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.
12 ways to differentiate your business from competitors
To stand out in a crowded marketplace and create a raving fan base of customers that only want to purchase from you (not your competitors), you need to strategically and proactively differentiate.
Here are 12 smart differentiation strategies that you can mix and match to provide the all-around best customer experience.
1. Provide top-notch customer service
81% of people say that a positive customer service experience makes them more likely to purchase from the company.
You can differentiate your business by providing better, more relevant, and faster customer service than your competitors.
For example, many SaaS companies use Intercom and ecommerce companies use Gorgias to offer live chat to their customers. These platforms provide some responses via AI, links to helpdesk articles for FAQs, and access to human chat agents.
2. Offer innovative products and services based on customer requests
As the saying goes, you can't put lipstick on a pig. While the extra stuff is important, it means nothing if your main offer isn't valuable.
Make sure that you're innovating according to your target customers' problems and goals.
For example, Shelfgram is a very innovative SaaS company.
They offer crowdsourced images of shelves at retailers so consumer packaged goods companies can see what their products really look like in the wild (to check competitors' prices and claims and ensure retailer compliance). This service is based directly on what customers (brand and category managers) want to see when it comes to virtual store audits.
3. Customize and personalize your offerings
80% of people say they're more likely to do business with an organization that delivers tailored experiences and 90% find personalization desirable.
To differentiate your business, you can personalize:
The digital customer experience
The packaging or inserts
4. Commit to sustainability or other ethical stances
What does your audience care about? You can stand out from competitors by aligning your business with their core values. You can temporarily align your business with special months like AAPI Heritage Month or choose one main cause to support, like climate change reduction and sustainability.
Of course, you'll want to beware of greenwashing. If you choose to support a cause, you'll need to do more than donate or offset your carbon. You should make adjustments across every aspect of your business and communicate them to your customers.
For example, Patagonia has a take-back program which upcycled submitted tee shirts into new clothes.
5. Offer the best UX or craftsmanship
For digital products, make sure you're prioritizing UX. Your product should be the simplest and most enjoyable to use out of all of your competition.
And for physical products, you can differentiate your business with high-quality materials and craftsmanship.
6. Opt for competitive pricing
Win more market share by offering lower prices than your competition.
But pricing can become a race to the bottom, so be careful. Keep in mind that customers would often rather pay a little bit more to receive an overall better experience.
Sometimes, competitive pricing doesn't necessarily mean cheap. Your pricing strategy might have more to do with relevancy. For example, a SaaS company could offer 5 different pricing plans instead of 2 or 3 like their competitors. This way, customers can choose the plan that truly fits their needs, without having to pay more than necessary.
7. Increase the speed of delivery
It's no secret. Amazon has become the biggest ecommerce powerhouse by ruthlessly committing to the customer experience. One of the things they excel at is delivery speed. Prime customers can opt for 2-day delivery on most products.
Of course, 2-day delivery is a challenge for most ecommerce businesses, but you can try to shoot for 7 days instead of 14.
For digital products, make sure you're delivering those instantly after purchase.
8. Create a unique brand identity that your audience loves
Even if you offer very similar products and services as your competitors, you can differentiate and win more customers with the power of your brand.
Lavender is an AI email writing tool for sales reps.
From the brand color to tone of voice to brand design, everything is fun and informal. This helps the business differentiate from boring B2B tools that aren't nearly as enjoyable to use. Outbound sales requires a lot of energy and a brand like Lavender helps sales reps keep the energy and positive vibes flowing.
9. Stand out with excellent content marketing
You can also differentiate your business with the free content that you provide your audience. Content marketing can help educate and inform customers on all sorts of issues and help them solve common problems.
This will improve the overall customer experience and help you stand out as a helpful brand.
10. Improve flexibility and convenience
The more convenience you offer to customers, the better.
You can increase convenience with:
Simpler and faster sales processes
Easy and fair return processes
Faster access to customer support and services
11. Create opportunities for your community to engage with each other
Great brands are like mini-communities where customers want to interact with each other.
This helps a business differentiate because they're offering more than products and services. They're offering an experience and the opportunity to interact with like-minded people.
For example, DesignFiles has a Facebook group where interior designer customers can ask each other questions and offer business advice.
12. Continuously incorporate customer feedback
The more you listen to your customers, the more you learn. You'll discover what customers care about and make your offers more relevant and helpful.
Also, you can differentiate your business just by being known as a company that listens to their customers and takes feedback. That alone will make people want to choose you over competitors.
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.
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.
Please share your thoughts in the comments section below!