A potential customer is doing a Google search for products that are just like yours. Really, they would be a great fit. Your ideal customer. The kind of customer you dream about. The customer you had in mind when you started your business. If this were Tinder, you would be swiping right.
But there’s just one problem.
As the potential customer is searching, they come across various websites. One is beautifully designed. It’s pure eye candy! Every part of the site is crafted to please the eye and create a perfect user experience.
Another has a subscription pricing plan that’s flexible to whatever the customer needs. Another has deep expertise in your segment of the market. One competitor’s site explains their geographic focus. And one company’s website explains a unique guarantee.
Finally, they hit upon a website that’s just hilarious, with funny messaging, quirky microcopy, and a series of fall-out-of-your-chair-laughing blog posts.
And then there’s you.
It’s not that there’s anything wrong with your offering, per se.
Your website is good. There’s just nothing amazing about it. Your prices are fine, but you don’t have any sort of unique payment plans that will appeal to a broad swath of customers. Your blog posts and web copy are accurate, but they don’t blow anyone away. Overall, you’re trying to be all things to all people.
You’re the Papa John’s pizza of your industry. Not awful, but not particularly amazing either.
To be clear, your product is good. And your team is skilled and dedicated.
And yet when push comes to shove, very few people are going to choose your brand.
Because you have no differentiators. Nothing that sets you apart from the crowd. Nothing that puts you ahead of your rivals. You’re a plain peanut butter and jelly sandwich instead of something noteworthy like a cheddar-stuffed burger with pickled slaw.
Here’s the simple truth: it’s no longer enough to be good. You have to be outstanding.
But there’s a catch. You need to be outstanding in an area of business that makes you different from the rest of the market.
In other words, you don’t need to be outstanding in every single area of your business. That’s incredibly difficult to achieve.
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But there should be something about you that is so noteworthy, so attractive, so different, that it’s what people can’t help but always remember and tell others about.
You need a differentiator between you and your competition.
The Need For Differentiators
It’s no secret that we have more options now than ever before. If you want to stream a movie, you can choose from Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime. If you want an email marketing service, you can choose between ActiveCampaign, Mailchimp, ConvertKit, Drip, Aweber, and dozens of others.
Choice abounds everywhere.
Your potential customers now have numerous options before them, and they can choose the one that suits them best.
And with an ever-growing number of things vying for their attention, your customer’s attention spans are shorter than ever.
Get this. The average human attention span is now eight seconds. And it’s only getting shorter. A recent study indicated that the human attention span is decreasing by a staggering 88% per year.
The result? It’s increasingly difficult to stand out. To make a name for yourself. To capture people’s attention. In other words, it’s hard to differentiate yourself.
If you want to stand out, you need to have a brand that grabs people’s attention and then keeps it.
Is Your Brand Strong? Conducting A Brand Audit
Many brands start out strong. They’re fresh, different, the new kids on the block. In the beginning, they have numerous factors that differentiate them from their competitors.
But just like the band “New Kids On The Block,” these brands struggle to stay relevant. They often struggle to adjust, grow, and scale. They plateau, and everything that once differentiated them from the competition is no longer relevant.
This is where a brand audit is useful. A brand audit and competitive landscape assessment allows you to identify your strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities. From there, you can determine what differentiates you from the competition.
How do you conduct a brand audit? Ask yourself the following questions:
- What’s your positioning? Are you in the high-end of the market? The low-end? Focus on a defined geographic location? Where do you play in the market?
- Which automobile are you? Are you a Bugatti? Or more like a Porsche? Or perhaps a Camry? Going through this exercise is surprisingly effective in helping you see find your differentiators and where you fit in the market.
- Who is your audience? What value do you bring to your audience that no one else brings to that same audience? How do you serve your core audience in a unique way?
- Where do you stand out in your industry/market? What is different about you compared to your competitors? What makes you defensibly better than other options?
- What is your reputation? What are you known for? What do people talk about and when discussing your brand?
- What is your biggest threat? Which brands represent a threat to your company? And, more importantly, why do they represent a threat? How can you use branding jiu jitsu to combat this threat and turn it into your competitor’s weakness when competing against you?
- Do you have an endearing and authentic brand personality? Does your brand stand for something? Can potential customers identify something specific about your brand that sets you apart or are you merely a drop in a sea of sameness across the competitive landscape?
