Earlier this week, I talked about the reasons businesses shouldn’t replicate their competitor’s marketing efforts.
While that’s certainly problematic, there’s often a bigger underlying issue — they don’t know how to differentiate their business.
Far too often, companies see the success of their competitors and want to copy it.
Remember when Groupon came on the scene? After they achieved massive success, hundreds of “me-too” companies tried to replicate the model and grab a piece of the pie. With the exception of one or two companies, most of Groupon’s competitors failed.
They didn’t differentiate themselves enough.
The reality is that there are likely dozens, or maybe even hundreds, of competitors who do exactly what you do. Copying your competitors will only make yourself look more like the very businesses you are trying to beat. And, you’ll create situation where you’re more likely to compete on price instead of value, which is not a good place to be.
Instead of looking for ways to imitate your competitors, you should find ways to differentiate your business and give people a reason to choose YOU.
Admittedly, trying to stand out or be different can be incredibly hard or even scary. After all, society has taught us the value of fitting in and being popular.
But in business, you need to throw those ideals out the window and embrace your differences if you want to be successful.
How to Differentiate from the Competition
I call this your special sauce or your mojo. It’s the one thing that makes your company incredibly unique and it’s what should come to mind when people think of your company.
So, how do you uncover your special sauce? Here are some questions that can help do that:
1. What makes you special?
When looking at your competitors, what makes you different from them? Do you offer something they don’t? Is your process unique? Look for ways your company stands out.
A new restaurant in Nashville called The Slider House specializes in mini burgers and hot dogs. Although there are plenty of burger joints and places that sell sliders, The Slider House does something different — they only sell beer in cans.
The beer is served in branded koozies that patrons get to keep. The restaurant recycles the cans and gives the proceeds to charities that benefit the environment.
How many burger joints can say that?
This one small thing is a big differentiator that makes The Slider House stand out. See how that works?
2. What do you stand for?
Another way to differentiate your business is to talk about your core values. In other words, this is what you believe as a company.
For example, responsiveness is a core value for a law firm client of mine. That’s why they guarantee to call clients and prospects back within 24 hours. It’s clear that the entire firm stands behind this because clients regularly praise the firm for how they quickly attorneys responded to phone calls and emails and how important it was to always know the status of their case.
Think about what your company stands for? What would you draw a line in the sand for?
3. Who do you uniquely serve?
Another way to stand out in a competitive market is to serve a very specific niche.
For instance, if you’re a Realtor, instead of only focusing on an area of town you could work specifically with urban professionals who are relocating to the city. Or, you could work with environmentally conscious buyers who want LEED-certified homes.
When you narrow your niche, you’re able to better cater your services (and your marketing) to attract the right people.
What pain points are not being addressed?
If you look at your industry, you might find some customer needs or frustrations that are not being served.
For example, a carpet cleaning company might discover that no one in their market offers same-day service. Or, a medical office could offer extended or weekend hours for busy professionals.
Talk to your clients and ask them what they wish you offered. You might just uncover some important ways to expand your services in a way that helps you stand out from your competitors.
5. What’s your story?
Sometimes, what can make a company unique is their story. Maybe it’s the story behind your company’s name or how the business was started.
That’s the case for 1907 Apparel in Nashville. The name of the company was chosen because that year holds a special significance in the company founder’s life. Her story is so powerful; you need to check it out for yourself.
Because of the founder’s story, the mission of 1907 Apparel is to help people tell their own stories by creating custom t-shirts with the number or year that’s meaningful to customers. On top of that, the company gives seven percent of profits to charities that help empower others.
A compelling story can make all the difference between just another t-shirt company and a meaningful brand.
What about you?
Do you know what makes your company special? How do you stand out from your competitors? If you’re struggling with this, let me know in the comments and we’ll talk it through.