There’s something remarkably different about your business.
I can almost guarantee it.
Maybe it’s not immediately obvious, like a game-changing feature or a crazy new market you’re tapping into.
But the differentiation is there.
And once you find it and polish it up, that “special thing” will help you build a legion of drooling fans.
You probably already know that a kick-ass differentiation is key to crafting a value proposition that will get your business noticed by the right people.
(ie. people who will buy from you again and again)
If you’re like a lot of new companies (especially in the tech sector), you may have first tried differentiating your biz based on one of three things:
These are probably the most obvious differentiation factors out there. And hey, maybe one of them is right for your business.
But the problem is there are boatloads of websites out there that shout “we’re the cheapest” or “we’ve got the coolest features” or “we’re the most innovative.”
So if you’re in that kinda industry, you may want to take a gander instead at one of the not-so-common ways to differentiate your company listed below.
It could provide the inspiration you need to really stand out.
1) You make it differently
Maybe you provide a similar product or service to your competitors, but it’s made in a different (better) way.
Or perhaps you could distribute it in a way that your target audience would respond to.
Either of these things could help you stand out.
For example, take a look at Etsy. This website started as a place for artists and craftspeople to sell their wares back in 2005, but was able to differentiate itself from other ecommerce players with a focus on handmade or vintage crafts.
Everything they sold was made by real, authentic people. And that’s a big part of what made it so special.
A less tangible example is Osyter.com. I’ve always admired their homepage copy — they nail their value proposition by detailing exactly what makes them “the hotel tell-all.”
Oyster actually has investigators stay at all those hotels — unlike the other sites — which allows them to create objective and accurate reviews.
2) You give your customers a different experience
There’s definitely something to be said for going against the grain. It’s a key part of differentiation.
If you’re in an industry that is seen to do things a certain way, then shaking up the experience can make your brand more memorable.
But GEICO shakes up this perception. It uses a talking lizard and a fun, light-hearted tone to sell its car insurance.
The New York-based Oscar Health Insurance takes things even further. Their website uses bright visuals and has a personal feel to it. The UX is also well-done, which stands in contrast to the idea of insurance being insanely complex and convoluted.
3) You have a different view of the world
What’s near and dear to your target audience? Does your company share their same values?
Connecting with your best prospects with a different world view can help you stand out in their mind. Just take a look at how ABC Carpet & Home built a cause-related brand based around sustainability.
This company uses its ABC icons to communicate to customers how their products are made either in an energy efficient way, using organic materials or by ditching environmentally harmful dyes or glazes.
And then there’s chocolate-maker Madecasse. This Madagasccar-based company uses two compelling differentiators listed in this article: they proudly proclaim their stuff is ‘grown in Africa, made in Africa’ (they make chocolate differently) while also empowering African farmers to help them discover a better life.
4) You focus on a specific niche or market
Many companies put far too much focus on reaching as many prospects as possible. But by trying to be everything to everyone, they connect with no one.
So if you’re confident that you understand who your target audience is and what they want, don’t hold back. Differentiate yourself by positioning your brand explicitly for a specific market.
Take Four Quadrants, for example. This financial services company makes it 100% clear that it caters exclusively to the unique needs of dentists, unlike its more broadly focused competitors.
The result? Four Quadrants is able to use messaging that zeros in on the exact pains of dentists, so their website is far more likely to strike a chord with this specific audience.
5) Your brand ‘voice’ is different
Do all your competitors’ websites sound the same? Maybe they drone on in a stiff, corporate voice or pack in the same sorta cheesy stock photos.
Then you might have an opportunity for differentiation for your company based on its brand ‘voice.’
Take a look at Mailchimp and their generously public tone of voice guidelines. Before Mailchimp’s voice hit the scene, email service providers had a very buttoned-down sorta vibe to them. Certainly not the kinda industry where you’d expect to get a giant “Whoo-Hoo” when you gained a new email subscriber.
But it worked for Mailchimp’s audience. The company did its research and knew that this type of ‘voice’ would kick ass.
Another example is the same-day booking app Hotel Tonight. No other brand out there sounds exactly like them. Their voice is fresh and memorable. Opening their marketing e-mails is like getting the heads up from a cool friend who’s always “in the know.”
But the real reason the HotelTonight voice works so well is that it’s not trying to be everything to everyone. Their content targets relatively young (under 35), tech-savvy urbanites who are most likely to use a same-day booking app.
(full disclosure: I used to work as a copywriter for these guys)
But you don’t have to fit that demographic to find the one-liners in Hotel Tonight’s property descriptions entertaining. Here’s a taste:
– Brighter and more colorful than your childhood Lite-Brite
– Luxurious Zen-like upgrades don’t cramp the hotel’s historical style
– Remember the Alamo? It’s next door
But it really comes down to your customers
You can’t just pick a differentiation for your product or service and hope it works.
You need to first figure out what your ideal customer really wants that your competitors aren’t delivering. Why should they pick you over everyone else?
It all comes down to understanding your audience, your market and how your company could be perceived.
So instead of driving yourself nuts coming up with a “game-changing” differentiator for your company — if it isn’t in you — try zeroing in on what your business really offers that will make your target audience drool.
And then communicate it in a succinct and oh-so-memorable way.
How do you differentiate your product or service?
Tell us about it in the comments below.