Marketing Plan

Stand Out and Shine: 8 Ways to Differentiate Your Business

Author:  Debra Murphy


Reading Time: 9 minutes
Unlocking Success: 8 Powerful Ways to Differentiate Your Business

Small businesses have many marketing challenges. One of these challenges is how to determine what makes their business stand out from the competition. Being able to differentiate your business and communicate your unique capabilities that your competition does not have is important to attracting your ideal client.

When someone asks you what makes you different from your competition:

  • Do you answer the question confidently, telling them why you are the best at solving their key challenge?
  • Does your answer help your audience feel like you understand their needs?
  • Do you clearly describe that special thing that makes you their ideal choice?

When you differentiate your business, you make it memorable and credible. It helps your prospects quickly understand what you do and what sets you apart from your competitors.

The secret to creating your differentiation, or unique selling proposition (USP) is understanding what your ideal client really wants and making sure you deliver it better than anyone else. You need to have a deep understanding of the market and competition and then determine where you can uniquely offer something that the competition does not, packaged in a way that others cannot easily copy.

Don’t be fooled – this exercise is not easy to do. It takes a lot of thought, brainstorming and sometimes some trial and error to see what works. Sometimes we are just too close to our businesses to truly see that differentiating quality that makes us stand out.

Plus you may find what is unique for your business evolves as your business grows.

What makes your business different?

Most of the time, what makes us different may not be a complicated process or service. In fact, many of us overlook our key strength because it seems too simple or natural to us. In reality, your differentiator may be something we find easy to do but our clients find amazing. We are taught to believe that things of value have to be hard or complex. Just because these things we do are easy for us does not mean they are easy for others. You need to become consciously aware of this value you provide and use it to your benefit.

Do you:

  • Find simpler ways of doing things?
  • Serve a niche market better than anyone else?
  • Bring a new perspective to challenges that offer unique solutions?
  • Package your services in a way that appeals to your ideal client?
  • Create systems that help clients learn how to do things more effectively?

Your differentiation should be things that make you different in your field, packaged in a way that others cannot copy. Review your competition for clues as to how you can take your unique strength and combine it with other ways of separating you out from the competition. Record these unique differences and keep working on them until you have one that sets you apart from others and aligns with the needs of your ideal client.

Simple exercise to help you differentiate your business

Take some time to really think about the following and come up with a list of things you do really well. Don’t underestimate anything because something that you do that is so simple may be just the key to you standing out above all others:

  • What do your clients really appreciate about your service?
  • Why are long term clients still with you?
  • What was one of the nicest things a client ever said about how you conduct business?

The challenge for service businesses is to clearly identify what you do best in a way that is visible to your target. Consultants, accountants, financial planners, coaches, designers, web developers and other service-oriented businesses appear to all be the same: they offer the same services for about the same price. To stand out, understand what you do best and exploit it. Or come up with something unique that adds value over your competition that you can offer.

8 ways to make your business stand out

Use the following ideas to help you determine that one unique, differentiating quality that only your business has:

1. Narrow your target market

By specializing in a specific customer niche, you can focus on the skills or services that uniquely benefit that customer. By focusing on a specific segment of customers, you can tailor your products, services, and messaging to meet their unique needs and preferences. This level of specialization allows you to develop a deep understanding of your target audience, enabling you to provide tailored solutions that competitors may overlook.

Being the best to provide a solution to their unique situation enables you to:

  • Build strong customer relationships
  • Foster brand loyalty
  • Establish a reputation as a go-to provider in that niche

Narrowing your target market allows you to differentiate your business by offering exceptional value and solutions that truly resonate with a specific group of customers.

Further Reading

Finding Your Niche through an Effective Target Market Strategy

2. Focus on superior customer service

Aim to create the best experience for your customers. In a competitive marketplace where products and prices can often be similar, exceptional customer service becomes the key to standing out from the crowd. By consistently exceeding customer expectations, you can create a remarkable experience that leaves a lasting impression.

Exceptional customer service builds trust, enhances customer satisfaction, and cultivates loyalty, leading to repeat business and positive word-of-mouth referrals. When customers feel valued and supported, they become brand advocates, willingly promoting your business to others. Moreover, superior customer service allows you to differentiate your business by showcasing your commitment to personalized care, responsiveness, and problem-solving. It demonstrates that you genuinely care about your customers’ needs and are dedicated to their success. From your initial proposal through final delivery of your product or service, be sure your customers are treated as if they were the only one you have.

Further Reading

Empowering Marketing through Exceptional Customer Service

3. Solve a problem

Find out what common problems your clients have and be the best at solving them. Identify and address a specific problem faced by your target audience, positioning you and your business as a problem solver. This sets you apart by showcasing your expertise and ability to provide tangible value. When you offer an innovative solution that effectively resolves a pressing issue, customers are more likely to choose your business over others.

