Crowded markets are, by definition, hard to stand out in. If yours is one of 100 companies offering identical services, you can’t do the same things everyone else is doing. You need to differentiate.
But differentiating isn’t as easy as it sounds. Pivoting in a different direction than other brands in your space takes ingenuity.
Make Your Business Stand Out
The beauty of the internet is that it’s torn down any and all barriers to entry in most industries. It used to be that you needed lots of cash or investors, business expertise, suppliers, and a deep prospect list to launch a successful business. Today, you can use a drag-and-drop website builder, a website to source products from, and a social media presence to build a seven-figure company with minimal experience.
But here’s the deal: These low barriers to entry come at a price. If you’re able to easily start a business, so is everyone else. And it doesn’t matter if you’re selling spatulas or providing accounting services — the competition is fiercer than it’s ever been.
Anyone can start a business and go toe to toe with you. What are you doing to make your business stand out? What’s the differentiating factor between your brand and theirs?
Here are a few big-picture ideas you can adapt for your startup:
1. Double Down on the Competition
If you’re offering the exact same product or service as the competition, how are you going to stand out? For most businesses, it’s price. A brand lowers its price, thins out its margins, and then hopes and prays that competitors don’t do the same with their prices. It’s a game of diminishing returns.
What you really need to do is increase the value you’re offering. At the very least, this lets you stand out in an industry where everyone is comparably priced. At best, you can actually charge a premium.
Take the carpet cleaning industry as an example. An extremely saturated industry with lots of competition in local and national markets, most of these companies use the same five- or six-step process to clean. Emerald Carpet Cleaning of Dublin recognizes this and chose to use a proprietary 10-step process. It doesn’t take the company much extra time, but it does result in a better end product. There’s also the differentiating factor of saying your brand uses a 10-step process when everyone else is using a six-step process.
How can you double down on the competition, offering a superior product or service that produces a better end result — and more appealing marketing? This is one way to stand out.
2. Give Away Your Best Knowledge for Free
This tactic applies more to service-based businesses and companies that sell knowledge, but it could be applicable to any company in a saturated niche.
By giving away your best knowledge for free, you build trust and establish a loyal following. And guess what? Customers won’t believe you’ve just given away your richest nuggets. They’ll trust there’s more where that came from. When they need better service or insights, they’ll trust you over a competitor who hasn’t done anything for them. You’re a proven commodity; the competition is a gamble.
Influence & Co., a content marketing company, has capitalized on this approach. The agency recommends that its thought leader clients share their knowledge with prospects and customers — not only will customers be “stickier,” but they’ll be better vetted in the lead funnel. Influence & Co. practices what it preaches, offering a knowledge bank of information on content marketing to inform prospects just getting started.
3. Tap Into Socially Conscious Veins
Millennials make up an increasingly large portion of the marketplace. In fact, Pew Research noted earlier this year that Millennials had overtaken Baby Boomers as the largest generation. Most businesses either specifically focus on Millennial customers or include them as part of their target audience. Either way, you need to appeal to them — the numbers are on their side.
There’s a multitude of ways to appeal to Millennials, but one appealing option is to tap into their desire to support social causes. Companies like TOMS Shoes and Warby Parker are examples of brands that give away a product to charity each time a product is purchased. You don’t have to follow this model, but let it serve as an inspiration. Can you donate to clean water organizations with each purchase? Could you supply meals to children in need in your community? The options are endless.
4. Niche Down
As the saying goes, there are riches in niches. You might think that casting a wider net allows you to grab larger market share, but it actually undercuts your ability to stand out. By zeroing in on a very specific market, you’re able to immerse yourself in your target demographic’s wants and needs. This enables you to tailor your products, services, and messaging in a way that resonates.
There will always be competition. For most of us, the competition is heavy. But rather than get salty about the fact that other people are reaching for the same customers and dollars you are, get excited about the opportunity to improve through differentiation.
The ball is in your court: How will you stand out today, tomorrow, and in the years to come?