Differentiating from the competition is one of the most difficult tasks for a brand to face. And whilst the big-hitters like Microsoft, KFC, Virgin and the likes have all managed to carve out a place at the top, it’s much more difficult for smaller businesses to stand out in a saturated market. 

But that’s not to say it can’t be done. The good news is that there are many ways for brands of all sizes to stand out and stay one step ahead of their competitors. Let’s take a look at a few. 

Provide good customer service

Some people think customer service only matters when you provide a service. But that’s far from the truth. The reality is that top-quality customer service should be present throughout a brand’s communications. Whether we’re selling a product, dealing with a complaint, answering an email, or simply representing our brand at a networking event, we should always strive to be helpful, friendly, and approachable. 

Apparently one third of people would rather clean a toilet than deal with a business’s customer service department. That’s hardly promising. But it suggests that most people have very low expectations of customer service, which you can actually use to your advantage. All you need to do is strive to make your customer service excellent, then it’s highly likely that people will not only remember your brand, but think highly of it

Communicate your differences

What better way to stand out from the competition than by simply telling people what makes you different? Whatever it is, identify the niche you cater for then let people know about it

Maybe you’re more reliable than the competition, cheaper, better quality, or just friendlier. Whatever makes you different, make an effort to communicate it effectively. Weave it into your marketing and PR. Then customers will begin to automatically differentiate you and champion what makes you unique. 

Make offers

This may be more of a short-term strategy, but offering discounts and deals is an excellent way to stand out.

This can work equally well whether you sell products or services. Discounting products and services, or running special promotions, provides a powerful incentive for customers to choose you over your competitors.

Be honest 

Honest is, as they say, the best policy. And as consumers in the 21st Century, many of us have grown cautious of the claims big businesses make about their products and services. Everyone says they’re number one — “we’re best at this”, “you can’t beat us at that”. But surely not everyone can be the best at everything

One way for brands to stand out, then, is to simply tell the truth. That doesn’t necessarily mean disclosing glaring holes in your business model, but just being willing to admit when things go wrong, or own up to weaknesses.

This idea is summarised perfectly by Avis’s famous “We Try Harder” campaign. In fact, that sort of approach even has its own name: underdog advertising. 

So if there are areas your brand could stand to improve in, and you’re honest about those shortcomings in an endearing way, it could actually work to your advantage. 

Communication is key

Many of the pointers above revolve around good communication. By simply establishing positive lines of contact between ourselves and our customers, we can elevate our brands to new levels of  excellence in customer service and experience. 

Another, subtler, way of achieving this is through networking. By meeting new people, making connections, and sharing our brand’s story face-to-face, we can expand our social/professional net. If you’d like to brush up on your networking skills, take a look at our previous post on how to make great impressions at networking events.