What makes a successful business? Customers do. Especially customers who come back and buy again and again. Successful businesses stand out in their customer’s minds and when their customers are ready to buy again they immediately think of that business as being able to help them. In fact many of their customers would not ever think of looking for alternatives because they only want that individual product or service.
For your business to be successful you need to stand out in your customer’s minds too – they need to recognise how you can help them solve a problem and they need to think of you when they are ready to buy.
How do you stand out in your customer’s minds? By promoting your uniqueness to them in every way you can. Once they understand your difference and connect to it then you will have no trouble in selling to them repeatedly and in having them referring other customers to you. You will become the business they always turn to for your particular products or services.
So what is uniqueness and why should you focus on creating it let alone spend the time creating it? Let me help you to find your way around this aspect of your marketing with some techniques for choosing the point of difference which will separate you from your competitors and ensure that you stand out in your customer’s minds.
Creating and promoting uniqueness should be an essential part of your marketing strategy and it will ensure that the money you spend on marketing will be developing your brand difference to the very customers who care.
Some businesses already have uniqueness
Some new businesses will already be unique because the product or service they offer has either never or hardly ever been marketed before. They are the innovators who are introducing new ideas to their market. An example of this is the initially small Australian company who introduced us to round beach towels. No-one else was selling round towels so their uniqueness was obvious straight away.
And there are other examples such as container-free food shops (where you take your own container and fill it up), up-market portable toilets for posh events, personalised tea where you put your own flavour combination together, and social businesses where you buy your lunch and they donate another lunch to a school child who would otherwise miss out.
All of these innovators come with their uniqueness already locked in.
This won’t be common for most of you though, because by far the majority of new businesses are ones which are selling a product or service which is similar in many ways to their competitors. For these businesses creating their uniqueness is another step on the way to success.
And just in case you are thinking that the innovators have it easier than you, consider this. It can be hard to become established when you are offering something completely new because although you have uniqueness you have to spend time educating the market and developing their desire for your new product or service.
If your business fits into this category of having uniqueness already then you can probably skip down to the section on telling everyone about your uniqueness. For everyone else, please keep reading so I can explain uniqueness to you and help you to understand how it can be created.
Creating and promoting uniqueness is what makes a successful business
Uniqueness allows you to offer a product or service which will appeal directly to your target market and make it easier to get repeat business.
When a product lacks uniqueness it becomes a commodity and the profitability of it’s sales will be dependent on the total market. For example, milk powder is sold around the world as a commodity and the price that a company like Fonterra will pay it’s co-operative owners for the milk which they use to make it is dependent on the price paid at global auctions for the powder. Fonterra cannot attract a premium price because all the milk powder is seen as the same – there is no uniqueness.
If your product or service or brand is not perceived as having any uniqueness then your target market will simply compare it to all your competitors and may to decide to buy elsewhere. But if they believe that your offering has uniqueness and gives them benefits that they perceive as important then you will become their preferred supplier of those benefits.
What’s interesting is that those benefits do not have to be attached to the physical attributes of your product or service but can also be based on views or values that your potential customers have and want to see mirrored in the things they buy.
Most of these customers don’t buy based on price. They buy because they see value – that is the benefits they receive compared to the price they need to pay. The higher the value to them the more they are prepared to pay.
An example here would be the type of coffee that consumers buy in cafes. Surely coffee is just a commodity and people are likely to buy the cheapest one available. But no, benefits such as the taste of various beans and blends, those beans being organically grown or bought in fair trade, being offered different types of milk, the convenience of it and all the other benefits that consumers look for mean that the range of prices for coffees varies enormously as does the popularity of various cafes selling them.
When a business creates and then promotes uniqueness they will not be compared to all of their competitors but will be judged by their target market against that customer’s perception of value. And that is what makes a successful business.
