Do you get a little down when you check out all your competition? Who would have thought that there were so many event management companies/accountancy firms/website design companies in your city – right? It can cause some serious soul-searching trying to think about how you could possibly be chosen by customers against your competitors, particularly if you have a limited budget for marketing.
If you want to get away from the street fight of competing on the lowest price and be the business of choice for your ideal kind of customer, differentiation is the key. But aside from your business name and branding, how can you really make your business stand out as the best choice?
Step 1 – Get your proposition right
Your unique selling point (USP) also known as a unique marketing proposition, should form the core of your marketing. What is a USP? A simple definition is what you do that other companies don’t. For example, at Hook and Loop our USP is that we write and design marketing materials for our clients to create stronger marketing.
Step 2 – Make the competition irrelevant by specialising
Becoming known for doing one or two things exceptionally, rather than a lot of things OK, can strengthen your marketing message. It’s true, specialising in just a few things reduces the potential size of your market. Panicking about this can make many small business owners decide it’s better to stick with ‘generalist’ offers to appeal to a broader market. However, by specialising you are making yourself much more relevant to those people who really need the service that you offer. They are more likely to choose you because:
- it’s blatantly obvious how relevant you are to their needs without you needing to hard sell to them, and
- there aren’t as many other businesses doing exactly what you do, for customers to choose from.
Specialising means focussing your best skills and knowledge on a small, defined area and being clear about what you do and don’t do.
Blair Enns, author of Win Without Pitching gives this analogy:
A bottle of beer represents the sum capabilities, skills, abilities and capacities in your firm. To be able to offer what you have to the market, you need to open the bottle and pour it into one of two vessels:
- A casserole dish, representing a company offering a broad range of services without much depth.
- A tall pilsner beer glass, representing a specialist firm with fewer service offer.
In the first scenario, you’d be relevant to many different types of clients for many different types of services. However you are not known for any particular service you offer. Unless you have unlimited capacity, you won’t have time to work on becoming the best at anything, because you are spread thin trying to be all things to everyone.
In the second scenario, the tall, slim glass, you’re not relevant to as many types of clients and offer a narrower field of work.
But to those clients for whom your services are relevant, you are seen as having deep knowledge what they need and are the obvious choice in contrast to much of the competition.
In the casserole dish, you’re broad and shallow. In the pilsner glass, you’re narrow and deep.
How to be narrow and deep
Enns’ advice was developed for marketing agencies, but can easily be applied to a wide range of businesses.
For example, you own a cleaning company and decide to stop offering general domestic cleaning. Instead, you choose to specialise in end-of-lease cleaning. Suddenly, you’re no longer competing with all the other home cleaning firms in your locality. You’ve reduced your competitor pool by spelling out exactly what sort of customer you are right for, and can be seen as a specialist in your field.
An added bonus of this approach is the advantage of a far more targeted marketing strategy. You know you are targeting renters nearing the end of their lease who want to have the best chance of getting their bond back. Strategic relationships with property managers would help you get communications straight to your ideal prospects, for far less investment than mass marketing to a general domestic audience.
Step 3 – Differentiate by the way you go about business
You can also stand out by operating differently from every other business. Some ways of doing this are to:
Solve a Problem – Do you know what the usual ‘pain point’ is for clients of your services? For a web design company like Hook and Loop, the pain point for a small business client may be not looking professional enough to their customers because they have a terrible (or no) website, but not having the time or know how to fix this themselves. We demonstrate that we can solve their problem by providing an all-in-one solution (a professionally designed and written website) so that our client can hand over their pain to us to relieve!
Sell your value rather than features– Many people make the mistake of marketing their product or service based on features rather than value. For a marketing company, the feature of ‘get your email marketing taken care of for you’ is far stronger when put into terms of the value it brings to clients such as ‘get more business from your existing customers’.
Change your pricing model If you are in a service based industry, you’ll probably have worked out your costs and charges based on an hourly rate. If this is how everyone else in your business also operates, packaging your service as a product can make you stand out.
For instance, in a previous life Hook and Loop charged for building websites on an hourly rate after providing an estimate. Today, we offer our customers fixed rate website packages. We have developed different ‘products’ for different markets (for example, a beginner website or a professional website) which are available at different rates. This approach gives the client certainty about how much they will be spending to get a finished product, making the buying decision easier.
Provide a Guarantee – Guaranteeing your results and backing it up with a money back offer is a powerful way of standing out from the competition. By reducing a customer’s risk of trying your product, you are removing a major barrier to making a sale.
Give before you get – Offering free information or advice with no expectation of a sale is a powerful way to set your business apart. A free consultation is not only beneficial to customers – its good for business owners too. It’s a great opportunity to check what the customer’s expectations and whether they are a good fit for your company before you commit to delivering their work – you can be far more selective in this way. Giving away high quality information as content on your business blog, emails or handouts also helps establish your business as an expert or thought leader in your field.
Set yourself apart
Make your business shine in a world of same by refusing the play the comparison game. Your business can become incomparable by having a strong Unique Selling Point; choosing to specialise in a narrower range of services rather than being all things to all customers; and operating a bit differently from everyone else.
You’ll be the natural choice for exactly the right customer for you.
Need help to make your business stand out with great content and design?
Call Hook and Loop on 0404 086 140 or set up a meeting below
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