How To Make Your Business Stand Out In A Crowded Marketplace

by Paul Simister on March 10, 2011

Before you spend a fortune on marketing and communicating messages to targeted customers, you must find a way to make your business stand out.

That’s what this entire Differentiate Your Business blog is all about so you’ll find plenty in here about being distinctive in a crowded marketplace. Please take the opportunity to look at other articles based on the categories on the right.

The Problem – Your Actions May Make It Difficult To Stand Out

Many businesses get classified by their generic category because it’s easy for the listener but that destroys their differentiation and merges you in with all your competitors.

You say “I’m an accountant” (or a lawyer, plumber, clothes shop owner).

The person you are talking to thinks

“He’s an accountant, just like Tom and Mike and Jerry….”

The Solution – To Deliberately Be Different

You need to deliberately design your business to be different so you can tell a different story.

Your aim is to be in a category of one – special… just you.

The more different you seem, the more the person you are talking to is forced to create a new category for you in their mind.

You don’t want to go too far away from the generic.

Claiming to be a “financial recording, management and tax mitigation expert for dentists” has two problems:

  1. It is full of business-speak gobbledygook which is instantly forgotten.
  2. If you are every asked by a dentist if you know a good accountant you can recommend, the connection may be too far away. Your mind is searching your mental files for accountants.

How Do You Design A Business That Strands Out In A Crowd?

You answer the seven big questions of business success in a unique way.

Get yourself a piece of paper, turn it to landscape and give yourself at least three columns:

  • Your current business
  • Your competitors (you may want to add extra columns if you look at individual competitors if they are differentiated or you can treat them as one massive competitor)
  • Your future business

First see how similar your business is to what your competitors are offering. If you struggle to distinguish – and you are an expert in your business and the wider market – imagine how difficult it is for a prospective customer.

Then brainstorm for ways that you can become distinctive across the 7 big questions of business success.

Let the ideas flow without trying to analyse them.

Then talk to customers about what they want. What were their buying criteria? What would they like to change about your business?

When you’ve got their ideas down on paper, ask for feedback on some of your ideas. See how enthusiastic they are and find out why.

This will help you to complete your How Important is Your Differentiation Grid.

Then have a look at each item and consider:

  • How easy is it to do?
  • How quick is it to do?
  • How much it will cost to do?
  • How much doing it means not doing something else? (You want to be a meaningful specific and not a meaningless generality.)
  • How easy it is for your competitors to copy without damaging their business, from an internal perspective and in the eyes of customers?

Ideally you want to find things that are quick, easy and low cost for you to do but difficult for competitors.

This may be because you have special skills and can do things they can’t.

Or it might be that their size makes it expensive to do or the action contradicts with other parts of their strategy and customer message.

For example it’s very difficult for a big business to talk convincingly about offering a personalised customer service tailored to the unique needs of the buyer when they have a strategy of being a low price – low cost competitor staffed by employees without any real connection to the business or to the customers’ problems and issues.

Paul Simister is a differentiation expert who helps small business owners to profit from differentiating their businesses, being distinctive in the eyes of their customers and standing out in a crowded marketplace.

You too can move past your profit tipping point by answering the seven big questions of business success.

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