What Makes You So Special?
What causes people to want to hire you for your services, use your product, visit your website, or read your blog? Whatever industry you’re in, there’s little doubt you have some form of competition. So why is what you offer different enough to make people choose you over someone else? A lot of people try to compete on price, which can be effective for some, but often it’s the lazy way to get customers, and it can end up robbing from your bottom line in the long run. When you think about it, if all you have to offer is a low price, then as soon as someone else comes along with an even lower price, you lose. If you find other ways to set yourself apart from the competition though, your customers have reasons to be loyal to you and your brand. There are several ways to make your business stand out from the crowd, and here are a few:
Your Offering – Whether or not it’s easy (or even possible) to differentiate through the product or service you offer has a lot to do with which industry you’re in. If you sell a software product, for example, your program might offer features that no one else does. This is a pretty simple way to differentiate. On the other hand, what if your business is something that’s not as easy to rework in a way that makes it truly unique? This might take some out-of-the-box thinking, but it’s usually still possible. A great example of this is Egg-Land’s Best eggs. When most of us go to the grocery store to buy eggs, we just grab a dozen and go, right? For the most part, who can even name a ‘brand’ of eggs? Egg-Land’s Best had the idea they could change that, so they changed the feed they used to feed their hens, and now they market their eggs throughout the country as a better alternative to “generic” eggs. This differentiation allows them to charge a premium on a product which most people thought of as “un-differentiate-able.” With some creativity and a little fine-tuning, their differentiation has paid off in big ways.
Your Service – One of the best ways a company can set itself apart from the competition is through offering a unique customer service experience. There are situations where your product is what it is (if you own a franchise, for instance), and you aren’t able to change your location, your marketing methods, or your company name. But everyone has the ability to offer a special customer experience. And study after study proves that people are willing to pay a little more for great service, so differentiating through service not only brings in more customers, but you can charge more to those you do attract. MasterLube, a quick oil change company in Billings, Montana, is a perfect example of what can be accomplished through outstanding customer service. It’s difficult to offer a “different” oil change than the two Wal-Marts, K-Mart, and various other oil change providers in Billings. And dropping the price below those stores’ prices would result in a short-lived business model. So MasterLube offers the kind of customer service you won’t find anywhere else. From the person who greets you in the office, to the technician who services your vehicle, it’s obvious to every customer that all their employees truly care about their customers. More than anything, they go out of their way to build relationships. How does it pay off? They charge more than just about anyone else in town, and they have waiting lines almost every day of the week. What entrepreneur wouldn’t want those results for their business?
Your Culture or Atmosphere – This often goes hand-in-hand with service, but it’s an all-around feeling that your company communicates to your customers. If you’ve ever eaten at a Johnny Rockets burger place, you have some idea of what this can look like. From the 50’s décor, complete with nickel jukeboxes at every table, to the staff that spontaneously breaks out in song and dance when certain songs are played, this place is clearly not a typical burger joint. So what are their results? As just one example, Johnny Rockets serves over eight million fairly average milkshakes a year, at $4-$6 each. So if you can provide a fun, outrageous, or moving experience for you customers, do it. You’ll find this form of differentiation is the kind that gets buzz going about your business, which we all know is invaluable!
In this world of stiff competition coming from everywhere, you can’t afford not to differentiate. And as soon as you get too comfortable with where you are, you’re bound to be overtaken by someone with a better product, better customer service, or a cooler new concept. So ask yourself what sets you apart from the crowd – and then keep asking it.