Let’s face it- with virtually every product or service imaginable readily available to us at any time of the day, this is the most competitive time for businesses in history. So, to help your business stand out in this over-crowded marketplace, the CarolRoth.com contributor network of experts, advisors and entrepreneurs have provided their advice and examples of how businesses can differentiate themselves from the competition. Their answers are presented below in no particular order.
You may notice some similar ideas listed, but I kept them separate, as something in the way one is framed may resonate differently with you.
1. Give Your Biz a Personality
When people go to your website or read your social media updates, are they confronted with completely average - or worse, boring - copy? Your site's copy is like a silent sales person that works 24/7, so it's a good idea to give it a personality that will resonate with potential customers and clients.
Whether it's edgy or witty or just conversational, if you make your content likable, your business will be, too. And that's more than enough to stand out from the competition.
2. Get a Mascot!
A mascot can either drive you to the business or drive you away. I personally am repelled by the hand-waving and jumping up and down of the people who try to lure you into doing business, i.e. oil change, tax returns, or pizza, BUT I love a good gorilla, dog or monkey statue out front that engages by-passers for a photo op and makes you smile.
3. Pull Up Your "Security Pants"
Many business owners feel angry and insecure about like-businesses. On the flip side, I've found that working together and networking with like-minds can often be beneficial. Mom owned businesses often compete in the same markets: baby goods, children's items, etc. Feel secure about what you offer and deliver great customer service. From there, network with others when you can - write guests posts, share ideas and collaborate. Refer business to each other, too. Show how SECURE you are!
4. Your Only-ness!
The most powerful word in marketing is "only." Understanding the thing that only your business can do (or do better than anyone) is powerful. Too many people promote the identical offerings of their competitors. Ask yourself, "What is my only-ness?" Then, make that "only-ness" central in your advertising/marketing messages.
Mark Tilghman of FORMO
5. Focus on Value Proposition
To make your business stand out, you first need to know your value proposition - what do customers get by buying your products & services over your competitors? For example, FormoPro provides online award management solutions, but their unique value proposition is their extreme customer service. This unique service makes them stand out from their competitors.
6. Don't Just Stand There...
I make my 60 second presentation on "How To Move More Easily..More Often" different by delivering it while doing Push Ups, Squats and a Roundhouse kick over my chair. It differentiates my 60 seconds from those delivered by other fitness professionals who TALK about their success and it always gets the next person speaking to say "Wow- follow that." My USP is that there aren't many 62 year old personal trainers in the area and not many businesses finish with such a flourish.
7. Partner With Your Customers
One way businesses can stand out from their competition is to partner with their customers and share the spotlight. When you build your buzz by co-marketing with customers, everyone wins. The more customers you promote, the more new customers you get in front of. Standing out is easy as long as you make sure your business is the go-to resource.
8. Be Nice
Always be pleasant to your customers. Protect their individuality and welcome them as your customers.
9. Write a Note
Most companies don't send anything to their clients. If they do, they send an email and thank people for their business. However, it will be read and quickly deleted.
Instead, pull out your note cards, pick up a pen and write three lines to let the person know how much you appreciate their business. Include your contact card. I'm betting you'll get a call thanking you for taking the time to write.
10. Treat Them Like Guests!
Have great customer service! Leave them with a pleasant memory of great service. You know how annoyed you get when a company does not provide you with great service. Don't be that company! If you want a repeat customer, do what it takes to make them want to repeat their last experience with you.
11. Know Your Ideal Customer
When we typically hear about the know, like and trust factor, we automatically think about the client getting to know us. To really stand apart from others in your industry, you must turn it around and really know your client.
Create an Avatar. This is a detailed description of your ideal client. It is like creating a character, with all of his/her hobbies, interests, education, and socio-economic status. Bring as much personal detail into your Avatar. Then, market to your avatar and see results.
12. The "One" Unique Quality!
My ONE best tip on how to make a business stand out and differentiate itself from the competition is to highlight the ONE quality that separates what you have to offer from everyone else. Entrepreneurs know that there is nothing new under the sun when it comes to the various services and products that the businesses of today have to offer, BUT when you add and/or highlight the unique quality that your vocation presents, it allows you to take that which is already familiar and make it original.
