One of our favorite holiday classics is Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer because we love the message: what makes us different is what makes us special. It sounds so simple, yet it’s funny how when we head back to “real life,” we tend to try to hide what makes us different.
The same often holds true with our businesses as well. We’re so busy making sure we’re in line with what our competitors are talking about, like quality products/services, great customer service, and excellent value, that we sometimes forget to highlight what makes our business unique.
Which brings us to the point of this post.
Figure out what makes your business different—think of it as lighting up your metaphorical red nose. All of Santa’s reindeer could fly. All of them had noses. Only one had a nose that could light up and lead the way during foggy weather. Having trouble identifying a true differentiator? Here are some strategies for uncovering it:
- Brainstorm. Sit down and brainstorm a list of everything that you can think of that makes your business different. Don’t censor yourself—just jot down ideas. The beauty of brainstorming is that it gives your mind the freedom to delve into places it might not normally venture. As you jot down ideas, more will come, and there’s a good chance you’ll spot a differentiator that might have been sitting there all this time, but that you simply overlooked because you were too close to it.
- Ask people. Ask people—employees, customers, vendors, even friends and family—what makes your company special. You may be surprised at some of the answers. If you start seeing or hearing a common thread or theme, focus on this.
- Keep track of what your competitors are saying. It’s easy to think that all of your competitors are focusing on the same things you are, but you should test those assumptions. Make it a habit of reviewing your competitors’ websites, offers, newsletters, and social media presence so you’re aware of the messages they’re putting out there. One strategy for using your competitors’ messages to your advantage is this: if your competitors all seem to be focusing on one area—let’s say it’s price—you should focus on a different area in your messaging. By virtue of having your message NOT be about price, you’ll be making that figurative red nose shine brighter.
Make sure what you’re focusing on is truly “different.” For example, saying your business has excellent customer service doesn’t make your organization different from your competitors (most—if not all—businesses will say that they have excellent customer service). But the fact you guarantee that people will always be able to talk to a live person might make your business different.
Remind people about the difference—often. You have to light up that red nose—and keep it lit—for people to notice and remember the difference. Here are four ways to accomplish this:
- Demonstrate the difference. An example you’re probably familiar with is Bounty paper towels. Over the years, Bounty has done a good job of showing off its strength: it’s easy to think all paper towels are the same until you see a wet Bounty paper towel that’s able to lift a cup and saucer without breaking while the competition’s paper towel disintegrates under the pressure.
- Build your message around the difference. This might sound like a no-brainer, but you need to remember to incorporate the “red nose” into your messaging across the board, including taglines, sales pitches, elevator pitches, social media profiles (e.g. Twitter), advertising, etc.
- Create compelling content that explains and highlights the difference. Think white papers, blog posts, newsletters, data sheets, articles, web pages, lead nurturing campaigns. You shouldn’t release this content all at once, of course. The goal of marketing is to develop a steady drumbeat around your message.
- Get third-party endorsements about the difference. Small businesses don’t necessarily have the budget to hire a spokesperson, but you likely already have customers who appreciate what makes your company special. Ask them to talk about it. Ask them to leave a review on sites like Yelp or your Google+ Local page. Consider creating a video testimonial of some of your happiest customers and sharing the video on social media and posting it to your website. Have a customer pen a guest post for your blog talking about the difference your company makes in his or her life. Third-party endorsements tend to be even more persuasive than marketing copy since they’re written or spoken in a “regular” person’s own words rather than a copywriter’s marketing spin.
How about you? How do you leverage what makes your company different? Share your ideas in the comments.