6 min read

Why different is better than better, feat. Sally Hogshead

Why different is better than better, feat. Sally Hogshead


"Different is better than better."

Sally Hogshead said this during one of her recent talks at MarketingProfs B2B Marketing Forum, and it absolutely blew my mind. Her whole talk did, in fact. I walked away that day feeling inspired ... but also with so many questions!

Which is why I was so happy to have Sally join me for not just one, but two exclusive Marketing Smarts conversations (here's part 1 and part 2) about the importance of being "different" and how that contrasts with the idea of "better."

Sally Hogshead

I want to give you more than that to chew on as context, but I have so much I want to share here, we're just going to dive right into all of the incredible B2B learnings Sally revealed during our discussion — so, buckle up, folks! 

Better vs. Different

Better is the approval of other people according to a metric that they have established. It's like the most improved award. Better means you weren't good enough to begin with. Better means that there is something wrong that you have to fix or optimize,” Sally shared on the podcast.

“Different, on the other hand, gives you an open-ended opportunity to explore the different options. Instead of having this mine-slogging, ditch-digging, gradual improvement, you have quantum leaps. You can't be different just to be different. You have to identify what's the situation, a target audience, a purpose or an unfulfilled need that you can solve with your point of difference.”

So what do you do to find what makes you different, and how do you lean into that difference for good? That’s where the magic happens. ✨

Finding your “different”

You have to identify “that” quality about yourself or your brand. That quality might be meticulous, emotional, highly motivated, or fluent in superhero puns. It might be an intensely deep passion for a related industry field. It might be a radically different way of doing business. 

🔎 Related: You need to write (and market) like a human (+ examples)

“You don't have to change who you are. You have to become more of who you are.” Sally shared.  “Identify a difference that is highly differentiated and polarizing in certain situations that you may have been told, growing up, that it was something that you needed to fix.”

Once you’ve identified that – for Sally it was her intense creativity – you’ve got to figure out how to make that difference work for your advantage.

How is it an advantage?

For Sally, her extreme creativity meant coming up with ideas very quickly. It means she needs to find situations where creativity is not only a benefit, but where it’s essential.  

If you’re extremely emotionally intelligent, you should push yourself into situations where your emotional intelligence can thrive. 🧠

Start doing this on purpose. “You have to find the situations, clients, projects, deliverables, that you can do it on purpose and push it as far as you possibly can,” Sally shared. It is your responsibility to add value by leaning into your different. 

Turn it into a specialty

If you want to maximize your impact on this earth, take your difference and turn it into your specialty.

Build your entire brand, persona, schedule, and team around that point of difference. “There are already too many of the bests. You can't outdo somebody else's best. But there is always room for highly differentiated niche people, personalities, and brands,” Sally said.


That was really the mic-drop moment of the episode

Somewhere my brain went while listening to Sally’s talk at B2B Forum was that sometimes “better” can equal boring. Being different allows for this world to be so much more exciting.

“You don't have to be perfect at everything, but you have to be extraordinary in certain areas. It's our responsibility to find out what those areas are because the world needs it now more than ever,” Sally shared. 

🔎 Related: Why your sales enablement strategy is failing (HubHeroes Podcast)

Knowing what makes you different is only the start. Embracing your difference is what will take you far. In my second conversation with Sally Hogshead on the Marketing Smarts podcast, we talked about some of the hurdles that hold people back from fully leaning into what makes them different and using it as a strength. 💪

You can’t be afraid to be different

So often, society tells us to conform. Fall in line. Play by the rules. There’s a lot of pressure to be the same. It can be intimidating to embrace our differences fully. But, it’s our differences that make us fascinating. 👀

You have to ask yourself how comfortable you are with being different.

“There are many different types of different. Different can mean fresh. It can mean original. It can mean novel. It can be a slight difference,” Sally shared. “Even slight differences can become significant, as long as they are meaningful to the person that you’re communicating with or selling to.”

🔎 Related: What is great content, and is trust-building crap?

Decide what kind of different you are, and how comfortable you are with that. Overcoming the fear of being different requires self-acceptance and recognizing these differences as our greatest assets.

You can't be different for the sake of it

Leaning into your differences can’t just be a sales gimmick. 

It has to be something you try out “for funsies.” It’s something that shifts within you, allowing you to become the truest version of yourself: 

“I’m not suggesting that you’re doing something just to be clever. This isn’t about interviewing for a job and sending a fake foot to ‘get your foot in the door.’ It’s about identifying who you already are, who are at your best, and then doing it on purpose.” 

It’s so important that you’re not changing who you are for the sake of being “different.” It doesn’t work that way. 

This isn’t about changing to be different than you were before. It’s about being different from everyone else – about accepting that you’re different from everyone else – about celebrating that you’re different from everyone else. 🎉

“All of us have these times in our life that become the core of who we are. They don’t just define who we are, they reveal who we are,” Sally said. 

Facing criticism for being different

The unfortunate reality is that not everyone is going to like you and celebrate you because you’re embracing your differences. 


People are going to talk. They’re going to critique. But that’s not always a bad thing. First – “all press is good press.” Second – you’re making it a lot easier for people who aren’t a good fit for you to be recognized. 

Sally said, “If you’re not polarizing, if you’re not pissing somebody off, nobody is paying attention.” 

Now, we’re not saying to go intentionally poke the bear. But really leaning into your differences is going to attract the right people to you like a magnet – and it’s going to repel the wrong people (also, like a magnet). 🧲

🔎 Related: What is customer delight, and who is responsible for it?

The fact of the matter is that your differences are your strengths, regardless of whether or not other people like them. Sally used the example of a bar in New Smyrna Beach, Florida that leaned into its difference as a strength.

There’s a drawbridge that attaches the town to the rest of the Florida coast. It’s not on a set schedule, so at any point in the day, the drawbridge could go up. When the drawbridge goes up, the area around it becomes clogged with carbon monoxide from the running vehicles waiting to cross.

At the base of the drawbridge is a bar named Gnarly's Surf Shack:

“Gnarly’s was losing business because as soon as the drawbridge would go up, nobody wanted to sit outside on the patio. So, they created a deal: Bridge up, beer down. Every time, as soon as you hear the ding sound for the bridge to go up, beer becomes $0.25.”

Gnarly’s brilliantly took something that was a “disadvantage” — their difference — and turned it into an advantage simply by repositioning it into something desirable. Allowing yourself to be bold enough with your differences to get attention can be a really incredible way to attract the people who will love you for who you are.

Celebrate those who lean into their differences

Being a happy, helpful, humble, human means supporting others as they lean into their differences. It’s one of the easiest and most impactful things that we can do. Embracing others and their differences, and celebrating right alongside them…. Wow, it’s such a cool human experience

Every episode of Marketing Smarts, I seem to find a mic drop moment. This was Sally’s:

“The greatest way to empower somebody is to help them identify who they already are and then reward them for what they’re doing right. The greatest way to kill somebody’s spirit is to show them what they’re doing wrong and tell them how to fix it. Remember this. You don’t have to change anything. You are not perfect for everything. You are not perfect for everyone.

But you are extraordinary at the right time with the right people. That is how to reach your ideal potential by being different.”

When you see someone being extraordinary in your life, celebrate the heck out of them.

Sally was kind enough to offer Marketing Smarts listeners a free chapter of her book, Different is Better than Better. If you haven’t already, listen to part 1 and part 2 of this exclusive conversation. Sally shares a lot of great things and really got me thinking about how to lean into what makes me who I am and how to best serve all of you.

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