Standing Out: Competitive Differentiation Strategies


Published: March 30, 2020 Author: Jason Holicky - Hometown Design Studio Inc.
Standing Out from the Crowd: Competitive Differentiation Strategies

In a crowded marketplace, it can seem tricky to carve out a set of customers to call your own. This is multiplied online when you have to let graphics, type, and video do all the work without you! The good news is that there are proven ways to stand out from your competitors. Here are a few ways to improve your competitive differentiation so you can attract more business and maintain a healthy bottom line.

1. Think Like a Customer
Addressing the needs of your customers is always going to be one of the most important places to focus your marketing, and it is a critical element when developing your competitive differentiation. Before you can think like a customer, you have to first figure out who they are. Start by developing a persona for your best customer to make it easier to step into their shoes.

All of your products and services were developed to address a specific pain point for your best customers. Sometimes, your customers will clearly know what they need and why they need it. In many cases, however, people are not able to articulate the problem (and therefore search for a solution), or they may not believe that such a problem even has a solution.

When developing ads, blog posts, and other messages for your audience, start by rethinking their pain points. Do you need to work on bringing awareness to a problem? Getting to people who aren’t looking for a solution because they don’t know how or believe that one exists? What are people thinking about when they’re looking for what you do?

2. Get Your Branding On Point
The purpose of branding is to use visual aids to communicate everything you want people to know about your company or products in a matter of seconds. This might seem like an impossible feat, but consider some popular commercial brands and their logos, colors, taglines, and other branding elements and then realize how quickly you’re able to conjure up some feelings about those companies. For example, Coca-Cola: the fancy font, red, fizz you can hear, refreshing. Or, how about “the golden arches.”

While it might not be within your reach to achieve that level of pervasive branding, it’s definitely possible to do this on a smaller scale within your community. The trick is to establish a brand voice and personality that matches who you are and to develop visual images that support these ideas. Then, use them consistently everywhere you are online and in real life.

Consistent and well-developed branding will improve your competitive differentiation by first establishing your presence, then helping people associate emotions and ideas with that presence, and finally, building trust. Start by considering how you do business differently from your competitors and why this difference is important to your customers, then build a brand around that idea.

3. Get Found on Online
Building a strong online presence is another important way to develop your competitive differentiation. For local and small businesses, this is even more important as you won’t have the power of a national advertising and branding campaign working in your favor. However, what you do have is a community of local customers, and one study found that over 90 percent of consumers preferred small and local businesses over the big guys.

All you have to do is get found, and this is definitely doable without the deep pockets of multinational corporations. Start by making use of local SEO boosters like Google My Business that will connect you with people who are searching for places near them. Simply having a completed profile will put you leaps and bounds ahead of anyone who hasn’t even bothered to claim their listing.

Your overall online presence is also important as potential customers are likely to head to your website to check you out before planning a visit or even a phone call. Up to
75 percent of consumers said they use a business’s website to judge their credibility, so make sure yours is dressed to impress.

4. Old Fashioned Customer Service
The bottom line is this: people will return to places where they have received exceptional service. They will also tell their friends, family, colleagues, and neighbors about you. What’s more, over a third of consumers say that a single bad experience is enough to send them elsewhere.

Plenty of people have stories of things that didn’t work out. Stand out from the crowd by giving people a story to tell of the fantastic experience they had. Blow them away when they come to your store or shop, or when your service crew visits their location. Be so good at what you do and glad to do it that you make your customers excited to have a reason to call you.

While you’re at it, it’s important to pay attention to what people are saying about you online. Google reviews, Yelp, and other review aggregating sites can be a dangerous pitfall if you’re not paying attention. A hundred great reviews can be ruined by one bad one, especially if you have not responded to a poor review. We all know that things go wrong. Nobody is expecting you to have perfect service every time. What we want to know is how you’re going to handle it if we have a problem.

5. You’re a Member of the Community, Too
As you work on your competitive differentiation strategies to stand out from the crowd, don’t forget that your small or local business is also a part of that crowd! In other words, make sure your customers and your neighbors know you care about the community and that you want to make it a great place to live, work, shop, and relax. If you have the resources, sponsor the local t-ball team or donate to the school. Support the pet rescue or host a fundraiser. Not only will these efforts demonstrate your commitment to the community, but you’ll also have an opportunity to gain some name recognition, too.

Bringing it All Together
Standing out from the crowd means first defining what makes you different and then telling people all about it. What’s good about working on your competitive differentiation is that all your efforts, from branding to customer service to giving back to the community, will also boost your overall advertising and marketing efforts, too.

You know what it takes to make your business successful. We know what it takes to bring you more customers and better results from your marketing efforts. We’ll do what we do best so you can focus on what you do best.

About the Author

Creative Director Jason co-founded Hometown Design Studio of New Lenox, IL in 2013. He spends his days guiding and consulting industrial clients and small businesses owners on their marketing strategy and projects. Jason enables everyone to be successful and grow their business by sharing his knowledge and experience.
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