You’re not unique. Whatever you do, someone else is doing the same thing—or something very similar.
That’s how it should be. If your business really were the only one in its field, there would be a reason for that, and that reason is likely everyone else already discovered it’s a bad idea. When an idea is good it always has competitors.
That truth is why of companies churn out almost identical glass and metal devices for making phone calls and connecting to the Internet. And although there is no shortage of car companies, it’s why they all offer similar solutions to the same transportation problem. And it’s why when venture investors hear an entrepreneur say they don’t really have any competitors, investors roll their eyes, shut their wallets, and assume the founder hasn’t done the research.
Everyone has competitors.
Successful businesses know how to stand out from their competitors.
One way to do that is to know your unique selling proposition (USP) —and make that USP clear to everyone else. When prospective customers think of your company they should know what you do, what your competitors do, and how you do it in a different way.
In the smartphone industry, for example, Apple has managed to brand itself as the company that pays the most attention to design. It even has its own app store and its own operating system so it can retain control over the way the phone looks and behaves. Samsung? Well, that’s the non-Apple in the market. Its phones are also well designed—its curved edges and equally high prices make that clear. But it’s not dependent on Apple’s software or user experience, and it offers a look that’s just different from Apple’s well-known branding. Mi is best known for its low prices, and Blackberry is still touting its business-friendly keyboard.
Those differences aren’t huge. All of the devices made by these companies largely do the same thing. But Apple’s USP of “better design” is enough to help differentiate the company, and it’s consistent in all the company’s products. Whether someone buys an iPhone or a Mac, they know they’re getting that same emphasis on design and functionality.
That quality helps the company stand out, and it encourages consumers to choose Apple over competitor brands.
A set of features only does part of the work helping a company’s products stand out, though. It’s what happens when you put those features together that has the biggest effect.
That’s what creates the company’s voice.
One of the most prominent effects of social media marketing has been the deepening of the relationship between brands and customers. People now see marketing messages from businesses mixed in with updates from their friends. They hear their friends talking about their trip to the beach, then they hear a restaurant talk about their new menu item. Those messages need to fit that casual environment.
Even if your product is made by 20 other companies, you should be able to identify a set of characteristics unique to the products your company makes. They could be an element of your design, the warmth of your customer service, your emphasis on low prices, or anything else that sets you apart. No one business can do all of those things. Apple can’t be cheap and luxurious. Blackberry can’t be professional and fun. There’s always room for your business to carve out a strong USP.
One way to think about this is that you should know what those characteristics would sound like if you were to put them together in a person. You should know how your brand would speak, how it would dress and what it has planned for the weekend.
When you can give your products a unique experience and combine that experience with an authentic voice, you’ll have a company that has a real relationship with customers, and that stands out in a crowd like a friend.
- What’s your secret sauce? By Steve Strauss
About Joel Comm
As an Internet pioneer, Joel has been creating profitable websites, software, products and helping entrepreneurs succeed since 1995. He has been at the frontlines of live video online since 2008 and has a deep expertise in using tools such as Facebook Live, Periscope, Instagram or Snapchat to broadcast a clearly defined message to a receptive audience or leveraging the power of webinar and meeting technologies.
Joel is a New York Times best-selling author of 15 books, including “The AdSense Code,” “Click Here to Order: Stories from the World’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs,” “KaChing: How to Run an Online Business that Pays and Pays and Twitter Power 3.0.” He is Co-Host of The Bad Crypto Podcast one of the top crypto-related shows in the world and has spoken before thousands of people around the world and seeks to inspire, equip and entertain.
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