11 Surefire Ways to Stand Out in a Competitive Market
Hands up if you've ever said something along these lines—
"The quality, service and attention to detail I give my customers is amazing. If only more people knew about me...but, my industry is so competitive and commoditised, it's impossible to stand out."
None of this reluctant arm raising—get your hand up and wave it around like a lunatic because you are not alone. This is the challenge we hear business owners struggle with most often. And, it's been a challenge for us too.
So, let's dive right into the juicy details. If you’re wondering how you can get more eyes on your business, today's blog will uncover 11 ideas you can try on to become a stand out business in a sea of samesies.
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1. Surprise & Delight
So many companies say their service is the best. But, when you ask them how it’s better, they rattle off a list of things like ‘delivering on time’ or ‘delivering quality work’. Personally I consider these to be table stakes— I expect them.
You’re likely to remember a customer service experience when it’s surprisingly good, or surprisingly bad. But, middle of the road ‘table stakes’ service is probably not going to stick in your mind long enough for you to tell anyone about it.
Stand out businesses are the ones that make you feel like your satisfaction is their number one priority— always. They actively look for ways to go above and beyond and find ways to turn challenges or mistakes into opportunities to delight. Looking for inspiration? Give this Story Brand podcast episode a listen or check out the book 'The Six Thousand Dollar Egg'.
The takeaway: Don’t settle for good. If you want to be memorable, go above and beyond—every time. Would someone share your customer service story with their friends? Use this as your benchmark.
2. Become Known For Something
Ever heard the phrase ‘the riches are in the niches’? It’s a lot easier to stand out and become known for one, really specific thing rather than trying to sell everything to everyone. In a niche market, your competitors are fewer, your marketing dollars can be spent in a more targeted way, and often, you can charge more because you’re a specialist.
If you want to learn more about this, I talk through choosing a speciality in greater detail in our ebook, Invaluable.
The takeaway: Standing out can be easier if you can select a niche audience, find a niche product or service to sell or a combination of both. Are you the ultimate pet photographer? Do you make a kickass vegan pizza? Narrow your focus, stake your claim and own it.
3. Be Refreshingly Different
Kane and I once met with the owner of a company who was trying to attract new clients. When we asked ‘how are you different from your competitors?’ he answered ‘I tell our customers we’re pretty much the same as everyone else.’
As business owners, it's our responsibility to be able to confidently tell our potential customers why we are worth their time and money. In the absence of anything unique or differentiating about our products, services or brand, price becomes the only variable. And, if price is the only differentiating factor, we become magnets for discount hunters seeking out the most bang for their buck.
If you’re not sure how you can stand out other than dropping your price, or think you’ve got nothing original to offer, check out the book Blue Ocean Shift. It contains an actionable process to help you hone in on areas where you can help to alleviate customer challenges, offer increased value and deviate from your competitors’ claims.
The takeaway: Stand out by uncovering the areas where you can offer value that your competitors don’t, or by addressing customer pain points that your competitors aren’t. Once you dig deeper, you’ll find that there are many more opportunities to stand out than you think.
4. Get Clear With Your Copy
You already know that waffly, jargony words make people’s eyes glaze over. But, the waffle and jargon is often a lot harder to spot in our own industry or in our own work.
As Lee LeFever explains in his book, The Art of Explanation, “the more you know about something, the harder it is to imagine what it’s like not to know.” Because of this, we tend to assume our audience has a similar level of understanding to us.
So, when we write for or speak to our customers, we have a tendency to underestimate the gap between our level of knowledge (about our business, processes or industry), and theirs. This is called the ‘Curse of Knowledge’, and it means we often forget to ask for the sale, share our process or explain ourselves clearly in terms our customers understand.
Want to be a gun at writing copy? Check out Ray Edwards' book How to Write Copy That Sells.
The takeaway: To cut through the noise, we need to meet our customers where they are, and keep our message easy to understand, remember and share.
5. Collect & Use Customer Feedback
Clear messages stem from understanding your audience, and too often, we’re guilty of assuming what our customers want and need, instead of asking them.
Collecting customer feedback can help you to uncover potential product and service offerings that your customers want, but you’re not delivering yet. And, it can help you to understand where your customers are confused or need additional support. Feedback also gives you insight into the words and phrases your customers are actually using to describe their challenges, which will help you to avoid the Curse of Knowledge we mentioned in #4.
