How are you different?

Setting your business apart makes all the difference

Make your business stand out

What's your point of difference? You'd be surprised how many business owners can't answer this one.

Thing is, customers want to know what's in it for them. Why should they buy your product or service when there are other, seemingly identical, often better-marketed ones out there?

Differentiating yourself from the competition, then making that difference known, is crucial.

But how do you do that? How do you find your point of difference so you can broadcast it loud and clear?

Ask your customers

You're in the midst of building your business, trying to keep on top of everything from IT support to accounting to keeping your employees engaged. It can be hard to see the woods for the trees.

Your customers, on the other hand, see your business from a completely different angle. Finding your point of difference can be as simple as asking your customers. How do they see you as different from your competitors?

You might be surprised by the answers you get. And you just might find your answer there.

Get specific

With 49,156 new businesses registered in New Zealand alone in 2014, we won't blame you if you can't immediately see how your business differs from similar ones out there.

But don't despair: There are many ways to differentiate yourself from your competitors once you start thinking about it.

Make a list

It might pay to start a list of how you're similar to your competitors. This might trigger some thoughts on why you're better than them in other ways.

Points of difference can include:

  • Price
  • This isn't an easy one but, needless to say, it's one of the best from a customer point of view.

    Eyebobs, for instance, markets trendy eyewear reminiscent of high-fashion ones to Baby Boomers, at a fraction of the cost. Similarly, online watchmaker MVMT differentiates the brand as being premium, without the big brand markups and outdated retail model.

  • Ethical trade practices and environmental impact
  • Are your products vegan? Green? Does the wool for your shawls come from goats fed only organic grass, sheared by Himalayan farmers on fair wages? There's a market waiting to hear from you.

    Allbirds Shoes founder Tim Brown looked at the sheep roaming around in his native New Zealand and thought, wool's a sustainable, super-comfy product. I think I'll make sneakers and loafers from that. Since its launch in 2016, happy customers worldwide have come to agree with Brown that "Allbirds are the most comfortable shoes in the world".

  • Exclusivity
  • Creating a feeling of exclusivity through price or limited membership is another way to differentiate yourself. Think about the Hermes Birkin Bag - a handbag that's become so iconic that, rumour goes, unless you're Vogue editor Anna Wintour, there's a two-year waiting list to get your perfectly manicured fingers on your bit of Nile crocodile skin.

    Most people want as many customers as possible. But once you’ve identified your ideal customer, you might realise that you only have the time and capacity to work with a niche group, especially when you’re providing a service.

    Say you’re a personal trainer. Maybe you’ve won several bodybuilding championships. When people know this about you, they’ll line up to be trained under your watchful eye. It’s all about scarcity and exclusivity.

  • Emotional impact
  • It's not always about your product or service, but about how it makes your customers feel.

    Do you focus on creating an ongoing relationship with your customer? Are you proactive about letting them know about new products on the market that will help their own customer service and bottom line?

    Maybe your clients love the peace of mind they get from you remembering when it's time for their monthly order. Whatever it is you do to connect with people, share that. People love to connect.

  • Your personal story
  • Maybe you're a self-taught artisan, maybe you've risen against the odds to be where you are today. There's only one of you. And your story might be the most important thing about you.

    Because when you share your story, your potential customers find areas in which they can relate to you. They come to feel like they know you.

    Other points of difference may include quality, benefits, a bigger variety of goods or a more specialised service. Once you start investigating, you're bound to come up with a few ways in which you beat your competitors, hands down.

Need help communicating your point of difference and sharing your story? Finding the right words is our passion. Get in touch.

Image above courtesy of Patrice Puig


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