Standing out as a business and establishing a strong brand is crucial for success. If you can’t differentiate yourself from other similar businesses and brands, ultimately you will lose ground on the competition. For local businesses, competition can be very fierce within a small sandbox, so highlighting your unique qualities is the only way to thrive.
Do you know what makes you different, unique, and more desirable than the alternatives? Every business, whether it is a carpet cleaning company, or a high flying tech startup, has certain traits that make it special. We need to understand how to put your unique offerings and character front and center.
Do you want to discover yours or just confirm what you already know?
It’s time to answer some questions about your business.
Every business (literally) has something that makes them special or they wouldn’t be around. We just need to know what it is. Is that the process we are going to help them work through?]
This process usually starts with identifying competitors (alternate solutions) and understanding what they think their unique benefits/offerings are as well.
When we are doing positioning (you know, the technical term from school, we also need to make sure that it is defensible. So, for example, if we are going to say we are the cheapest, then there better be a structural reason why we are cheaper, which prevents others from just dropping their prices and blowing us away.
Ask Your Customers
What is the number one thing your customers/clients praise you for?
It could be the quality of the products you sell, it could be the speed of service or the quality of customer support they receive. You might think your leading quality is service, but actually, the number one thing customers praise you for is the product itself. This might not even be a simple question to answer, especially if you’re a start-up. Collecting official customer feedback can help you with this kind of thing.
If you’re thinking, ‘how can I collect customer feedback’ a good way is to incentivize customers; offer them a discount on their next order, or enter them into a giveaway. Alternatively, simply start asking them if they will leave a review or answer some questions after purchase or interaction. If you don’t ask you often won’t get! However, keep in mind that the number of people asking for feedback these days is VERY high, so most people just don’t respond. You need to find ways to encourage people that are different, novel, or unique.
If you focus on a niche vs the mass market for your industry you can become a specialist in that area and differentiate yourself this way. You might argue this has pros and cons, but if you choose the right niche it could be the driving force for your business.
We just need to make sure (a) the niche is big enough to support us, and (b) it is sustainable. With that said, there is a lot out there on “the long tail”. In other words, if we can pull together enough smaller (lightly contested) niches, then we can create an overall market model that is both powerful and cost-effective.
For example, if someone is looking for high-end luxury real estate, they are far more likely to go to a real estate agent who is a high-end specialist. In this case, the specialist could lose out on other areas of the market, but should attract more of the business for the luxury market. If that laser focus results in a higher close rate and greater sales overall, then that can be a powerful formula for success. By the way, this formula can work in other ways too. You could also choose to specialize on finding homes for young families on a budget. The margin on each sale may not be as high, but if there are more opportunities, and you can close more sales, this might be every bit just as lucrative.
You can segment on the region, transaction size, community, ethnicity, income, or a thousand other variables. You can even combine them in unique ways. You just need to be the best at what you do and be able to back it up.
Bring Your Values into It
It’s 2019 and people love brands with real values that align with their own. It’s a very successful way to stand-out and it can attract like-minded individuals. If you are a business owner with a passion for zero waste, you can introduce this into your operations, and then let people know you are passionate about this. It could be that there are others who share this passion and want to support you. If you’re keen to help disadvantaged children in poor areas of the globe, consider donating a percentage of your profits to this cause. You can build an entire business around your mission and you will soon learn that customers like brands who care about something other than just profits.
Take an existing type of business and make it better by innovating a process or product. There are so many businesses that exist because of this. You don’t need to come up with a completely new idea that’s never been done before to be successful. You can simply take something that already works well and you can make it better and unique.
There is new to the world, new to the industry, or new to the firm.
You can take something that exists and make it better. You can adopt something from another firm or industry. Some people work on process innovations to reduce costs. But, it is totally legit to use innovation to create differentiation and competitive advantage – as long as it is defensible…
The reality is, businesses just fade away if they don’t solve problems in a unique way. Even the simplest of businesses exist to solve some kind of problem, be that small or substantial. If you can solve that problem better than someone else, more efficiently or with a better customer experience you will stand the test of time.