No matter what service or product you offer, there are a substantial number of competitors that offer something similar. If you were a customer, what would make them choose your business over the myriad of others out there?
This is one of the first things I like to know about the clients that I collaborate with, and something that I have pondered incessantly with my own services. Establishing the ways that you are differentiating your business from the competition is critical; it is the beginning of brand strategy.
Things to Consider
Defining who your service is intended for is part of the process. A common mistake is to target too broad of a market. The business that states, “We want to reach everyone!” is focused on being all things to all people. When you try to appeal to everyone, you end up appealing to no one. The business that states (for example) that they are targeting homeowners who earn at least 50K a year within a 25 mile radius of their location is doing a better job of refining who their service is for. “Common sense” says limiting your target audience will reduce the number of conversions, because the base number is much smaller. In reality, you will have a better conversion rate on the audience that you are targeting, because your message and efforts are tailored for your ideal clients.
A business should target a specific audience because the service they provide fits the needs of that audience. The efficient business understands what their ideal customer base is looking for, addresses the pain points their customers deal with, and offers a solution.
Here’s an example: While plain old white bread is good enough for many people in the populace, it offers nothing special. The basic formula can be replicated very easily and sold very cheaply. This type of service or product is a commodity.
There is little difference between the generic version and the name brand version. It doesn’t matter who produces it, it doesn’t matter who buys it, it’s just something to make a sandwich with, nothing more.
Now consider a product like Dave’s Killer Bread. It is made from healthy, premium ingredients. It is aimed towards people who choose organic food, if given a choice. It is difficult to replicate inexpensively. And look, there’s a logo of a long-haired guy playing an electric guitar. Is that something I can relate to? Why yes it is.
You can apply this same principle to any product or service. You can target a very broad audience, have little differentiation, and try to compete on something such as price—(I’ll why I do not like that strategy in a minute). On the other hand, you can very narrowly define what your service does, who it is for, and why it is the perfect fit for your target customers. By taking the narrower path, you will establish yourself as being vastly different from everyone else in your market, and you will be able to cultivate customers who are not apathetic, but instead, enthusiastic about your business.
All Marketing Is Storytelling
Establishing how your business is different is step one. Determining who your business serves best is step two. Telling a great story that describes why your service is amazing to the people you are trying to reach are steps three, four, and five. Creating content that sells your service and tells a compelling story is possible when you clearly define your points of differentiation. I will use the example from above once more. Consider this video:
Dave’s Killer Bread not only does a great job of telling a story of quality product, but now they have made it a story of redemption and second chances. The video shows them giving back to the community and transforming lives. Even other companies that put out high quality organic bread are going to have a difficult time making their product seem extraordinary after this. Why? Because the DKB brand sold themselves as being different from all of their competitors.
Now, not every business is going to have a story this dramatic, but every business has a good story to tell. The story that your business tells must also be different in some fundamental way from your competition down the street.
Incomplete Methods of Differentiating Your Business
I mentioned before that I do not like differentiating on price. It is next to impossible to beat all your competitors on price, and it leads to an unsustainable business model. Competing primarily on price dictates that you must work for less and less as time goes on. It also tells people there is nothing else noteworthy to set you apart.
Competing on quality is better, but defining the ways in which your quality is superior is crucial to making this succeed. The fact is that many services make a similar claim. Finding ways in which your business has superior craftsmanship, that is hard for others to reproduce, is a good strategy. Finding a niche audience that few people are targeting is also a good path to choose.
If you haven’t given much thought to how your business is strikingly different from every one else in your space, now is a good time to start. Standing for something specific will help you stand out from the crowd.