How to Differentiate Your Business Better than Your Competitors

Mallory Merrill

Mallory Merrill

Advice for Startups

To achieve big-time success, you first have to stand out, you have to have a differentiator; but, that’s a lot easier said than done. In this article, you’ll find proven tools to help you separate yourself from your competitors and appeal to your consumers.

We’ve all wondered it…

How did they do that?!

It’s common to ask ourselves how certain companies have achieved the extreme levels of success we see in today’s marketplace: Apple, Amazon, Nike, Uber, Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Facebook—the list goes on.

We already know that these companies didn’t obtain market leadership by accident, so, for hungry entrepreneurs and ambitious developers, it’s impossible not to wonder, “how did they crack that code?” or, “how did they do this better than everyone else?”

If you analyze hyper successful companies, you’ll find they have a lot of core-traits in common— one of them being, business differentiation. This means they set themselves apart, and they do so in a truly meaningful way.

A strong business differentiator wins every time...

Through being distinguishable from competing brands, successful businesses trigger positive and emotional connections with consumers. Those consumers then begin forming a relationship with the image and behavior of that company. In perfect scenarios, that relationship becomes one of mutual loyalty and evangelism.

But there’s a finesse to asserting profound and effective business differentiation. If you do it right, it can propel you towards terrific success; but if you don’t, your plans for market leadership can fall flat as a flounder.

Here, then, are some proven tools that will help you find, refine, and assert your business’s key differentiators…

Fine-Tuning Your Business Differentiator

Know Your Market

Understanding who you’re talking to is the most effective way to communicate clearly. And, like it or not, you must have a great conversation with your audience in order to convert those consumers into buyers. So— find out who they are, tell them specific benefits about your business, and tell them how those benefits benefit them, specifically.


That was a mouthful… In other words, your messaging should always be in-line with your audience.

If you understand the people you’re talking to, you can engage with them in their language, you can build a brand that better fulfills their needs, and produce brand messaging that resonates with them personally.

The goal is to create an emotional connection with your audience. You want to isolate their pain points, and appeal to those pain points in a way that is both relevant and necessary.

Although you can target more than one audience at a time, you need to appeal to them individually. You won’t see winning results if you appeal to the young-urban-hipster in the same way as the comfortable-baby-boomer. Speak to your audience in a way that clearly aligns with their lifestyle, interests and challenges.

Know Your Competition

A very strategic person once said, “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” That person was right in many regards, and definitely so when it comes to brand marketing. Consider a repurposed version of that quote: “keep your consumer close and your competition closer…”

By understanding your competition, observing what they do well, analyzing why different approaches worked for them or didn’t, becoming familiar with their offerings, and discovering their pitfalls, you’ll gain a more robust knowledge of what consumers expect from your business, and how they want you to give it to them.

Further, knowing where your competitors are located, how long they’ve been on the scene, how they handle support issues and outreach, how many employees they have and etc, can help you form stronger differentiators for your own business.

Hint: You’ll notice that many businesses do and offer many the same things. A true differentiator, then, should make your product unique among all the others. It should establish you as the only solution to a key pain point, or the only provider of your specific differentiating benefit.

Know Yourself

Understand what makes your business different, and share that message at every opportunity. Take a close look at who you are, how your services are unique, and why those things are important to your target market.

You already know that what you have is special, but you must be able to articulate that to potential buyers in a way that tells them unequivocally, “this is how I’m different, and this is how it helps you.”

For example, if you’re an airline who offers more leg-room than any other airline, that’s a really strong differentiator! Most everyone who boards a plane would agree that having the most leg-room is better; this means you offer a singular feature that appeals to a lot of consumers’ pain points; you’re different, and it’s better. Use that to engage with your market.

If you don’t have a differentiator in your business, create one. Use your own experiences as a consumer to discover what your business is missing and how you can establish your business as meaningfully different.


Know Your Clients

If your business already has customers, GET THEIR FEEDBACK! Often, the most powerful reflection of your business can be offered to you from those who have already bought/utilized your service.

Consumer feedback can offer insights into areas within your product or support offerings that can be strengthened, but it can also show you what you’re doing RIGHT. Find positive patterns in user experiences, reinforce those traits, and turn them into memorable differentiators for your business.

If you don’t yet have a customer base, you can still get feedback from your ideal user. How? Conduct usability tests.

Social media makes it super easy to reach out to consumers and to collect data that can help your business do better. Although it can still be a challenge to orchestrate usability tests, aggregating market feedback has a huge payoff. You can create surveys, conduct interviews, offer free trials, or etc to gain meaningful impressions from your target market.

Most importantly, though, you have to listen. In order to truly make market feedback work for you, you have to be willing to hear it, examine it, and apply it.

Market Yourself (because, like it or not, we all judge a book by its cover)

If product is king, then packaging is his royal attire. If your product or service is truly the best on the market, then it should be presented that way.

There are many brands out there who have created interest, excitement, intrigue, and even lust in their consumers simply by using fantastic packaging (don’t you feel a pang of desire when a friend unpacks a new pair of headphones from Beats by Dre?!).

Whether it’s a perfectly designed app or software feature, or the bag or box in which a physical product reaches your customer, good packaging creates its own media; it’s advertising for your product, and it creates the most powerful type of brand recognition.

There are many examples of smart packaging in our marketplace. There are many companies who use packaging to foster brand loyalty or status (think Tiffany). And there are others whose packaging is so perfectly designed that is can represent the identity of that company as a whole (think Apple and, to utilize a slightly off-beat example, think… Victoria’s Secret. When you see a one of those little pink-and-black gift bags with all that sassy pink tissue paper, it’s impossible not to wonder what’s inside; that’s really smart branding).

In the end, if high-level market leadership is your goal, you must first achieve powerful brand differentiation. This is the ultimate key to attaining and maintaining big-time success.

Albert Einstein may say it best, “the person who follows the crowd will usually go no further than the crowd. The person who walks alone is likely to find himself in places no one has ever seen before.”

So go get ‘em! When you know each of these things about your business, your differentiator should be clear, and you can establish yourself as a worthy authority.

Create your brand, surpass your competitors, and be the company that others look to as a leader. It will take a lot to get there, but first, it takes being different.


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