From the earliest days of industry, business owners have sought to set themselves apart. Just as craftsmen applied a maker’s mark to the wares they produced, companies today need a way to distinguish what they do from their competition. Showing that your business is unique in its ability to serve your customers’ needs gives you a significant competitive advantage.
Where many businesses fall short in achieving differentiation is in relying on their individual products or services, not their brand as a whole, to showcase their difference. If you look at how other companies have distinguished themselves, you can see more than a few cases of “one-hit wonders,” organizations that tied their unique value to a single product or service that later became obsolete. To earn recognition in an increasingly crowded marketplace, businesses must attach value to the brand rather than to any one thing the brand produces.
Here are a few ways to set your brand apart and make it uniquely compelling.
Review Standard Practices
Some standards, traditions, and benchmarks make sense, but others have become limitations on the industries that use them. Ask yourself whether some of the conventions you adhere to still make sense for your industry. Not every common practice is right for your business, yet many companies fall into the trap of performing them even when they no longer make sense. For example, businesses that still send paper receipts in addition to email confirmations might also send the message that they’re behind the curve in some industries; in others, this additional step may be essential to customers’ record-keeping. It’s worth reviewing conventions to see where you can break away from them.
Define New Best Practices
After you’ve reviewed current industry conventions, consider what isn’t yet implemented but should be. There was a time that two-day shipping was a costly extra service customers could choose until Amazon Prime charged a small yearly fee and made it a basic service for members. Now that it’s become the norm for subscribers to the service, brick and mortar establishments – even the largest and most competitive – are losing some of their onetime market dominance to the online commerce giant.
When working toward a goal, the best way to reach it is often to visualize achieving it and then tracing your path backward to where you are today. Articulating each step of the process becomes simpler when you can see both the starting and end points. By seeing your objective as complete, you gain a better understanding of what that requires, giving you the insight you need to outline a detailed map to reach it.
Decide When to Build and When to Buy
Sometimes the most innovative solution already exists, and all you need to do is buy and implement it. Whether it’s a single new technology or a wholesale expansion of your company’s capabilities into another area of service, an off-the-shelf solution could be right for you. Marketing automation software transforms how you relate to your customers and generate new leads, but you don’t need to build it from scratch; it’s already available. Similarly, your best bet for a dramatic expansion of service might be through mergers and acquisitions.
What sets you apart should be the things your competitors can’t easily duplicate. Once you start up the path to innovation and redefinition of your industry, you change your organization’s trajectory for the long run, widening the gap between you and your competition.