13. Be Fun
A great way to make your business stand out is to be fun. Stop trying to be stuffy and corporate and let your personality come out. Be crazy. Be funny. Be the way you are with your friends. Remember, people do business with people they like. So, dump the stuffy corporate image and be the business with the crazy personality--YOUR crazy personality.
14. Say Something New
It may be a trite phrase, but it is all too true, "I have heard it all before". So, why not create a message that conveys a new idea, concept or direction that hasn't been taken before. Craft a message that is concise, clear and compact that will grab your audience quickly and have them intrigued to know more. Uniqueness always trumps common in getting the attention that you want for your business.
Myles Miller of LeadUP
15. Share a Few Laughs Together
We try to not be so serious. A few of our YouTube videos are of us doing silly tongue twisters. Our on-hold music was a series of awful knock-knock jokes for a while. One of the rules of selling that we teach people is "The Chuckle Rule", which says that the odds of doing business with someone increase exponentially for every chuckle you share. Customers appreciate it when you try to have a little fun. Our employees appreciate a lighter atmosphere. So, be a little silly now and then. It can't hurt.
16. Establish Your Brand
When building your business, you have to establish your brand as an expert. Every industry needs innovative experts for the masses. If you build your brand as an expert, you will build your revenue and your company will stand out from the competition.
17. Be Picky About Who You Serve
The best way to stand out from your competition and increase word-of-mouth marketing is to be picky about your ideal customer base.
When you narrow down your target market into a niche group, folks will discover that you are the expert to send their friends to. For example, if your company specializes in "1st Time Home Buyers" or "Competitive Bike Racers", people will think "That's me" or "That's someone I know."
When people know "who" you serve, they'll know why you're different.
18. Video, Video, and More Video
I have begun using short (two to three minute) videos to get noticed. I post them on YouTube with a link to my site.
I find that people relate to video more than print. I come across as more human and my passion for my career success coaching work really shows.
I'm just getting started with video, but plan on doing three to five videos a week.
Try video -- it's easier than you think, and it will help you get noticed.
19. Costumed Crusader for Courtesy
Costumes aren't only for superheroes. I wear a costume for my seminars, and an eye-catching one at that. Pink camo pants, baby pink combat boots, whistle on a string of pearls, and dog tags on my brooch. As I tell people, your outfit is like the cover of a book; what is it telling people? My costume conveys the message that this is a humorous, pseudo-military crash course in common courtesy. It always gets people laughing and talking, and especially asking where they can get the boots and pants.
20. Walking Billboard
Business owners are walking billboards for their companies. Nice shirts with recognizable letters and contact information always catch the eye while out among your community. People love to meet the leaders of a company and an undeniable presence in your community makes any company stand out. Reach out to the audience you serve and leave them with a lasting impression of why they should be doing business with you.
21. Become a Client
Standing out above the competition is fierce; you must be ready to roll up your sleeves in a very robust and vivacious way, no excuses.
What do people need you for!? Become a client for a day and analyze the situation by becoming a case study.
22. Hand-Written Notes
Even in this day of fast-paced e-mails, tweets, and texts, I don't know anyone who doesn't appreciate a hand-written note. In fact, they're probably more appreciated today than ever. There's just something about getting a hand-written 'Thank You' note from a business, when almost no one is doing this. Taking a few minutes of your time to personally show you care with this small gesture says a lot about you and your company, and sets you miles apart from your competition.
23. Ignore Your Customer
Yes, it's heresy to suggest you shouldn't pay close attention to your customers' needs. However, to set yourself apart from your competitors and to provide extraordinary service to your customers, you also need to think laterally.
Ask yourself: "What product or service is yet undefined or even unknown by my customers?" This calls for experimentation and calculated risk-taking. Everyone knows about the 3M sticky note, which was developed without a market.
Create your own sticky note.
24. Customer VIP Club Membership
"VIP Club" membership sets a business apart and tugs at our human nature to want to belong. A "VIP Club" membership card and website allows you to offer Members-Only discounts, specials, videos, tips, newsletters, etc.