Ways To Differentiate Your Brand
Once you’ve conducted a brand audit, it’s time to begin focusing on different ways to differentiate yourself from your competitors:
Target A Distinct Audience
The Wing is a coworking space company that has disrupted the coworking industry by making gorgeous spaces specifically for those who identify as women. By targeting specifically those who identify as women, they have been able to achieve huge success, so much so that they recently opened their first international space in London.
Focus On Design
By creating designs that are unique, stunning, and stand out from the crowd, you can differentiate yourself from your competitors. Apple is a prime example of this. They changed the entire computer industry through their obsessive focus on design. Before Steve Jobs came around, computers used to be big, boxy, bland, beige eyesores. Apple changed all this, becoming the personification of cutting edge, delicious design.
Create An Engaging Brand Personality
One of the best ways to differentiate yourself from your competitors is to infuse your brand with some serious personality that engages people in a unique way. Sigstr is an outstanding example of this. The email signature company goes to great lengths to engage their audience with humor, writing blog posts like “If Seinfeld Characters Had Email Signatures.”
Which celebrity best represents your brand personality? Is your brand voice Mindy Kaling? Or Emma Watson? Maybe Greta Garbo? Or maybe someone else? Identifying a real person can help clarify for your team the specific voice you’re striving for.
Create A Superior User/Buyer Experience
Simple Bank was one of the first brands to simplify the banking process and go completely mobile, without any branches. One of their differentiators? They created a super easy, super smooth user experience, and as a result, dramatically differentiated themselves from their competitors.
Amazon is another perfect example of creating a superior buying experience. Think of all that they’ve done to simplify the checkout process. From 1-click buying to 2-day free shipping, they’ve differentiated themselves by creating an almost seamless purchasing process.
Hit A Unique Price Point
When the skincare brand Olay was hitting a slump, they took a look at their audience and noticed something unique. Most people were either buying very cheap or very expensive skincare products.
They saw a gap in the market that they could fill: the happy medium of price and quality. So they rebranded and reformulated so that they could sell to that middle market.
The result? Olay was revived and is now the most profitable beauty brand, worth $11.8 billion.
Document Your Differentiators
If you’re going to effectively separate yourself from your competitors, it’s essential that you document your differentiators. In other words, it must be abundantly clear to everyone in your company what makes your brand different. Everyone should know what makes your brand unique and why a client would choose your brand over any other option.
Additionally, everyone must be clear on how to apply the differentiators in their job, whether they’re in customer service or the VP of Digital Marketing. Employees must be empowered to put the company differentiators into practice.
Differentiation At Stratabeat
So with all this emphasis on having differentiators, how do we differentiate at Stratabeat? It’s one thing to talk the talk. How are we walking the walk?
First, at Stratabeat we apply neuroscience, psychology, and behavioral science to everything we do for our clients. This helps us achieve unique and better results, driving our clients’ audiences to engage more deeply and to decisively take action. On the behavioral side of things, using tools like heat maps, scroll maps, click maps, surveys, and live videos, we’re able to see and analyze the digital “body language” of a client’s website visitors. This allows us to garner unique insights that set us apart from other agencies.
Our experience also differentiates us. It’s almost unheard of for a company of our size to have team members with experience developing marketing strategies for companies such as Intel, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, Kraft Foods, UnitedHealthcare, Ameriprise, Converse, Dannon, Clarks Shoes, Staples, and 10 brands at P&G.
How else do we differentiate our brand? Many agencies focus on a specific area, such as branding, web design, SEO, or content marketing. At Stratabeat, we cover everything from brand strategy and visual branding to web design, SEO, and behavioral intelligence.
By putting all these elements together into a single, robust, integrated package, we’re able to keep our clients’ branding and marketing highly cohesive. This would normally be very difficult to do if the client was using three or four different agencies.
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Differentiate Or Die
The well-worn maxim, “Evolve or die,” does have some truth to it. In the business world, you absolutely must differentiate yourself from your competitors if you want to maximize your revenue. If you don’t, you’ll find yourself slowly losing ground to your competitors.
If you want potential clients to choose you over your competitors, you must give them a reason. There must be something about your brand that is so compelling that potential clients feel like it would be stupid to choose otherwise.
Be bold. Differentiate your brand compellingly, and do it now.