These days, it can be difficult for a business to be truly unique. There are hundreds of other small businesses (and even big businesses) offering a similar product or service to you. And the internet makes it easier than ever before for customers to have access to all your competitors.
You’ve done your research and got your target market, niche and USP defined. But what now? How is it possible to stand out from your competitors? Yes, it can be difficult to do. But it’s really important if you want to make sure customers choose you, rather than the competition.
Why you need to stand out from your competitors
Think about it: if you’re searching for a specific service and come across three small businesses which offer it – which one would you go for? If their websites, branding and tone of voice are very similar… chances are you’ll just choose the cheapest one.
But if one of them stand out through eye-catching photography, great testimonials or engaging content, you’ll probably be much more tempted to go for that one. Even if their prices are slightly higher.
And by standing out in this way, it allows you to take control of the type of customer you attract to your small business – not just the people looking for a bargain.
5 Ways to stand out from your competitors
So here are the different ways of making your small business stand out in the marketplace:
Design is hugely important in making your small business stand out from your competitors. It’s usually the first thing people see, and often they make a snap judgment just based on what your logo, packaging or website looks like.
When defining your branding, you want to make sure it fits in with your small business strategy, as well as looking different from your competitors. Everything from your brand colours and logo to your imagery, fonts and website design can have an impact on the way people view your business – and how memorable it is.
A great example of this is Method, who produce eco-friendly cleaning products. Traditionally, cleaning product brands have had very boring, clinical and almost scientific designs, while eco-friendly brands stick to green colours and imagery like leaves and plants.
But Method hasn’t gone down either of those routes. Instead, they’ve embraced beautiful design-led branding, with pretty packaging, bright colours and modern fonts. As a result, the products really stand out when you’re in the cleaning aisle and their fun and colourful website instantly makes you want to do a spring clean!
Another way you can stand out from your competitors is by speaking a different language to them. And by that I mean: adopt a tone of voice that makes your business instantly recognisable to customers.
Have a look at what your competitors are doing, what kind of words they use and what their tone of voice is like. Is this the best approach for your business too, or could you be doing something differently?
If your competitors are very business-like in their language and tone of voice, why don’t you try something a little bit more personal? As long as it works for your brand (and for you), this could make you seem much more approachable and allows customers to connect with your small business.
To get some inspiration, here are a couple of my favourite examples of businesses who use a unique tone of voice to stand out from their competitors:
- Innocent – one I’m sure you’re already familiar with, Innocent are well known for their funny, tongue-in-cheek tone of voice which really helps them stand out from more formal fruit juice brands like Tropicana, Copella and Naked.
- Mailchimp – tech and software brands usually tend to have quite a professional, to-the-point tone of voice, but Mailchimp have adopted a much more relaxed, personal approach which makes using their services more accessible and enjoyable.
- Pilot – this brand’s down-to-earth and hilarious tone of voice is one of the highlights of my social media feeds, based in Leith, these guys know how to set themselves apart in the world of craft beers & microbreweries.
Another way to stand out from your competitors is to offer different content from them. Take a look at what your competitors are sharing on their blogs, on social media and in e-newsletters. How can you bring in a different perspective or angle?
If your competitors are simply sharing basic industry information, could share helpful advice & tips – or add your own commentary? Being helpful and adding something new to the discussion will help customers see you as a knowledgeable, trustworthy business who will be able to answer their questions.
Think about what your customers would like to read, and share this with them, always adding your own unique perspective and tying the content back into your wider business goals.
A brand that’s really great at this is Buffer. The resources section of their blog is full of invaluable information, giving customers access to the latest industry news as well as insider knowledge and actionable tips on how to put this into practice for your own small business.
Buffer have also thought outside the box and created a podcast with similar content to give their customers an even more unique and personalised view.
In order to make your small business stand out from your competitors, it’s important to offer some sort of incentive for your customers, to encourage them to purchase from you or get in touch. This might be a free assessment or audit, free delivery or money off their first order.
But with everyone offering incentives like these, how can you stand out? Take note of what your competitors are already offering, then think about what it is your customers really need. What could you offer that’s different from your competitors, which makes your customers’ lives easier?
For example, if your target market is mainly busy mums who don’t have time to meet for an in-person consultation, why not offer a complimentary telephone or Skype consultation during school hours?
Another key way you can make your small business stand out from your competitors is by marketing it differently. What is your competitor’s approach to attracting new business, and what could you do differently?
Here are some things you might want to think about:
- The marketing channels you use can make a huge difference. If your competitors stick to traditional channels, like leaflets or newspaper adverts, why not try something different like social media or email marketing?
- Seasonal marketing campaigns can also help you stand out. Do your competitors usually run a Christmas campaign? Why not run a summer holiday campaign instead to attract customers throughout the year?
- Do your competitors follow up with an after-sales service? Keep customers coming back for more by making them feel valued with your after-sales marketing.
- Don’t just rely on word of mouth. Use ideas like influencer marketing and referrals to encourage people to spread the word about your business, making it the first choice over your competitors.
To read more about this topic, have a look at these:
Small Business Brand: What Is It, Why Do I Need One & How Do I Get One?
8 Great USP Examples for Your Small Business
What’s a USP, Why Do I Need One & How Do I Get One?
Customer Focus: Marketing Your Small Business Doesn’t Have to Be Annoying