Solving a problem demonstrates your understanding of customer needs, building trust and credibility. It also fosters customer loyalty as they recognize the positive impact your solution has on their lives or businesses. Additionally, by continuously adapting and improving your problem-solving capabilities, you can stay ahead of the competition and maintain your unique position in the market. Make your solutions turnkey so you can solve their problems faster and with better results.

4. Be innovative

Continuously try to improve your customer facing processes to deliver better results to your target audience. Every industry evolves and so should your business. If you offer similar services as the competition, make the way you deliver them or how you work with your customers unique.

Innovation enables you to challenge the status quo, disrupt traditional approaches, and offer unique solutions that meet unmet needs or address pain points in novel ways. By being at the forefront of change, your business becomes synonymous with progress and forward-thinking. Customers are naturally drawn to innovative companies that demonstrate a willingness to push boundaries. Being innovative allows you to outpace competitors, staying ahead of industry trends and setting new standards. Try to get to the solution faster and more accurately than the competition can deliver.

5. Create offers that are irresistible

Be creative with your service packages and add so much value that it’s hard to say no. By carefully crafting unique and compelling offerings, you can capture the attention and interest of your target audience. Whether it’s a product, service, or combination of both, the key is to provide distinct value that sets you apart. You can achieve this through a variety of means, such as:

  • Incorporating innovative features
  • Delivering exceptional quality
  • Offering customization options
  • Providing exclusive bonuses or add-ons

Your offers should not only meet the specific needs of your customers but also go above and beyond their expectations. By consistently delivering exceptional value and exceeding customer demands, you establish a reputation for excellence that becomes synonymous with your brand.

Further Reading

7 Key Advantages of Service Bundling for Small Businesses

6. Be known as the expert in your field

Build a reputation as the expert in your field through your blog posts, books, videos, training and other information products. When you become the go-to authority, customers naturally gravitate towards your expertise, trusting your knowledge and skills. Consistently demonstrate deep industry knowledge, stay up-to-date with the latest trends, and provide valuable insights. This positions your business as a reliable source of information and guidance.

This expertise sets you apart from competitors who may not possess the same level of specialized knowledge. Being known as the expert enhances your credibility and instills confidence in potential customers. This increases trust and willingness to engage with your products or services. Moreover, being seen as the expert allows you to command a premium price, as customers are willing to invest in the superior value and specialized expertise you bring to the table. People who truly have a problem to solve will want to work with the expert.

7. Make it easy to do business with you

Customers value convenience and efficiency so work on your business model to make it easy as possible to work with you. By streamlining your processes, removing unnecessary hurdles, and providing a seamless customer experience, you create a distinct advantage over competitors who may have complex or time-consuming procedures.

Simplify the purchasing process, offer user-friendly interfaces, and provide responsive customer support to make it easy for customers to engage with your business. Do whatever it takes to make working with you easy and convenient.

When customers find it effortless to interact with you, they are more likely to choose your products or services over others. This ease of doing business builds trust and loyalty, as customers appreciate the hassle-free experience you provide. It also leads to positive word-of-mouth recommendations, as satisfied customers share their seamless interactions with others.

8. Create a unique business model based on your values

Be transparent to your customers about things you do and why. When you align your company’s mission, vision, and core values with your business model, you create a distinct identity that resonates with customers on a deeper level. By clearly articulating and incorporating your values into every aspect of your operations, you establish a strong sense of purpose and authenticity. This unique business model sets you apart from competitors by showcasing your commitment to ethical practices, social responsibility, sustainability, or other values that matter to your target audience.

Customers are increasingly drawn to businesses that reflect their own values and seek out companies that make a positive impact on society. By differentiating your business through a values-based model, you attract like-minded customers who share your vision and are willing to support your brand. This leads to increased customer loyalty, positive brand perception, and a competitive edge in the market.

A couple things I’ve done in my business is that I don’t mark up other vendors products and services and I don’t join affiliate programs for anything involved with marketing so I can remain completely objective when I recommend them to my clients.

What doesn’t differentiate you from your competitors

Notice I didn’t put price in the list as a way to differentiate yourself. Although price can be used as a differentiating factor, it really isn’t ideal in a service-based business. Who really wants to be the cheapest? Cheaper can evoke perceptions of lower quality, less breadth of knowledge or a less stable business environment.

How do you differentiate your business?

With all the tools, gadgets and platforms, the trend is to spend a lot of time on marketing execution. But one thing we must not forget is that regardless of the channels you choose, you still need the basics of your marketing strategy in place or all of your efforts will be wasted.

Take the time to determine your strengths and communicate them to your target audience in a way that gets them to notice you above all others. Once you have defined and can demonstrate your unique difference, be sure to incorporate it into your messages everywhere.

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