This question is one of the most basic challenges faced by business owners. While you may rarely be asked it directly by a potential customer, a clear and defensible answer is one of the most useful pieces of information you can have when designing your marketing and sales strategies.
Here is a simple approach for getting a clearer understanding of what differentiates you from your competition.
- Identify your most-respected competitors. Think about who competes with you most successfully. Resist the temptation to say you have no competitors, unless everyone who needs your product or service already buys from you. Among your competitors, focus on those you respect the most and those who are most successful in your market niche.
- Identify why and how your competitors are successful. What is it that they do that makes them successful, regardless of what you are doing?
- What makes you different? This is getting to the core of the matter. Thinking about your key competitors' success, figure out the main characteristics of your business that differentiates you from each of them, in turn. Hopefully you don't find price to be your major differentiator, relative to larger, better-known competitors. Being the low-cost supplier is best left to Wal-Mart and Amazon.
- List your three uniques. This is something advocated by Gino Wickman, author of Traction. List three characteristics of your business that, taken together, differentiate it from your best competitors. Some of your competitors may offer one or two of these, but none offer all three. If you feel that you absolutely must list four factors before you become unique, then that should tell you that you are in a highly competitive market. There isn't much to separate you from the pack.
- Create an elevator pitch. This a brief (15 to 30 second) speech setting out what you do (your niche) and WHY potential customers should buy from you. The WHY part is derived from your three uniques, woven into a smooth-flowing message that is easy to remember, comfortable to deliver, and readily understood.
- Set out the rest of your marketing and sales strategies. Now that you know what differentiates you from the pack, use this as the core content of your marketing strategy and your sales strategy.
Clarity in understanding why customers should buy from you equips you well to set yourself apart from the competition, by focusing on your comparative advantages. You can now clearly focus on your competitive edge and dominate your niche!
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