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Your Biggest Competition Is Noise

by Steve Woodruff  |  
December 12, 2013

It’s very natural for people in business to spend a good bit of time worrying about what “the competition” is doing.

As you survey the landscape of what you’re competing against, however, I suggest that other companies should probably occupy no more than 25% of your attention.

Because your biggest competition isn’t the competition. It’s the noise in your client's or prospect’s mind.

You're competing with the boss---and kids, a schedule, office politics, the latest health problem, the job search, a fantasy football league, tomorrow’s big presentation, an upcoming vacation, an overloaded e-mail inbox... and so on. Your clients aren’t spending a massive amount of time thinking about your competitors. What is occupying your clients' time and attention and energy is the distracting swirl of life and business.

Don’t believe me? Monitor what’s coursing through your brain for the next 2 minutes. See what people who are fighting for your attention are up against?

In short, your enemy is distracted attention. If you’re not standing out from the whirlwind of “stuff” that surrounds every client, you'll be swallowed up in the noise.

So, we all have a common competitive issue. The signal-to-noise ratio. How do we put forth such a clear signal that we stand out in the minds of our clients?

The most important realization that we must come to is that other people only have a very small box to put us into. In my mind, you're going to get one memory space, one mental pixel.

If you force me to figure you out, I'll probably get it wrong. So simplify it by giving me one clear and vivid summary.

You'll make it through the noise if your message is punchy. Appealing. Tangible. Aspirational. Memorable. You need to get the point across quickly. Because I can only give you a short window of time and one mental hook to hang you on.

The greatest need isn’t to add to the noise. It’s to distill to a simple, compelling, and memorable signal. By developing micro-statements and using analogies, you can gain memory space and beat your biggest competition: noise.

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Steve Woodruff is the world's only Clarity Therapist. He connects people with their purpose, their message, and with other people in order to create new business opportunities. He writes at the

Steve is an unusual hybrid of conceptualizer, strategist, marketer, analyst, wordsmith, semi-techie, and all-around decent fellow, except when there's bad coffee or lousy wine.

Steve can also be found on Twitter, LinkedIn.

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  • by Judy Martin Thu Dec 12, 2013 via blog


    Love how simple you made this.. we are on the same wavelength. I wrote something of a similar context on my blog today. We're all swimming in the pool of cosmic soup and overload. You laid out a great argument here.

    I would go as far to say that 25 % is even too much on the competition. Perhaps - there are some days when it needs to be that for marketing reasons and strategy. But I would personally block out "no compete" zones in my brain and day - where only the creative task at hand rules the school.

  • by Barry Feldman Thu Dec 12, 2013 via blog

    Amen brother. Amen. Nice piece.

  • by Steve Woodruff Thu Dec 12, 2013 via blog

    Thanks for stopping by, Barry!!

  • by Steve Woodruff Mon Dec 16, 2013 via blog

    I think it's really hard for us to adjust to the very limited, tiny space that others can allocate to us. How do we break through and claim that ground? The 'soup and overload' is quite a formidable competitor!

  • by Taline Vertians Tue Dec 17, 2013 via blog

    Thanks for posting this. I’d add it’s all about the right message with the right design for the right audience. I work for Sprocket Media and we’ve found that it usually doesn’t pay off to jump on the bandwagon – content needs to stand out. And as you mention be simple and compelling. The information around us is growing at an exponential rate, stand out or get lost in the noise.

  • by Steve Woodruff Wed Dec 18, 2013 via blog

    We're drowning in "content" now, aren't we? (and it's only going to get louder). Volume and even virality won't necessarily get it done. We need memory darts to get through the noise and stay in the minds of others ( ) Thanks for stopping by, Taline!

  • by RMSorg Wed Dec 18, 2013 via blog

    Excellent article and head on!! We live in a "noisy" world with every brand/co/product trying to get our attention!!!

    You really have to be customer-centric and get that customers attention!


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