Setting Yourself Apart From Your Competitors Isn't As Hard As You May Think If You Follow These 7 Critical Steps

You have a product. You’ve identified your preferred customer demographic, and you’ve determined your general pricing structure. Now it’s time to move on to developing your brand (and possibly yourself) to take on your strongest competitors. They’re big and successful, and you’re just starting out. And that is your greatest strength. You’re flexible, lean and starting fresh, and you’re going to take advantage of their weaknesses.

But let’s face it, every niche, by mere definition, has limitations. There are only so many people looking to buy organic dog food at six times the average price. Just as, there are only so many new parents looking to teach their infant how to swim (it’s a successful niche). So how can you seize an advantage over all your competitors who are hustling for the same share of the same piece of consumer dollars?

Deep breath in. This is easier than you may think. It all comes down to differentiating your brand – setting it apart from everyone else and clearing through the white noise even in the most crowded marketplace. Find, demand and focus that spotlight of buyer’s attention on your product. 

Emulation is the sincerest form of flattery or at least that’s what all the copycats say, but I assure you, set yourself apart starting with your first impression – your website.

Many competitors start a business using direct emulation. They create a website that looks almost like a pale clone of the original and customers notice these things (also it’s fairly obvious). 

Tap The Market of Your Competition Without Being a Follower

You look at your competitors websites, and you see how they present a similar good or service. You see the colors they use. The word choices. The descriptions. You probably even have watched their videos marketing and introducing their product that you’re now competing against. Read and watch everything they have three times. Write down the major points that stick out to you – those points are your strategic baseline. You now have your foundation of selling. Everything else they do must become part of your DON’T strategy.

If your competition uses calming, muted colors as part of their brand identity – you must go bold without reservation. If they have a colorful and lively web presence, you must make yours monochromatic. Color and branding is the first stage of differentiation.

What MailChimp Taught Us About Branding Against Competitors

When MailChimp hit the scene they didn’t try and emulate their competition with dark muted tones that projected seriousness and confidence. They opened with yellow – lots and lots of yellow. As their competitors had serious, sleek and professional logos, MailChimp elected to go in a different direction – a cartoonish chimp.

Now, MailChimp has surpassed nearly all of their initial competitors in sales and brand recognition because they took the path that had not been taken. They took a risk, and you must as well.

You’ll need to establish yourself as a leader in your field – a trendsetter. When competition zigs, you immediately zag and you don’t look back.

Know Your Competition Inside And Out

Write up a list of your competition – the top three to five, and identify their strengths and weaknesses. An easy way to do this is to take some time and browse review sites (Yelp, Facebook Reviews, Google, Trustpilot, etc.) and take note of complaint trends among their customers.

Product issues, service issues, reputation problems, shipping or overall logistics, etc. Write them all down and once completed write out how your business will take advantage of those weaknesses and establish them as your strengths. You’ll want to save this for later use because these same issues will become important marketing points as you move forward.

Focus On The Weaknesses of Your Competitors

Everyone has a weakness, and many of us have more than one. You’re going to use the weaknesses of your competitors as your service benchmarks and your marketing narrative.

If your competitor is known for below average customer service – you become known for going the extra mile to satisfy every customer. You respond to every negative or less than average review without going on the defensive. Show you care and openly target your amazing service and integrity in your digital advertising. Let it be known that a new competitor has risen, and this one pays attention to its customers.

  • Be active on Twitter and respond to customer issues within thirty minutes for the entire world to see.
  • Respond to all reviews, especially negative ones, on Yelp, Facebook, Google, Trustpilot, etc. within 24 hours.

But above all else, avoid being ordinary.

Ordinary is boring. Your competitors are ordinary – you must be something more.

If your boring competitors with lackluster service charges $70, you should consider charging more while providing a better experience. That type of pricing strategy does work, provided your product is of equal (or preferably superior) quality and value.

Develop and Adhere To A Brand Identity With Personality

To stand out in a competitive market, you must develop your brand identity with disruption in mind. Be different and be bold.

One of my favorite examples is a real estate agent turned reality TV star named Fredrik Edlund. Fredrik is the top producing broker in New York City, which I assume isn’t easy to achieve and sustain. How did he do it in such an overly crowded marketplace? By being different and being bold. Fredrik is physically imposing at 6 feet and 5 inches tall and though that could create issues of intimidation, it is Fredrik’s personality that sets him apart. He has a thick (sometimes changing) accent from Sweden that he leans into when the situation requires it.

Fredrik’s flamboyant; jumping around as if he’s unaware that he’s 6 foot 5. His personality is playful and big and bold and as such he’s attracted a massive New York following in the real estate community, and he’s propelled himself to the top for years.

How can your brand be more like Fredrik Edlund? 

Is Your Marketing Memorable and Bold?

You probably think I’m going to pitch a viral video and if you can create one and market it that’s great, and we can help (if you’re a ServerWise client). Most videos don’t go viral, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t powerful and very effective. They put you and your brand out for the world to see.

Any or all of the above will start getting you some brand recognition without spending a fortune on advertising. Of course, your ads should use a network that your demographic uses daily. For example, if you’re selling an expensive anti-aging eye cream, we would not advise you to waste valuable ad dollars on TikTok or Snapchat.

Push Into Content Marketing

Content is one of the best ways to market almost any business. We have ServerWise clients that have used content marketing to triple their business in a little over a year in niches that you’d never think could benefit from it – like a local lawn care company.

Find your voice and develop content that people want to read, watch and share. The more content on your site and the more often you provide fresh content the higher your authority ranking on Google and Bing. 

Now this strategy takes time to develop properly, but you’ll start seeing results in three months and in a year with consistency you’ll be ranking higher than your competitors and develop a strong following.

Please keep in mind that content must be original and conversational. Write (or hire a writer) articles that are informative, with your relevant keywords dotted in organically. Don’t push the keywords – too many keywords and Google will lower your rank because its search bot considers your site to be full of fake content designed to manipulate search rankings.

Just as important, you want to make sure your content is worthwhile. When a person clicks into an article on your site, you want them to stay and read it. If they click off your site right away, it raises your bounce rate and Google will punish you for that. Every new article can increase your credibility if done properly.

Become An Authority In Your Sector

Get your name and likeness and brand out for the world to see. Post on Facebook and Pinterest and Twitter regularly. Keep your blog up to date and fresh including updating or removing any old posts that are no longer relevant (yes it hurts, but it’s necessary). 

The moment you become a recognized expert in your product category, your sales will increase dramatically. Customers gravitate to credibility and authority.

Create and Market Your Own Unique Value Proposition

All the bold marketing and niche expertise is irrelevant if you don’t have a worthwhile product or service. Many businesses make the mistake of developing a product without a clear demographic in mind and without discussing the importance of knowing their own value proposition.

What you’re selling must go well beyond a simple product or service for a set fee. Sure, that’s the foundation of any successful economy, but the foundation of a successful brand development is to understand that you’re not just selling that product – you’re selling everything it can and can’t do.

You’re selling the extra time your product affords a busy person. You’re selling the lifestyle that your luxury item conveys. Not only that, but you’re selling the respect and side glances and head nods from women that your men’s product commands. And, of course, you’re selling your service and expertise and care because you put your customers first and alleviate any issues that they may have. And you’re known for that, so they know they can trust spending a bit more on your product over your boring and plain competitor’s similar offering.

Picture of J. Fleischmann
J. Fleischmann
James is a content strategist, sites manager and copywriter for ServerWise. He's written 51 e-books for clients resulting in over 600,000 new leads as a ghostwriter. James lives in Texas with three dogs and has a Longhorn as a neighbor.