Chances are there are a lot of other companies that do what you do. Your marketing strategy should include the points of differentiation between you and your competition. This doesn’t mean that you have to aggressively call out the competition; but, you can definitely emphasize the things that make your company stand out. Things that may be unique to a business might include industry-specific certifications; length of time in business; customer service awards; innovative solutions; use of technology; highly trained, expert staff; continuity of personnel; service or product guarantees; and so forth.
To help you think of ways to differentiate yourself, consider these four general categories:
- Price Differentiation. This is probably the most common method employed by business owners and most easily understood by consumers. However, it’s important to use this method judiciously. Offering deep discounts or “the lowest price in town” can backfire by suggesting that along with low costs are low product quality and poor service. Rather than compete head-to-head on price, educate customers about the value of what you offer (perhaps more product or service for the money); upgrades on a future purchase (think cell phones); or added convenience (such as free or inexpensive shipping).
- Focus Differentiation. Think back to creating your niche market. Just because you aren’t all things to all people doesn’t mean business will be compromised. If anything, bringing focus to your business will bring greater profitability—you will be more of a specialist than the competition, making you in demand. Once you establish yourself as the top resource and problem solver for your niche, the harder it will be for your competition to duplicate your results and client rapport. Tap into the characteristics of the clients you best serve (“If you value your free time, we’re the housecleaning service for you!”). Get to know what makes your customers tick, and tell them you’d enjoy helping more people just like them. Also, emphasize your proximity to your desired niche (family-owned, local service, same zip code, etc.).
- Product and Service Offering Differentiation. Implementing this method will be influenced by the extent to which your industry is regulated. If you are in a highly regulated business—such as law or insurance—your options may be more limited to just service delivery. For those in less regulated lines of business, or in highly innovative industries, the possibilities abound. Once again, the key to success is to take the time to know your customers. Talk to them often so you know what they need most, then offer it long before your competitors can catch up. Create exceptional products or services and think about what would make people gravitate toward them. Apple users are utterly devoted because they feel Apple offers the most intuitive, progressive, cutting-edge technology available. Apple capitalized on offering a unique user experience, and it’s that experience that is such an integral part of their brand.
- Customer Service Differentiation. We live in a service-based economy, which creates a natural opportunity for you to set yourself apart from the competition. You can build a strong reputation on making customers feel really good about doing business with you. This contributes to your referral business, too. Quick and accurate delivery of a service or product makes an excellent impression. Couple that with after-sales support, warranties, and/or multiple forms of access to you (e-commerce, tech support, etc.), and you have a winning customer service program.