Unique means only one
About now many new business owners are happily making lists of all the different factors they can utilise to be different. Whoa there, unique means one of a kind so you need to focus on just one factor which you will use to make your business stand out and it can never be more than one. Of course your business may have many factors which are different from your competitors but you need to focus on just one which you are going to promote. And yes, I did say just one. Not a couple but just one.
And before you point out that this means it may not appeal to everyone let me say that it isn’t meant to appeal to everyone. What makes a successful business is knowing that you cannot appeal to everyone in the market so you select the markets you want to be strong in.
Let’s have a look at a few examples so you will see what I mean.
Toyota manufactures and sells cars – millions of them but in the luxury car market they have branded themselves with the name Lexus (which sounds like luxury) and they promote it’s uniqueness by advertising Lexus not Toyota. The owners of these cars talk about owning a Lexus not a Toyota and pay very high prices for the value they believe they get from owning one of these cars.
In the supermarket business Pak’n’Save have a uniqueness which is that you pack your own groceries which reduces their costs and means that you save money on the cost of your groceries. They refer to their business as No Frills and promote this idea heavily through their advertising using a black on yellow stick figure. In advertising terms you don’t get fewer frills than that. Not everyone shops at Pak’n’Save because of convenience, location, availability of products etc but those who do shop there because they perceive they will get better value. They understand the uniqueness and support the company. This is Pak’n’Save’s target market.
You will also see examples of uniqueness in your local area. Perhaps it is a café which is child friendly and promotes this and you know it is successful because it is always full of parents and children. Or maybe it is a retail store that dresses it’s window in an exciting way and attracts people in because the products offered are so tempting.
Uniqueness can be anything including a logo, a tagline, a catchy title you give yourself, a social cause, an environmental cause you support, colour/ packaging, a different way of presenting something or a hundred other ways of standing out from your competition.
So how do you set about creating your business uniqueness?
You need to start by knowing your competitors. Some of these will be direct competitors selling a similar product or service and some will be indirect competitors selling different products or services from yours but targeting the same consumer dollars. For example, if you start up a new bowling alley then you will be competing with other bowling alleys but also movie theatres, fun parks and anywhere else that the market may decide to go and spend their entertainment dollars.
To know your competitors you need to research them all carefully by checking out their online presence across their web pages and social media and if it is possible then also visit them to see what they are promoting as their uniqueness. Of course you will also find that some of them don’t promote any uniqueness at all – that will make your unique presence in the market even stronger. And having a unique presence is what makes a successful business.
Now you can look for gaps that will enable you to be different from all of them. You don’t want to be seen as comparable to them – you want to be different – unique.
You also need to really know your customers or potential customers. How much do they spend on the category you are entering? How do they choose the places to spend it? What are the benefits they perceive that they get for their dollars? Would they change their spending and what would convince them to do this?
It probably seems difficult to find this kind of information but there is considerable information already collected and publicly available from websites such as Statistics New Zealand. Or you can research yourself on line and it truly won’t be as hard as you might think to get the data you need but it will be immensely valuable when it comes to promoting your business’s uniqueness.
Now you need to put together a heap of ideas
Once you know your customers and your competitors it is time to brainstorm as many ideas as you can on what your uniqueness could be. It really helps to involve others in this because then you will get a much better mixture of ideas.
Invite some friends over for a uniqueness event. Explain your problem and get them to contribute ideas. Friends love to help and they are unlikely to be offended if you don’t use their idea – especially when they see how many ideas you collect.
If you’re not sure how to get the ideas flowing then check out authors such as Edward De Bono, Malcolm Gladwell, Ken Hudson, Seth Godin and Tony Buzan who have all written about creative thinking and problem solving.
You need lots of ideas so you can remove any that your competitors are already using and still have plenty to choose from.
Remember to include every idea that everyone thinks of without judging them too much at this stage. Don’t miss out on a great idea because at first it seems a bit strange.
Make the big decision
Once you have your list then you need to decide which one you are going to focus on. It’s a big decision but hopefully one or two in particular will stand out and you can choose the one you feel most comfortable with.
