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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Differentiating Yourself from Your Competition

It's a competitive world out there, and getting more so every day. Your business is faced with the challenge of differentiating itself from your competitors and giving the consumer a reason why they should buy from you rather than your competition. But that's not as easy as it seems.

For example, ask a random sample of business owners to tell you what makes them different from their competition, and you'll get a blank stare, or perhaps a response like one of these:

"My prices are the lowest."

"I guarantee satisfaction."

"My products are of high quality."

"I give great customer service."

But none of these responses sets them apart from the competition. Many businesses can claim the same things. A business must know what they offer a customer besides general statements and why they think a shopper should buy from them. That is, what makes the business unique in the market and in the eyes of a potential customer? To do that, you need to ask yourself the following questions.

  • What gives your company a unique advantage over your competition?
  • What is the distinct reason for consumers to buy from you?
  • Can you portray in the consumer's mind a compelling image of what your business will do for them that others can't?

Notice those highlighted words: advantage, reason, and image. That's your objective when creating a solid, exact, and usable unique selling position that both positions you in the marketplace and convinces a consumer to buy from you. A good USP creates the framework and lays the foundation for your compelling product or service offer.

If that isn't enough, a good USP also keeps your business pointed in the right direction.

One of the things that made both FedEx and Domino's a success was a measurable and beneficial USP. They were measurable (overnight and 30 minutes, respectively) and carried a unique benefit (FedEx delivers to the recipient's door; Domino's promises it's free if not delivered on time).

Getting the picture? A good USP is specific, measurable, and conveys a customer benefit. Let's review.

So how do you differentiate yourself from the competition? How do you answer the consumer questions of WIIFM? Start with this: Using a pad and pencil, ask yourself the following questions and answer them as simply as you can. Remember, you're not creating a corporate mission statement here, so keep your responses simple.

"Why is my business special?"

"Why would someone buy from me instead of my competition?"

"What can my business provide to a consumer that no one else can?"

"What's a benefit to the consumer that I can deliver on?"

Keep your answers simple, specific, and measurable, and show a benefit to the buyer. If you're confused by what you offer, your customers will be, too.

Keeping Your Eye on the Competition

Ignorance may be bliss, but in the knock-down, drag-out world of business, ignorance of your competition can be a deadly mistake.

Keeping track of your competitors can be a difficult and time-consuming task. You can hire a corporate spy to infiltrate your competitor's organization; do a little dumpster-diving for useful discarded memos, manuals, and correspondence; or work smart by monitoring your competition's activities right from your desk, using the Internet. The Internet is filled with resources that can provide your company with media sources, web directories, clipping services, and competitive intelligence to keep you up to date on who the competition is and what they're doing.

By using these online sources, you can discover the answers to questions such as

"Who are the leading companies in your industry?"

"What information on your competition is available?"

"Which of your competitors are most likely threats?"

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