Lets face it. There are a LOT of businesses out there. Whatever industry you’re in, chances are there is some sort of competitor out there. The thing is, you have to market your business and attract the same people they do. When you think about the large scale of the entire globe, suddenly you’re just another fish in the sea.
Lucky for you though, there are a few ways to stand out from the crowd. Ive listed three of the best ones below, but there are plenty examples. And don’t forget that if you really want to be different, a little creativity of your own never hurts.
#1) Taking a stand
The first on the list, and probably the easiest way I’ve seen businesses separate themselves from the endless sea of competitors and align themselves with the customer is to take a stand for something. This something really is a wild card though; it can be anything from a hot topic globally to a very niche oriented industry specific idea.
Whatever it is, pick a side and take a stand.
Chick-fil-A takes a stand. If you’re familiar with the popular fast food chain centered around delivering kick ass chicken, you’ll know one thing: its closed on Sundays. Chick-fil-A makes no attempt to hide its Christian roots, and its religion is intertwined into corporate culture. Christians respect the open attempt by this corporation to remain true to its roots, even though the decision likely costs the company quite a bit of money annually.
Its not just about being closed on Sundays though. Its about how the company, now much larger than its owner, still continues to go against the grain and keep true to core values. Chick-fil-A takes a stand for something the operators believe in, even if it means sacrifice. It’s a great way from them to separate themselves from the other fast food providers nationwide.
Any time you take a stand for something, there is usually something inadvertently you are taking a stand against. Chick-fil-A didn’t realize that one of its moves to help could be seen from the other side as blurring the line between standards and advocacy.
When one local Chick-fil-A store sent free food to a Christian marriage seminar that was openly against the gay rights movement, it started an uproar. Blogs lit up around the country and even students began petitioning to get the chain removed from campuses on school property.
Chick-fil-a routinely provided food to a number of organizations, but because their brand was known for taking a stand for Christianity, the move was seen as an attack on the other side. Taking a stand is great for separating yourself, as long as it aligns with your core brand values and you keep in mind the potential consequences of taking a side.
#2) The Greater Purpose
Any decent brand these days has some set of ideals that they align themselves with. When you are dealing with small business, sometimes they miss out. The greater purpose is something larger than your business or brand that you aim to do. You don’t aim to make a bunch of money making computers, you aim to change the world through creative computing. Get it?
Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream is a reputable brand. Everyone that is somewhat familiar with their values will know that they aim to be environmentally friendly with their production of dairy products; a value that came directly from its founders in the early stages of the company.
From the Ben & Jerry’s website:
By definition, the manufacturing of products creates waste. We strive to minimize our negative impact on the environment. The growing of food is overly reliant on the use of toxic chemicals and other methods that are unsustainable. We support sustainable and safe methods of food production that reduce environmental degradation, maintain the productivity of the land over time, and support the economic viability of family farms and rural communities.
Ben & Jerry’s greater purpose is to make people happy, and do it in a way that doesn’t hurt the environment. It’s an idea that people can get behind, and they can use it to market their products without sounding like a salesman trying to cram fattening ice cream down people’s throats. Even with the exponential growth the company has seen, it has remained true to their greater purpose and their core values. People respect that.
We all know that most people start companies to make money. When a company gets as big as Ben & Jerry’s, it gets hard to keep track of expenses on a massive scale, and people start cutting costs without having an idea of the effect those costs have on the company. Some costs are only acquired through branding, like Ben & Jerry’s mission to produce environmentally safe ice cream.
The Ben & Jerry’s brand is so intertwined with being environmentally safe and producing dairy products without harming animals that people expect that from them. Ben and Jerry’s needs a LOT of dairy, and because of their image and the ideals they have aligned themselves with, their costs are much higher than the average Ice Cream manufacturer.
If done right, this isn’t a problem, because a strong brand can charge higher prices, offsetting the larger cost. In some cases though, your greater purpose could require you empty your already shallow pockets, and if you don’t pick the right cause to position yourself right in the market and separate yourself from the competition, it could end up costing you.
#3) Play to your talents
We all have talents. We all have things that we are great at, and things we do very well. One of the most underused advantages in business is what you already excel at, and if you aren’t playing to your talents, you could already be missing out. You don’t have to be perfect in business to stand out from those who compete with you. Sometimes, doing one thing really really well is plenty to attract you new business.
Google is the most recognized internet companies on the planet, and yet they didn’t even exist 15 years ago. How did Google rise to the top in a land filled with AOL free trial discs and Yahoo! Yodeling? How did Google overcome millions of dollars of advertising that its competitors were spending day in and day out while Google spent nothing? Google did one thing very well.
Google didn’t sacrifice its search experience for anything. Google didn’t copy AOL with its instant messenger service or its fancy emoticons. It didn’t copy Yahoo! and its super crowded news page with ten thousand articles every second. All Google did was keep its page one single search bar. No fancy widgets or menus, no distracting banners, just one simple bar that you type anything into to find it.
When you do something really well, be it customer service, delivery, branding etc, you are separating yourself from the competition because no one else is focusing on that single aspect as much as you are. You have a talent and the ability to do something, so play it up and do that one thing to the best of your ability. Doing one thing well is way better than doing a lot of things average.
Google got away with it because the brand was so powerful and the tools were so useful, that they were able to successfully integrate them all. AS a smaller business though, this could be dangerous. When you do one thing well, you attract people based on that unique proposition about your company. What you have to realize though is that it then becomes part of your brand, and if you move away from that in the future, you must approach the subject very delicately, as in the mind of the consumer, it is everything you stand for.
Nothing Beats Creativity
If you want to separate yourself form the competition, these 3 methods are proven effective from years of successful business. Nothing will ever beat the creativity of the human mind though, and as a business owner or entrepreneur, you have to take risks. It’s scary to try things that no one else has done before, especially when you don’t know if they will work, but there is always uncertainty of some sort in business.
Be real, be transparent, and be authentic. Align your business with values you believe in and do what you do very well. When you throw in a little creativity and the power of branding in the mix, you’ll hit it out of the park in no time!