Differentiating your business from others in a crowded market is key to success. High-quality products and services, a smart pricing strategy and effective marketing are just the basics. The most successful entrepreneurs have a few extra tricks that set their company apart from the rest of the pack.
Tell a strong story
Businesses must do two things to succeed; be relevant and distinctive. Like Steven Hess, co-founder at White cap, explains, doing one without the other leads to failure. “Being relevant in itself leads to a focus on price and an inevitable sublimation in the sea of equality, and customers won’t be looking for you,” he says. “Being different without solving a problem leads to tricks and weakness in the long run. You have to do both, and one way to unite the two is with a strong story.”
This can focus on the founder’s story, what led them to embark on their business journey, how they identified the problem they were solving, and how they uniquely solve it. Customer stories can also be obtained; how do they use your products or services? What problem does it solve for them?
“You also need to look at how your competitors present themselves and then present yourself in the opposite way,” says Hess. “This will feel uncomfortable and most companies fail at this point. Why do ads for cars, financial services, brokers, etc. look the same? It’s because most of us don’t want to stand out. We are afraid of failure and of being seen as failure. But if we don’t get noticed, stand out and solve a real problem, we’ve already failed.”
Focus your messaging on customer needs
A company’s messaging should focus on the biggest wants and needs of the potential customer. It should communicate what people get when they buy from you, what transformation they will see and how they will feel afterwards. “Most importantly, it should communicate what people will miss out on if they don’t buy from your startup,” says business growth consultant Bye Charlie. “If you shift your message from simply trying to grow a business and make money to focusing on your customer’s biggest wants and needs, the revenue and growth will come naturally and you will differentiate yourself from others.”
Target an underrepresented audience
This can be a powerful way for startups to get noticed. “Focusing on a group that larger companies often overlook allows them to differentiate themselves and appeal to a unique and untapped market,” said Vladislav Podolyako, founder and CEO of Leafy. “And by providing solutions to the specific needs and challenges of this target audience, startups can build a strong reputation and build a loyal customer base.”
For example, a fitness startup that targets older adults might stand out by offering specialized classes, products, or resources. By providing solutions for older adults’ physical limitations, the startup can differentiate itself from other companies, address the unique fitness challenges of older adults, and build a loyal customer base.
However, as Podolyako points out, this strategy needs careful thought. He says, “The startup may only be associated with an older audience, so you need to work with PR agencies to get the positioning right and possibly think about creating a sub-brand.”
Differentiate your social media strategy
A unique voice and communication style will make you stand out on social media. However, it is not only what you say, but also what you do that makes the difference. “If everyone is offering ‘how to’ tips on LinkedIn, make some short behind-the-scenes videos. If everyone is doing specials on Facebook, post some tips-based stories,” said Catherine Warrilow, CEO of Daysout.com. “Make yourself available for customer support on the social media channels your audience uses, for example via What’s App or Messenger.”
Respond quickly to customer calls
Making it easy for customers to contact you and get a response is key to customer engagement and retention. Yet companies are surprisingly bad at answering their phones, listing phone numbers on their websites, and answering voicemails. It’s a huge turnoff for customers, according to a survey by a global communications company Money token revealed, with unanswered phone calls topping the list of consumer complaints, cited by 43% of respondents, followed by annoying music on hold (35%).
Joanna Swash, Group CEO of Moneypenny, says: “Customers use the phone when they have an urgent or sensitive matter to discuss, so businesses cannot afford to provide a poor calling experience; business will be taken elsewhere. By mastering the art of call handling, companies can keep their customers happy and loyal while improving bottom line.”