totally differently than the rest of the field?

With gratitude,

Tara McMullin
Founder, What Works


When I put out a call for companies creating exceptional customer experiences for this month’s podcast episodes, I was not expecting someone to nominate a website support & hosting company. But that’s exactly what happened. Holly Klaassen told me about how Viktor Nagornyy, the founder of Project Army, personally helped her to solve a website problem in a Facebook group (not even his group!)––so she switched! Viktor told me the key to his success has been intentionally doing the opposite of what the major players in the web hosting space do.

🎧 Click here to listen.


Customer service is all about knowing when the rules apply and when it’s in everyone’s best interest to break the rules. After all, you don’t win a customer for life by following the rules. You win a customer for life by breaking the rules with intention, empathy, and a genuine desire to surprise & delight. I thought this example of a missed opportunity at a Peet’s Coffee was excellent.

👓 Click here to read.


Nothing sells like a story. But I’ve found business owners get really hung up on what goes in a story or what to look for in a story to get the best results. The “formula” (if it can be called that) is pretty simple––share the before & after. There was a time before your customer had your product––things were rough. And there was a time after they used your product––things were awesome! Check out this article with lots of great examples for more.

👓 Click here to read.


If you want to connect more in your communities, with your writing, at events, on the street, you have to understand what’s keeping us disconnected. It’s not just technology and likes and modern life. It’s a long, internalized history of disconnection. I’m really appreciating a new podcast called The Opt-In that I found through Wanderwell founder Kate Strathmann. This episode is a great place to start, especially if you’re a white person working to create more inclusive spaces and conversations.

🎧 Click here to listen.


Goal-setting has been a really useful tool for me. It’s helped me grow & transform my business. It’s helped me grow & transform personally. But it’s also been harmful. I’ve worked to achieve all sorts of goals that were disconnected from the direction I wanted my life to move and person I wanted to become. Over the last few years, I’ve been doing goals differently–starting with making a commitment to myself, my desires, and the changes I want to make. This year, I’m formalizing the process and sharing it with you in true What Works style.

🎥 Click here to register.

Cover of What Works book by Tara McMullin

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