How’s your product or service different or unique?

I’m talking different from competitors that look, feel and cost the same as your products.

Truth be told, it’s difficult to be different amid fierce competition.

But it’s important to be different to survive and thrive, right?

differencesWhile traveling through Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam over the past month, I’ve gained a new appreciation or, at least, a new perspective about standing out from the crowd.

In meandering through markets, there are dozens of stalls selling the exact same products at the same exact same prices (depending on your negotiating skills!).

The stalls begin to blur quickly so there are fewer reasons to stop to take a look.

In other words, you’re awash in sameness.

It is a depressing landscape for anyone looking to attract customers.

So how can someone rise above the fray?

There are many options but it boils down to discovering an edge or an angle.

It is the “one thing” that makes a prospect think rather than move on.

If you can capture their attention, the world is your oyster.

For the entrepreneurs operating in these market, the “one thing” could be TripAdvisor ratings and recommendations. For travelers, TripAdvisor is market validation amid an ocean of options.

When we had dinner at a restaurant in Hoi An, for example, the owner asked us how we liked the meal.

When we told him we had enjoyed our meal, he asked for a TripAdvisor recommendation but had me launch the app on my iPhone so he could take photos of us and his restaurant’s sign!

For him, TripAdvisor is the “one thing” so he jumps on every opportunity to make it work for him.

At another restaurant in Hoi An, the “one thing” was inexpensive lemonade served to people on the sidewalk. Each lemonade was hand-poured and garnished with a flower, making it an experience as much as a drink.

Not surprisingly, the lemonade was a crowd-pleaser. As important, it made people stop in their tracks, opening the door for upselling.

While being different is challenging, it is possible using creativity and hustle.

It is easy to be complacent. It is easy to rely on prices or repeating the same pitch to anyone who passes by your store.

It is also a recipe for failure.

Smart entrepreneurs use a different approach.

They look for opportunities to establish differences.

They experiment, dabble and try new things. They tweak dials and test various approaches.

In time, they discover the “one thing” that makes them different. Then, they run hard with it while never losing focus on discovering more differences.

To discover your “one thing”, do the following:

– Explore the competitive landscape. How do you stack up against the competition? Look at your strongest, best or most pesky rivals to identify their secret sauce. Why are they doing well? Why do customers love them while happily ignoring other companies?

– What makes you different? Why do customers buy from you? What questions do they ask? What makes them decide not to make a purchase?

With this information, it is easier to get a lay of the land.

To move forward, divide a piece of paper into three sections “The Competition’s Differences”, “What Customers Want” and “My Differences”. Then, write down what you think for each section.

You’ll probably see a lot of similarities with the competition.

But what you focus on is identifying differences that align with customers want. This is how the competition is outflanked.

Bottom line: It takes work, time and creativity to identify and establish your differences. But it’s a necessary evil to survive and thrive in an ultra-competitive landscape.

I work with fast-growing companies looking to grow even faster with marketing that actually works.

My strategic and tactical services, which harness the power of storytelling, are driven by frameworks and processes to create strategic messaging, brand positioning, strategies, and content. If you want marketing that makes an impact, let’s talk.

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