When it comes to people, there are extraverts and introverts. The world needs both kinds of personalities. But when it comes to businesses, they all need to take on the traits of an extravert. They can’t be afraid to stand out. In fact, the goal of every small business (and every business, for that matter) has to be to differentiate itself from the competition, in a positive way, so customers will notice and buy your product or service. The most obvious way to do that is to provide a product or service that has never been seen or that is unique in some way. Of course, if you believe Harry S. Truman, “The only thing new in the world is the history you do not know.”
So if you can’t come up with a new product or service, how do you differentiate your business? Following are three tips to help you stand out in a crowded marketplace:
1. Know Yourself
To pinpoint your key differentiator, you need to know where you stand in the marketplace, and be really honest with yourself about your products and services as well. A great way to start this process is by conducting a SWOTT analysis. Traditionally, SWOT has stood for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. The second “T” is also helpful when trying to differentiate your company. It stands for Trends. Identify your company’s internal strengths and weaknesses, as well as its external opportunities, threats and marketplace trends. The more honest and comprehensive you can be, the easier it will be to identify gaps and positive differentiators.
2. Know the Competition
Start by making a list of your competitors, then do an Internet search. Don’t just search for and research your competitors. You should also do searches for your industry in general and your local area specifically. So for example, if you are a lawyer in Frederick, MD, do a search for “Frederick, MD lawyers.” Find out what your competitors offer and how they offer it. What do they say their differentiators are? What do they charge? What are their hours of operation? Who are their customers? What’s the customer service like? Do they have a website and/or blog? How do they position themselves? Competitor research can help you find gaps that are not being filled so you can fill them!
3. Know Your Customer
What do your customers most want from your product or service? Why do they buy from you? What do they most like about your product or service? Why did they originally purchase from you? What makes them keep purchasing from you? What is their buying lifecycle? Customer research can help you better position your product or service, and could even help you improve it. So how do you get the answers to all your questions? Just ask! If you have a brick-and-mortar location where customers come into the store, you might ask them in person. You could also send a letter with a printed survey and a return envelope, or a postcard or email that lists a website address where the customer could take an online survey. To encourage participation, you might offer a discount or free product or service.
Once you have all this data, it’s time to start making the connections. If you’ve taken an honest look at your products and services, you really understand your competition and you know what your customers want, you should be able to figure out how to best position your products or services.