Steve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.pngSimon Cowell has, as you likely know, a new show on the air called “The X Factor.” The show was a huge hit in his native England and he brought it across the pond looking for similar success. There are a lot of things one could say about Simon, but one important thing is that he knows a good idea (or product or singer) when he sees one. He knows that someone who has a  special quality -  something different, that X Factor, makes them memorable.

 

Of course, having an X Factor is not the private domain of entertainers. Indeed, if you think about it, a great business can usually point to any one of several things that may contribute to its success – good products, a great location, whatever – but I venture to say that their success often comes from one special thing makes them stand out from the crowd. They all have their own unique differentiator that sets them apart.

 

Example: Not long ago I went with my wife to an idyllic, small little fishing village on the Pacific coast of Mexico where the locals were kind, the beach perfect, and the vibe just right (sorry, its name will remain a secret amigos)! Many mornings we found ourselves at the same great little place for breakfast.

 

Did we keep coming back there for the huevos rancheros? Well, yes, that was part of it. Was it because of the wonderful waitresses? Yes, it was that too, but that was not the main reason.

 

The main reason was free WiFi. In a small town like that one, where getting online was a challenge, free WiFi kept us coming back. That was their differentiator. Isn’t that true of your favorite businesses, the ones you frequent time and again? Don’t they offer something unique and out of the ordinary?

 

  • There is a bookstore in the Pacific Northwest called Powell’s World of Books. It is a World of Books indeed. The store engulfs one full city block and is four stories high.
  • In Los Angeles, there is a fun sushi bar on the Westside. I don’t recall its real name because all anyone ever calls it is “Reggae Sushi.” Yep, reggae music all the time mon.
  • At the Monte Cristo store on 5th Avenue in New York, you can buy just about any cigar made in the world.

 

These are all X factors. All of these businesses have figured out something special that they do that they could hang their hat on to distinguish themselves from the competition. So the question you should ask yourself is – what is yours? What is it you do that is unique and special that you can tout that will make your business more memorable?

 

Not long ago I was in Erie, Pennsylvania, giving a speech for the local Small Business Development Center (SBDC). Every year, the SBDC honors local businesses with a banquet, the culmination of which is the presentation of “Business of the Year” awards in various categories. I was fortunate enough to give the keynote at the banquet and meet these exceptional entrepreneurs. As I think back upon the award winners, I would have to say that every one of them had their own unique, memorable distinguishing characteristic.

 

My favorite: At a time when large drug store chains are putting local pharmacies out of business, Pioneer Pharmacy in Erie is easily the busiest pharmacy in the area, routinely filling thousands of prescriptions a week. When I asked the owner what the secret of his success was, he told me about the usual suspects – a great staff, loyal customers and so on. Then he mentioned what I now see was his X Factor: Free delivery.

 

Every day he has two full-time drivers who do nothing but deliver prescriptions to his customers for free. “And, I only hire retired gentleman,” he told me. Given many of his customers are ill or even home bound, it’s a brilliant idea.

 

So that is the question to answer. What do you do that is different and better? What is your business differentiator? Figure it out, tout it, and you will likely find customers will find you and frequent your business more often – if not for the fish tacos then definitely for the free WiFi.