Differentiating your offer – or finding a way to stand out from the crowd – is critical for long term business success. It’s all about delivering something important to your customers in a way that’s better or different to others.
The most effective way to really win with customers through differentiation is by understanding what’s most important to them, and delivering it in a different or better way than everyone else is. So first seek to understand… spend time developing a strong understanding of the market you operate in. Get to know who your customers are; what’s important to them; what they think of your business, brands and customers; any flexibility within your own business and product offering; what works and what you could work on.
If you’re a photographer then it will be more effective to focus on delivering highest quality shots or excelling in customer service rather than boasting of having the best looking office in town. Make sure you focus on something that’s important to your current or potential customers, talk about the benefits you offer and how your range/service adds value to their lives.
Consider HOW you want to differentiate your business for success. It may be through:
1. Better Performance.
By offering more effective products that work better, don’t wear out, last longer, smell better or do more, you can position your business as having the ‘best’ in the market. Consider reinforcing this positioning via a money back guarantee; customer testimonials; an endorsement from an industry association or a discounted introductory offer. Make sure you keep improving your offer to remain #1.
2. Meeting your consumer’s needs in a new or different way.
Consider a different or better format, new delivery method, product that’s easier to use, limited edition, more environmentally friendly concept etc. “You have to be unique and different and shine in your own way” – Lady Gaga. If you’re a dry cleaner and convenience is most important for your customers, then you could offer a delivery service, drive through option or pick up and drop off to local businesses or an overnight service.
3. Tailoring Your Offering.
As technology progresses, people are increasingly looking for tailored, bespoke products and services across industries and categories. There are many, many possibilities for tailoring your brand experience for each of your customers, regardless of the industry or business you’re in.
4. Business or Brand Values.
Consider your personal, business and brand values and decide what you want to stand for. There are lots of ways to align yourself with a cause, publicly stand up for something you believe in or support a charity… it may be conveyed through communication; ingredients (100% organic, non GMO, non-allergenic); product format (100% recyclable, biodegradable); community support (mentoring local disadvantaged students); or behind the scenes (donating excess products to Food Bank or the Dandelion Network, employee giving programs etc). Consider partnering with a charity, promoting a local cause or supporting an industry association. While there is increasing transparency on how businesses operate and what they stand for, you can choose if you want to overtly ‘play’ in this space and what that looks like for you.
5. Positioning yourself as trendy, aspirational or cutting edge.
By actively focusing on being more engaged with your customers – think on trend colours, up and coming flavours or fragrances, focusing on making them feel up-to-date – you can position your brand as popular and in-demand. This may be achieved via working with key influencers, tapping into popular culture references, through a competition to co-create new products, product names or designs, partnerships or being the first to tap into emerging trends or technologies.
6. Targeting a New Audience Profile.
In a highly competitive market you may be able to stand out from your competitors and create a new niche by positioning an existing product to a new audience. For example a toy store may actively target Grandparents with catalogues and emails, seniors’ discounts, gift wrapping that kids love, refer a friend discount and tips on most popular toys for each age and stage. It’s all about having a different take on an existing business.
As you decide the most effective and impactful way to differentiate your business, consider your objectives, market and offering. It isn’t about constantly comparing yourself to your competitors but about maximising your appeal to your customers and carving out your own space. As marketing guru Jim Collins said: “focusing solely on what you can potentially do better than any other organisation is the only path to greatness.”