The website (connected to social media sites) successfully increases branding, customer contact, purchases, interaction and creates community. It is a perfect place to showcase a business owner's expertise in her/his field. Best thing: it is inexpensive to implement or manage.
25. Choose a Great Logo and Slogan
Creative logos and slogans help differentiate your brand - and your business - from the competition. They can tell customers a message or a story, and communicate important features about your business. For example, these great slogans are powerful and memorable: "Breakfast of champions", "It takes a licking and keeps on ticking", "Where do you want to go today?", "If it isn’t fresh, it isn’t Legal".
A creative - and protected - slogan or logo is a great way to differentiate!
26. Be Everywhere
There is a reason that marketing and advertisement is big business. It works. The cost is an investment in your future.
Believe in your vision and yourself. You started your business with some kind of prospective, so don't cut it short. For example, I believe that I have great ideas on fashion camera gear. Just because my competition is selling for a few bucks less, I will not compromise my brand or quality to compete for the same or lesser price. When people invest in your brand, they are investing in you, so BELIEVE in yourself and the rest is an extra bonus.
28. Define a Social Purpose
A portion of everything we make at Knowledge Capital Consulting goes to support our nonprofit Project Be The Change. Our nonprofit connects young people with advice from some of the most accomplished people in the world. It also teaches them entrepreneurship by doing social change projects. Toms shoes is another great example of a company that follows this model. Our clients appreciate the fact that by working with us, they are helping students all over the world.
29. Don't Follow and Stand Out!
Stand out by not following the pack!
For both my own business and my clients, I study what the competition is doing, and then define and execute a strategy that is unique from the sea of competitors. Think “Blue Ocean Strategy” – book.
Whether it is the brand, website, colors/fonts, sales, customer service, and even the way you price your products, set yourself apart so that you are not compared to anyone else, standing out the whole time. It drives up your value in all aspects.
30. Find the Big Idea
Mind Maps help find the big idea hidden in your mental quagmire. When you’re under the gun for a solution or that blank page is giving you a migraine, then mind maps can come in handy. According to Wikipedia, “A mind map is a diagram used to represent words, ideas, tasks, or other items linked to and arranged around a central key word or idea.” So, if you’re looking for a big idea strategy, a mind map is a good place to start.
31. Invisible People
It's been said that power does not flow to invisible people. If you wish to feel more empowered, if you wish your business to have a greater market share, do what you can to increase your visibility. One of the best tips: write short articles/blog for publications that already have huge readerships. Even if you are not paid, the free publicity will ensure that power and visibility will be flowing your way.
32. Publish Rather Than Perish
You know the old academics' saying of "publish or perish"? In today's online world, the same saying holds true for companies. While blog posts, blog comments, social media updates, etc. are good, they are becoming rather commonplace. Take your publishing to the next level by creating an ebook (and perhaps a paperback) about your company's topic of expertise. Make your book available through Amazon/Kindle and promote it to help your company stand out.
33. Consistency with Color!
When advising clients on personal image and presentation, finding their best colors is essential. Once you know what looks best on you, it's easy to build a wardrobe and accessories around it. It's the same with branding a business - choosing a color scheme that speaks to you and your business, that fires up your imagination and makes you smile, and that is immediately recognizable, brands your business and makes you stand out from the crowd. Choose your signature color(s) and stick with them!
34. Take a Stand!
The quickest way to be noticed or standout is simply to take a stand. By "take a stand", I'm saying o tfind a meaningful connection between a timely event and your business, service or product— then pounce on it!
Constantly scan the news and see if there is any way that you can hook yourself onto a developing story. This way, you take interest in something that has already garnered headlines. If take a stand with the story, you become a first mover, and then you can easily become a shaker.
35. Humor Me (Please!)
I've found that tickling people's funny bones is a way to be memorable and attach positive feelings to one's products. For example, I was able to get a 3 min clip on the air in Dallas after writing the consumer products reporter a piece titled: "Don't lose your lunch (or anything else) on amusement park rides"
And now, we're working on a whole storyline all about the life of a leg... yes... a leg.
36. Write a Book. Author=Authority
Write a book. Your competition hasn't done it. Even if they have, you can establish your unique authority.
Additionally, the right book can get lots of media attention.