That’s because your uniqueness needs to match your vision and mission for your business as well as matching the prospective customers you will attract with it. This uniqueness is going to be with you for a long time so you need to be really comfortable that you will be happy to promote it. You and your uniqueness need to match and if you have staff (or plan to in the future) then you will need to ensure that they believe in it too.
Once you have chosen your favourite idea you should test it out on some target customers and see how well it works and what they think. Remember, uniqueness is about standing out in your customer’s minds so it’s really important that it works for them.
Once you have your unique element you need to explain it
One of the interesting aspects of this process is that once you have decided on your uniqueness it will start to seem very obvious to you but your customers won’t figure your uniqueness out – you have to explain it to them. And it’s this explanation which will ensure that you really stand out.
To go back to an earlier example of Pak’n’Save supermarkets we can see that they have put their uniqueness in their name but they also promote and explain that their customers save money by doing adverts with comparison shopping.
You too will need to explain to your customers what your uniqueness is and how it works for them. You need to create the perception of uniqueness in their minds and that will allow them to value your product or service differently from everyone else in the market. And importantly, you will also need to show them how they will benefit from your uniqueness.
And it doesn’t matter if your uniqueness is a physical element, a price element or an intangible feel-good element because your difference will confirm the value to your target market.
Keep telling everyone, all the time about your uniqueness
All your promotions, advertising, online posting and every other way you communicate with your market needs to include your uniqueness. You must be consistent and persistent in ensuring that the most important element which makes your business unique is talked about all the time. Not just occasionally when you remember but all the time.
You can only stand out in your customer’s mind if you remind them every time they see your brand that you are unique and special and valuable to them. Only you can bring your uniqueness to life.
Consider your logo, your tagline, your brand name, your colours, your clothing, your vehicle, your website, your facebook page, your shop or premises, your packaging – yes absolutely everything which can be used to stand out from everyone else in the market.
And once you claim your uniqueness you are likely to find that your competitors leave you to it. It is as if you have taken control of that element and they will usually find other marketing ideas to focus on.
A perfect example of this is McDonald’s Happy Meals. These were hugely successful for them yet no other competitors have ever successfully imitated it. McDonalds control the market position of children’s fast food meals with a toy and it remains unique.
Equally you will know of businesses which started out promoting their uniqueness but then let it go. Domino’s Pizzas used to tell people all the time about their short delivery time and their guarantee. They stood out in people’s minds when they wanted hot pizza delivered quickly. They no longer promote this and for many in their target market they have become just another pizza place.
Here are the steps to creating uniqueness
- Start with your competitors and check out their uniqueness (or note if they don’t have it).
- Check out your target market and find out what matters to them.
- Collect together as many ideas as you can.
- Select the best fit for the market and for your vision and values.
- Explain your uniqueness carefully and simply.
- Promote your uniqueness consistently and persistently. Own it.
- Make sure that you maintain a unique position in the market forever.
If you don’t believe me check out your own spending habits
Hopefully I have convinced you that creating uniqueness for your business and promoting that uniqueness will give you an unfair advantage because it is what makes a successful business. But if you still need some convincing then take some time to consider your own spending habits. Focus on the brands that you buy regularly and consider what uniqueness keeps you coming back to those brands.
You will no doubt have very different reasons for selecting the various brands that you support but if you are buying from successful businesses then I am sure that they will have “sold” you on their uniqueness.
This is particularly obvious in any high value items or services we buy but can also be seen in those small buys which are always of the same brand.
If you buy products and services based on the uniqueness of the brand then be assured so will hordes of other people and once you establish your brand’s uniqueness then you will receive the same loyalty.
Creating uniqueness for your business will take time but the long term value you will gain by putting in the effort now will be a great reward. Focus on how much easier it will be to find and retain customers when you ensure that your brand stands out in their minds when they are ready to buy and, you can have a lot of fun being creative and beating your competitors.
So now you know what makes a successful business – time to get cracking.