According to reports, 90 percent of all start-ups fail. One factor that plays an important role is that many entrepreneurs and small business owners don’t know how to differentiate themselves from their market competition. The truth is that it’s very rare for a company to sell an entirely unique product or service, so consumers have a lot of choice. And in general, they’ll opt to do business with a brand they already know — unless there’s a good reason to try out another company.
That means that whether you’re selling reclaimed terra cotta floor tiles from Italy or cloud services for businesses, you need to differentiate your product or service from your competitors. The following strategies can help.
1. Create a Unique Selling Proposition
Unless you have a totally unique product or service that people want but can’t purchase from any other company, you’ll need a unique selling proposition. This is an aspect of your product or service that sets it apart from what your competition sells. For example, Domino’s Pizza used to promise delivery within 30 minutes or less — otherwise you didn’t get charged for your order. Similarly, FedEx offered overnight delivery.
To find your unique selling proposition, determine what exactly differentiates your product or service from your competition. For example, if you sell cloud services for businesses, maybe you offer the widest range of plans — so there’s something for organizations of every size. Or if you sell reclaimed terra cotta floor tiles from Italy, perhaps you’re the only company that guarantees them to be free of damages.
Remember: Your unique selling proposition is something that you want your business to be known for, so make sure you can deliver on your promise.
2. Create a Personalized Customer Experience
In today’s hyper connected world, consumers expect to be able to connect with a brand online — via its website, online store and social media channels. And thanks to advances in technology, companies — even small businesses — now have access to user data and analytics that can help them better understand consumers’ behaviour. In fact, certain algorithms can even help them anticipate shoppers’ needs. For example, if you’re browsing Amazon, the site will make suggestions based on the products you’ve viewed or purchased. This kind of personalization is highly valued by consumers, who will reward companies that offer a personalized customer experience with increased loyalty — and more transactions.
Leveraging personalization doesn’t have to be too challenging. If you have an online store, enabling customers to create their own accounts can provide you with the data you need in order to offer personalized recommendations based on the customer’s previous purchases. You can even take it one step further and only send out email newsletters that contain information about products or special offers that align with the customer’s interests. This offers the added benefit of not overloading your clientele with marketing messaging that isn’t relevant to them — and helps ensure that they keep opening your emails.
3. Offer Outstanding Customer Service
As Forbes points out, it’s important to have excellent customer service from the very beginning of your business. After all, larger companies may have more resources and bigger product lines, but they don’t always go the extra mile for their customers. In a start-up or small business, you can communicate directly with your employees — who form the face of your company — and inform them about the importance of customer service.
Whether it’s to run your store or staff your customer service line, it’s advisable to look for employees who are intelligent, positive and resourceful, since they’re more likely to go out of their way to solve customers’ problems. Be sure that when you become known for outstanding customer service, that fact alone can be a big plus that helps you attract more customers. For example, Apple is known for its excellent customer service — it has a technical support centre staffed with locally-based technicians who don’t give up until they’ve resolved each caller’s issue.
One Happy Customer Can Yield Nine Referrals
Note that according to research by American Express, one happy customer can result in as many as nine referrals. So clearly, it’s imperative to do everything you can to make good on your promise to your customers, create a personalized customer experience and offer outstanding customer service. Fortunately, with these three strategies in mind, you can differentiate yourself from the competition, win the hearts of your consumers, secure a greater market share and last but not least, grow your business.