The corporate landscape is constantly evolving and expanding, and new companies are popping up every day. With an entrepreneurial blood running through our veins, it’s hard not to be inspired to turn your big idea into a viable business opportunity. The only downside to this explosion of small businesses is the challenge of standing out from the crowd.
When it comes to differentiation, there’s a common acronym that often gets tossed around: USP. USP stands for “unique selling proposition,” or the way(s) you differentiate your business from the competition. These can be both tangible and intangible items and processes, from being a price leader or acquiring a patent to having a memorable logo or being a desirable company to work for. USPs can be highly technical and expensive or simple and cost-effective, and there’s no proof that an expensive USP is more valuable to a business than a free one. What makes it valuable is the ultimate impact it has on your bottom line and how your company is perceived by consumers.
If you’re looking for ways to hone in on what makes your small business unique, consider looking to these four differentiating factors for ideas.
Marketing / Communications
The marketing and communications sector of your business has arguably the single greatest impact on consumer perception. One of the most important things a company can do is present itself in a consistent manner through design, tone of voice, etc. You can’t expect consumers to remember you if your color schemes or communication methods vary from message-to-message. Establishing a well-defined brand identity from the get-go will help increase your chances of not only standing out, but being remembered.
It’s also important that you use several marketing and communication channels to vocalize why your company is different from the others in your industry. Utilize your USPs (maybe even some of the ones below) to spread the word about your company through email marketing, social media, press releases, and traditional mediums (magazines, radio, newspapers, etc.). Sharing what makes your brand unique and superior to the competition will allow consumers to identify with what your company stands for and hopefully decide to purchase from you.
Few could argue that Amazon isn’t one of the most idolized companies in the world, both in the eyes of ecommerce and traditional brick-and-mortar businesses. CEO Jeff Bezos has established Amazon as a company that isn’t just a place where you can buy anything your heart desires, but an organization that puts its customers first.
Aside from being a massive corporation, Amazon gets customer service right. In fact, they were rated the top internet retailer in terms of overall customer satisfaction. Offers such as guaranteed delivery in time for the holidays and hassle-free returns put customers at ease when they shop on Amazon.
As a business owner, you understand that your customers should be the focal point of everything you do. If your business offers exceptional customer service that includes a personalized experience and guaranteed satisfaction, why not use this as a platform for differentiation? We can all think of situations where we purchased from companies that clearly did not prioritize our needs, and it was ultimately a disappointing experience. Communicate the importance of customer service to your company’s success and combat these negative experiences by showing customers that they’re not just a dollar sign; they matter. They’ll start to take notice, and in a good way.
Since there are so many options available to shoppers across industries, customers have the ability to be even more selective about who they purchase from. A major factor that helps narrow down the options is the presence of trust. Consumers are much more likely to purchase from companies that they trust, even if they aren’t the price leader. Now that’s saying something!
To make your business stand out, it’s all about establishing yourself as a credible source from the beginning. You can do this by showing your customers the time and research that you’ve put into developing the best products and services available. Also, give them insight into your company and the team behind it through an “About Us” page on your website. To continue building trust online, feature testimonials and reviews to serve as an additional reminder that you’re the right choice. The key to building trust is being as transparent as possible. Shine a light on the inner workings of your company and address any negative feedback that may arise.
Consumers prioritize companies that give back to their communities more than ever before, and they want to see the human side to a business, rather than the “corner office” mentality. To establish your brand as one that cares about giving back, and to take advantage of an opportunity to unite your team, get involved in charitable work and document it on your website and social media profiles. For more elaborate projects, partner up with other local businesses or even your customers.
One of the easiest ways to get involved is by volunteering your time at a local soup kitchen, SPCA, or hospital. There are thousands of non-profit organizations across the country that are looking for volunteers, and not only will your business reap the benefits, but you’ll feel good about giving back too.
Operating a small business is no easy task, and differentiating it – well, that’s even tougher. However, if you take the time to think about why you started your business in the first place, you’ll likely uncover some unique attributes to your business model. You don’t have to act on all of them to be successful. Just find one or two key components to what makes your business, employees, and customers tick, and embody those throughout your sales process. You’ll create more personal relationships with your customers, build a positive work environment, and boost sales.