Whatever type of business you own, you are probably not the only one in your area. There is always competition, which of course is a good thing. But the question is, how can you set your business apart in this competitive landscape? How can you make people choose you over the competition?
Here are 6 proven steps you can take to differentiate your business and attract new customers.
STEP 1: MAP THE COMPETITIVE LANDSCAPE
To understand how you can set your business apart, you first need to make sense of your competition. Don’t worry, it’s easier than you think.
First create a chart, with 10-15 lines. In the first column to the left, put names of businesses you know and perceive as your competitors. Don’t know enough? Go online and search for more competitors.
These can be businesses of your type, that offer similar services or products, and operate in your area. Or these can be businesses with an offering similar to yours that cater to the same target audience. When we say target audience, we mean the same age group, gender, income level or lifestyle.
Now, add these columns: Size, Target audience, Pricing, Special services and Weaknesses.
Great, you’re good to go. Your next step is filling in the columns.
Size: If you don’t know, look it up on their website or Facebook page. Put down Small, Medium, Large or Multi-location, based on the number of staff members.
Target audience: If you’re unsure, visit their Facebook and Instagram accounts. Write down your impression of who they are targeting. Write it freely. For example, if you have a family photography business, maybe one competitor does only styled maternity photos in a studio, so their target audience is pregnant women; and another does family portraits in natural settings, so their audience is families with children.
Or if you own a hair salon, one competitor might target little old ladies from the neighborhood who come in once a week, and another might target gen-Zs looking for purple hair, who come in once every three months.
Pricing: Look at their websites or Facebook pages, and write down High, Medium or Low.
Special services: There are basic services that all businesses of your kind undoubtedly offer. But the question is what special services do they offer. Fill in the special services others are offering.
Weaknesses: This is very important. It could be your opportunity to shine where someone else has failed. Look at your competitors’ Google reviews, their Facebook reviews or on Yelp. Write down what customers were unhappy with. Maybe their service is poor, or maybe they are too expensive.
Great — now you know who’s out there competing for the same target audience as you, or offering similar services at similar pricing. Keep this in mind, as you move forward to the next step: differentiating your offering.
STEP 2: FIND YOUR X FACTOR
By finding your X factor we mean: figure out what’s special about your business. Your X factor is why your customers should come to you instead of a competitor.
This step is where your competitor insights come in handy. Now that you’ve created the chart above, you have a good idea of your competitors’ offerings. And, in comparison, of your own.
Now ask yourself: Am I offering something that no one else is? Do I have an asset no one else has?
For example: are you the oldest business in your neighborhood? Do you have the most experienced staff? If the answer is yes, that’s what makes you special. Or maybe it’s the other way around? Are you the new kid on the block? Being new and upcoming is also an asset you could work with.
Write down everything that is unique about your business. This could be special services that few others are offering, or stellar customer service, or attractive pricing. Or maybe it’s the personal relationships you have with your clients, that make them feel at home. Don’t be modest — write down every competitive advantage that comes to mind.
STEP 3: FIND A GAP IN THE MARKET
Another way to approach this is by looking for gaps in the market.
Look at your chart. Is there a niche that isn’t taken up by any of your competitors? Is there an age group no one is addressing? Is there a need no one is attending to?
Are there any trendy or innovative services that your competitors are not offering? If there are, this could be an opportunity to fill in the gap and stand out. Or maybe everyone else is overpricing certain services, that you could offer for a better price.
Write down the gaps you found. In addition, write down the close similarities between all your competitors. This will also help you figure out how you can set your business apart.
STEP 4: WRITE DOWN YOUR UNIQUE VALUE PROPOSITION
As its name suggests, a value proposition is all about the value you offer customers. Don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s the services and products you sell, it’s much more than that. It’s the reason why customers would flock to your business and why they would come back for more.
Now look at steps 1-3. In the first step, you’ve gained clarity on who your competitors are, what they’re offering, and what they’re doing wrong. Your unique value proposition should be just that – unique and different to your competitors’.
Steps 2 and 3 will help you define what that is. What are the advantages of your business and how they fill a void in the market.
Now try putting your value proposition into one clear sentence. The sentence should include the specific benefit you offer, and your target audience.
Let’s say you own a cleaning services business. Your unique value proposition could be:
Highly experienced commercial cleaning services for office spaces, shops and educational facilities.
The only cleaning service in this part of town that specializes in laundry and ironing.
Green cleaning service that uses environmentally friendly and non-toxic products at affordable prices.
No matter what type of business you own — write down exactly what sets you apart, what makes you special and different to your competitors. Be specific.
You don’t need to brave this alone. Ask your customers what they think is the best thing about your business. Consult your employees on what they feel is unique about it. All the answers you will get will help you find out what your competitive edge is.
STEP 5: COMMUNICATE YOUR X FACTOR BY CREATING A BRAND
Now that you know your unique value proposition, you need to communicate it to your customers. You’ll do this through your brand. A brand is simply the properties that give your business an identity and make it distinct from others. For instance, your business name, logo, look, colors, etc. All of these make it easy for people to recognise your business, tell it apart from your competitors, and remember it.
So, start by creating your visual brand assets: your logo and website. You might think it’s a task for designers, but it doesn’t have to be. Here are some great tips from our brand designer on how to design your website like a pro.
There are many online website and logo builders out there, including 12handz. Choose the one you like best. Here are more visual branding tips, for both beginners and professionals.
Your brand isn’t only its logo and website, important as they are. It’s also the messaging that comes across on your website, in your emails, in your customer service, etc.
If Fun is part of your value proposition, then everything about your brand needs to spell out Fun. From the upbeat music you play in your business to the witty emails you send to your customers. Even the services you offer should have a light, easygoing feel to them. If you own a fun beauty salon, paint the walls in bright colors and offer your customers Halloween makeup, for instance.
Another important element is brand consistency. Did you know that if you keep brand consistency across all your channels, you can increase revenue by up to 23%?
What is brand consistency? It’s speaking in the same tone of voice and sending similar messages everywhere. So stick to the same branding on your website, social media channels and your brick and mortar, if you have one.
How do you reach brand consistency? It’s easier than you think. Follow these guidelines:
- Make sure you have the same logo, with the same size and colors, on every channel you use. Your website, email, vouchers, social media, etc.
- Choose a color palette and stick to it.
- Use only images that correlate with your brand values. Just because a photo is beautiful doesn’t necessarily mean it’s on brand.
- Use the same messaging every time you communicate with your customers. Use the same tone of voice and the same words to describe your business and services.
- Educate and train your staff on your brand and its values. Make sure they use the same messaging in their interaction with customers.
FINDING YOUR X FACTOR AND SETTING YOUR BUSINESS APART IS EASIER THAN YOU THINK
Remember: it doesn’t matter that other businesses in your category and area may be bigger or have been around longer. You are special in your own way. All you need to do is find and communicate your uniqueness. Set your business apart, and you will grow your client base with the right customers.