My book is "Resurrecting America's Entrepreneurial Spirit"
The title is for the readers.
The subtitle is "A Practical Approach For Creating Jobs"
The subtitle is for the media. This gets me hundreds of radio and TV interviews. FREE!
Advertising is what you pay for; Publicity is what you PRAY for!
37. Don't Just Say it, Be it!
My company's name is The Event Mechanic! I offer consulting services to trade show and conference organizers to make their events more successful/profitable. I go to industry events dressed as a mechanic (I have a boiler suit with my company logo on it) with a large wrench. I write frequently and I get business leads because prospects would connect my insightful writing with the character in front of them, leading to business proposals and new customers by adding a live persona to create interest!
38. I'm Your One and Only!
To stand out from the crowd, each customer or client needs to feel as if they are your ONLY customer. Even in a large retail store, you can personalize the attention, talk with them and get to know your customers. Your employees represent you. Let them talk with the customers and build relationships. If your business is a professional service - make us feel as if we are your only client. Don't take calls from others when meeting with us. And don't over book yourself so that we get pushed out the door.
39. Standing Out
The best way to stand out is to create a product, service or character that no one else has. I did that in creating my Dr. Gayle S.O.B.--Spunky Old Broad persona. The media loves it and it establishes me as someone to pay attention to. And I can get away with a lot more!!
40. Go Where No-one Else Will
The best way to stand out from the competition is to go where no-one else will. For instance, everyone wants to compete on price. We compete on being better. As an example, the traditional yellow soft floating rubber duck was invented in America. Now, all are made overseas. Only we would spend the money and be crazy enough to bring the whole industry back to America. It's something our competition would never spend the money to do. Expensive, yes. Crazy, no. We will now own that niche!
41. Sell Them a Story
Standout brands are stories to be told, not just products to be sold. Product features and benefits have expiration dates. Your brand's story, or what it uniquely stands for, will endure. What are the values and beliefs you want your brand to be associated with? The magic of wonder? The quest to explore new things? Wholesome living? Because standout brands emotionally connect with their audiences, they attract joiners, not just buyers.
42. Take the Note - Please!
Since 1998, I have offered audio taping of coaching calls and over the years, doing so has become commonplace. So, how do I go the extra mile to stand out? Besides providing the audio within 2 hours of the call, we also provide clients with a transcription of the call within 4 days (usually sooner). Our clients can focus on the topics they bring to the call, not worry about missing resources, not having to take detailed notes, and more importantly, not having to listen to an hour of audio.
43. Earn Praises and Trust
Get endorsed by businesses that your customers already trust. When they hear from these trusted businesses how wonderful you are, it carries a lot more weight than saying it yourself.
You do this by over-delivering, keeping the customer first, doing great work/selling great products, etc. Then, people are happy to partner with you.
44. Make the Business Zing!!
Focus on creating a best-of-breed experience for the following of your business stakeholder groups: the customers, the suppliers, the bankers, regulators (tax, compliance) and the FOLKS (working in the business - they ARE the business).
45. Customer Service--#1 Priority
Stellar customer service across all customer touchpoints, with lightning-fast response times, is what will differentiate your business. Invest in a listening platform to monitor company and product mentions in social media and on review sites to become aware of customer issues -- and respond instantly and graciously. Your customers deserve a seamless, consistently excellent experience online, offline, in-store, and on the phone. Who's doing it right? Zappos, Wegmans, Dell. Buzzword: Social CRM.
46. Stay in Your Lane!
My top tip to make your business stand out--stay in your lane! This means- don't try to be all things to all potential clients or customers. If you have a specialty, make sure to make that your main focus. If you dilute your brand or message by trying to include everything you do and every industry you serve, you won't attract more business--you'll actually take the focus away from what you do best. In turn, you may not attract the type of clients you'd really prefer to work with.
47. Excellent Customer Experience
Be knowledgeable about your product and deliver it with excellence, whilst being flexible and making it obvious to your customers that your operation is run to suit them, and not to suit your own convenience.
48. Be a Show Off!
If you've got it, flaunt it!
With so many businesses closing during these rough economic times, business owners should be proud of their standing entrepreneurship. Consumers flock to businesses with solid testimonials, references, and trustworthy professionals. Be sure to share these accolades as much as possible, as a successful reputation will always help generate new business and new opportunities.
