The question of “how can I stand out from my competitors?” is one that every entrepreneur asks themselves at some point.
Many of us have this idea in our heads that in order for our business to be successful, we have to be pumping out innovative and original content every single day.
That shit is not sustainable, nor is it truly necessary in the grand scheme of things.
One of the most commonly mentioned reasons that clients reach out to me (and probably any brand or web designer) is that they feel like they don’t stand out from their competitors enough.
And most of the time they think the way to stand out is through their visual identity.
My response is usually: “Sure! That’s one way to stand out. However, your logo isn’t going to be on display all of the time.”
If you really want to stand out from your competitors, you’re going to need to differentiate yourself in nonvisual ways too.
Because if you can’t confidently show (and tell) what makes you different from your competitors, then you make it very hard for someone to choose working with you.
Your competitors understand what makes them different and lean into those differences every chance they get.
And you need to do the same. So let’s dig into that.
What is a differentiation strategy?
Your differentiation strategy defines the difference between you and your competitors and your plan on capitalizing on that difference.
Differentiation strategies are largely focused on the buying considerations of your intended audience.
Some value price over quality, some value convenience over experience. It’s all going to depend on your people. Those a some of the common buying considerations.
Your differentiation strategy needs to define which consideration is worth focusing on to better attract a specific group of people.
An example: H&M vs. Everlane
H&M and Everlane are two clothing companies that target an age demographic of about 18-35 roughly. There is an overlap of people that shop at both places for a variety of different reasons.
There are two clear differences between H&M and Everlane:
- H&M focuses on price and convenience which is more aligned with fast fashion
- Everlane focuses on transparency and sustainability which is more aligned with slow fashion.
Fast fashion gets its name from its quick turnaround time, heavy impacts on the environment, and low-wage labor.
While slow fashion prioritizes higher quality materials made in sustainable and more humane ways.
H&M focuses on staying on top of the trends and mass-producing millions of items each year to keep up with the ever-changing focuses of society. They attract people that value being on-trend and saving money.
H&M capitalizes on buyers that make decisions based on trendiness and price.
Everlane, while still a decently sized clothing brand, chooses to design more timeless pieces that people still find a lot of use for no matter what’s on-trend right now. They attract people that would rather spend more on pieces that last longer and are made from higher quality materials.
Everlane capitalizes on buyers that make decisions based on longevity and versatility.
By choosing to lean into their differentiators, H&M and Everlane generally hold two distinct images in most people’s minds – which is what each brand wants.
Here are some ways you can stand out from your competitors:
With your product: you can differentiate by features, efficiency, effectiveness, reliability, performance, etc.
Through your services: you can differentiate based on how you deliver, convenience, accessibility, customer service, installation method, etc.
Via your relationship to the client/customer: you can differentiate by communication, support, reliability, competence, etc.
Through the experience you create: you can differentiate through content marketing, user experience, checkout experience, education, etc.
Or with your image: you can differentiate by your personality, tone of voice, brand attributes, and identity.
So how do you develop your differentiation strategy?
Well, you can choose two routes:
- You can keep things broad and try to appeal to a large number of people in your market
- OR, You can narrow your focus and appeal to a specific segment of your market.
First, you need to understand your target audience and what their needs, wants, and challenges are.
Then you need to look at your competitors and identify any gaps and missed opportunities.
Finally, once you’ve identified the gaps, you need to evaluate whether positioning your brand in that gap is worth the effort, how difficult it is, and its profitability.
No matter what, your differentiation strategy is only effective if it can enhance or add value to the experience of your audience.
Understanding what makes you different from your competitors and how you can make your own lane in your industry is something that I focus on in my Brand Clarity workshops that you can learn more about here.
Building a successful brand means getting laser-focused on the problems you solve, who you really want to work with, and how you can position yourself in front of them the right way. By the end of our workshop, you’ll know the exact steps you’ll need to take to push your brand forward towards your goals.
Learn more about those workshops by clicking the button below:
INSIDE THE THOUGHTS OF A BRAND STRATEGIST & DESIGNER
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I'm Ashleigh Keith, a creative problem solver for woman led brands that prefer to cultivate relationships instead of the perfect Instagram photo. I use my background in Psychology to develop human-centered brands for women that want to do more than just run a business - they want to make a greater impact on the world around them.
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