Forty years ago, I managed a shoe store. In 1979 store staff waited on customers, measured feet, suggested styles, retrieved shoes from the back room, removed the customer’s shoes, and then slid the new shoes on their feet. I’m not making this up. The store was in a mall, and between other shoe stores and department store shoe departments, there were 27 places where a consumer could buy shoes. With 27 competitors, how can any single brand stand out? How can you differentiate your brand?

What differentiated us from our competition was we had fun. We threw shoes across the store to each other, joked with customers, and generally had a good time. It was a niche that worked for us. We were one of the top stores, of any type, in the mall. Here are ten ways you can differentiate your brand.

How to Differentiate Your Brand

  1. Create a niche

Like the story above, create a niche that sets you apart. What have your competitors missed in marketing, customer service, or product? Fill in the blanks.

  1. Build trust

Most consumers, whether B2B, NFP, or B2C, are looking for providers they can trust. Let prospects know how long you’ve been in business, share accreditations, training, and awards you’ve received. Publish and post testimonials from satisfied customers.

  1. Solve problems

If you want to capture someone’s attention and set yourself apart from your competition, solve problems.

  1. Reinvent the wheel

There’s a family of fish found in Pacific waters called Slimeheads. Although the fish is rather tasty, there was little demand for it. Let’s face it who wants to eat a Slimehead? There was virtually no market for Slimeheads — that’s until marketers began calling it Orange Roughy.

  1. Be easy to work with

Don’t make potential customers jump through hoops to work with you. Make your website user-friendly and mobile accessible. Teach sales and customer service that the customer comes first. Are you easy to do business with?

  1. Under promise and over deliver

I recently had an excellent customer service experience where the customer service rep informed me the action would take five to seven days. It didn’t take five days. It took three. Had I been told it would be delivered in one day and received it in three, I would have been upset. Delivering the product ahead of schedule made me an advocate for this company.

  1. Let your personality shine

People don’t connect to businesses they connect to people. Add some humanity and personality to your marketing, web copy, and advertising.

  1. Play hard to get

There’s a tortilla restaurant in my neighborhood that has grown from a small shop with four tables to large scale eatery. It’s almost always full. The first time I visited the original shop several years ago, I waited in line and ordered a specialty tortilla only to learn they were out of that flavor.

The counter person pointed out a board with the day’s menu. Next to each type of tortilla was a number. When it reached zero, there were no more for the day. Like I said, they moved to a bigger location, and it’s getting crowded.

  1. Show your expertise

Are you an expert in your industry? If so, share it. Publish content — blogs, case studies, white papers, and guest posts. Create how-to videos. Offer to be an expert for local media, print, radio, and TV. Differentiate your brand.

And the number one answer is, drum roll, please … Unify your brand

Your brand should be instantly recognizable whether a prospect sees a print ad, finds you on LinkedIn, browses your website, or sees your product packaging. Case Study: Unifying a Small Business Brand. 

So, Are You Ready to Differentiate Your Brand? 

Are you ready to take on the challenge and set your organization apart? If so, chose one of the 10 differentiators above and make it happen.

How Can I help You?

I like to help people and organizations, but I have three criteria I consider before taking an assignment – I believe in what the organization stands for, I know I can help, and it looks like fun. If you have any questions, Contact Me. 

Does your business have a  management training plan? Many organizations, large and small, use my book, The New Manager’s Workbook a crash course in effective management, as the basis for their leadership development program. I’m also available to conduct training.

If you liked this you might also enjoy, How to Recognize Your Competitive Advantage.

Photo by Raka Rachgo on Unsplash