49. Get on the Radio
Because I have had a radio career paralleling my PR profession, I've been able to differentiate myself from my competitors by hosting programs on local public radio. Small business owners may be able to find similar opportunities on local commercial radio by sponsoring their own shows. Or, for little or no cost, they can create their own podcasts. However: be sure to provide listeners with useful, robust content -- avoid a hard sell of products or services.
50. Be Mission Critical
If you want someone's time or their business, find out their key goals. Be mission critical to THEIR mission. Find out what matters to them -- what they're trying to accomplish. Figure out how doing what you want: buying your product, reviewing your work, or having a conversation benefits them too. Then, make your ask into an invitation to align your goals to move forward.
51. Stick to Your i3 Principles!
A business can stand out by making sure its core product or service is all of the following: inspirational, innovative and indispensable.
I call this "The Principles Of i3." By gauging your brand, message and offering to see how it stands up to i3, you can surpass and outshine most, if not all, competition. This will allow you to fine tune your marketing message, gain greater market share and relevance while creating a better product for those who really count, your customers.
52. Screw Business as Usual
Ok, everyone is talking about differentiation and here is my ONE powerful tip on this subject; screw business as usual.
To differentiate yourself from others, simply outline all of the usual stuffs common within your niche or industry and decide to do the unusual stuffs no one else is doing, but that brings tremendous value to the target customers.
Here is a typical example here being done by Carol. Rather than write contents, she asks us to answer simple questions from our experience!
53. Stand UP and Stand Out
Become a philanthropist. I started an organization called My Dreams do Come True; our mission is to provide any girl who wants to attend her prom a dress, free of charge. I did not want any girl to suffer the embarrassment of not being able to attend her high school prom. Not only have we provided dresses to high school girls, we have had other community organizations reach out to us such as: Job Corps, The Hispanic Community Organization, and countless others.
54. Stand Up to Stand Out!
Companies who stand for something stand out! With businesses who support a cause, and actively promote that cause, their viewpoint or beliefs are remembered. People remember businesses that stand for something and give back, or support the community.
55. Collaboration is King
To stand out, a business must position itself as an orchestrator. Hera Hub does this by reaching out to all of the relevant industry associations and non-profits to host free events, which, in turn, creates new exposure opportunities. Instead of hiding from your competition, create a strategic alliance. We've even gone to the extent of collaborating with other co-working spaces (most would see as our direct competitors) by creating an alliance. It's better to grow the pie than compete for the same slice.
56. Woo Clients While You Have ‘Em
It's simple; the best tip to stand out from your competition is to ensure that clients are a priority. It's amazing the number of businesses that stop wooing clients once they have the account. At DAMN Digital, we ensure that clients come first by providing the quality service expected, always responding quickly and providing clients with tips to grow their business. These simple steps ensure that our clients never have the desire to leave for a competitor.
57. BE Your Brand!
Want to make your business stand out? BE your brand! Figure out what your highest values are and think of how to embody them in who you and your business are. Are you enthusiastic, fun, friendly, or spiritual for example? Then, this should be reflected in everything from your website to your choice of employees to how you dress. EVERYTHING about you and your business must be congruent! Then, you will truly stand out and your brand consistency will inspire customers to lifetime loyalty.
58. Stand Out by Standing UP!
Want your company to stand out? Take the step of committing your resources (time and money) to stand up for a worthy cause. Being a great corporate citizen to the community where you are located can create goodwill and exposure that money cannot buy. Stand out by being a stand up corporate citizen.
59. Do a Twist with Color!
A client of mine needed an eye-catching idea for how to showcase her "Green Bridal Registry" for her natural products store. To stand out at bridal shows, hotel bridal teas, and even in front of the store on weekends, I went to the local thrift store and purchased a slightly used bridal gown. The gown took on new flair and shared the message after I dyed it green, attached natural looking leaves and paired it with a fake wedding cake! Traffic stopping!
Do you know a way that businesses can differentiate themselves from the competition that wasn’t included? If you do, please share it below. And as always, many thanks to everyone that contributed to this article!