By surveying your customers you’ll be able to truly get to know them and how you can better serve them. If you take action on what they tell you, you’ll be able to understand exactly what they consider to be exceptional customer service, must-have products, clear marketing and so much more.
The takeaway: Survey your customers to help you to serve your customers’ needs more effectively and stand out in your industry as a result.
6. Show Up Consistently
Ever known someone who only barracks for a team when they’re winning? Is a meat eater one week and vego the next? Says they’re going to an event but never shows?
Yep, we’ve all probably been this person at one time or another. The problem with saying one thing and doing another is that you become flaky and unreliable. We inadvertently send the same message as business owners when we don’t give our audience a time and place they can expect to hear from us on the regular.
Our marketing efforts will never succeed if we don't show up day in & day out for our audience.
Whether ‘showing up’ looks like posting on social media, hosting an event, sending an email blast, uploading a blog post or sharing your latest podcast episode, it’s important to let your audience know when and where they can expect to hear from you, and deliver on that promise every time.
Do you have a favourite tv show, blog, instagram account or podcast that you follow? How would you feel if that person just went silent for a few weeks or months cos they got busy? Just like you expect regular content from your favourite producers, you have a responsibility to show up consistently for your followers.
It takes grit and persistence to keep on keep on going, even when your mum is your only follower (been there). Just remember, being consistent is so much more important than being on every platform. Keep showing up and eventually, they will too.
The takeaway: If you can develop a pattern of delivering on your promises and showing up on the regular you’ll not only build trust with your audience, you’ll also remain top of mind. Pick the marketing platforms and strategies that play to your strengths, commit to them and get into the habit of showing up regularly.
7. Look Like You Give a Damn
Your visual appearance is your customer’s first impression of your business and sets expectations for every other interaction they’ll have with your business. You want them to think ‘Wow! I would love to work with this brand’, not ‘If this is what their website looks like, what will the quality of their work or service be like?’
If your website, logo or marketing materials look sloppy, it signals to your customers that you don’t care enough about your brand to invest in them. Even if you are just starting out or don’t have a lot to spend, there are designers available to suit every budget, and lots of templates and DIY solutions that you can use to guide you too. You have everything you need to learn, create or hire at your fingertips, so there are no excuses!
The takeaway: Stand out by making sure your brand looks polished, professional and trustworthy at every touchpoint.
8. Give, Give, Give
Building trust with your audience takes time and, often, multiple interactions. Asking someone for a sale is the equivalent of asking for their hand in marriage, and shotgun weddings are rare in the business world. So, if the 'marriage proposal' doesn't work out, ask them on a date instead—consider offering a free trial, sample, information (blogs, videos, PDFs) or a free initial consultation to reduce risk perceptions, create goodwill and build your relationship.
Check out this article on creating lead magnets for more on why giving should be a part of your marketing plan.
The takeaway: When we give generously to our potential customers, we break down the walls, attract people to our business, help our customers get to know us, create trust and build reciprocity.
9. Have a Personality
We buy from people and brands we like, and personality adds humanness and likeability to your brand. A distinctive, consistent personality, woven throughout your words, visuals and engagements is a great way to stand out in your industry.
I wrote a big article about personality over here, so if you’re interested in learning more, make sure you check out that post.
The takeaway: A unique brand personality can create likeability and build rapport with your customers, helping you to cut through the noise.
10. Put Some Skin in the Game
So many businesses are afraid to make guarantees, but, if you don’t believe in your offering, why should your customers? If it makes sense for your business, you can make waves by reducing their risk and putting some skin in the game with a guarantee of quality or service.
With a guarantee, buying from your business becomes a lot less risky, and you have a better chance of hearing about the problem and areas of your business that need improvement too.
The takeaway: Try offering a guarantee of service or quality. Stand behind your claims by having something to lose if you don’t deliver on your promise.
11. Reward Loyalty
“Repeat buyers deliver the same revenue as five new customers combined and are nine times more likely to convert.” (Autopilot).
Yep, your existing customers are as important and valuable to impress as new customers (if not more). Consider trying to stand out to them by rewarding their loyalty with discounts, incentives, exclusive deals, affiliate programs or referrer bonuses.
The takeaway: Your business success is directly tied to the customers that support it. Treat them like royalty and create new opportunities to wow them to stand out in your industry.
I hope this article has given you lots of ideas on how you can become a stand out brand. Tell me in the comments—will you be implementing any of these ideas? What will that look like in your business?
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