How you can make your business stand out in a competitive market

If you’re a small business in a competitive industry, then trying to stand out from the crowd can feel impossible. Without a who’s who of industry contacts, or a budget the size of the national debt, making your voice heard in a competitive niche may seem harder than getting a place on Richard Branson’s space voyage.

Standing out from the crowd means there’s something about your business that makes customers remember you. That means your business has to be different. Making your business stand out means thinking of a way to make your business different to everyone else’s.

1. Price differently

Price is a difficult nut to crack. It’s probably not in your power to be the cheapest in your market, and the last thing you want is to start a race to the bottom. But there are several ways that you may be able to create a “different” approach to pricing that will help your business stand out.

a) Give something away for free

Free is a special price because it starts a relationship between you and your customer that is not entirely transactional. Take advantage of the power of free.

b) Be the most expensive

SME Publications/ SME XPO 2024

Companies love to be the cheapest, but it’s much easier to be the most expensive. If you’re backed by the right product, show that you’re better than your competitors by costing more than your competitors.

c) Let customers pay differently

You can keep the same price structure and still stand out by enabling customers to pay in a different way. Accept digital currency or adopt a “pay what you want” policy to make your business a place that people talk about.

2. Build a different product or service

It’s very difficult to make it as a me-too product. If your product is not noticeably better or cheaper than your competitors, then you’re going to have a hard time succeeding. The best way to stand out from the crowd is to design a product or service that solves a problem. Of course, this is easier said than done but don’t think that you have to reinvent the wheel. Look at new concepts and innovations and think about how they can be applied to your business, rather than trying to create something from scratch.

3. Create a different customer experience

People remember exceptional customer experiences and they forget average ones. Look at your competitors are see if there are any ways that they are leaving customers unhappy. You can make a name for yourself by being the first one to address these problems. Customer reviews are your friend here. Seek out one-star reviews and see if you can devise a way to way to turn pain points to your advantage.

4. Look different

If you have a shelf full of products that are more or less the same in price and function, then the most recognisable product wins. This is the sole reason why companies plough millions into marketing; they’re paying to be picked over their competitor. Take your product (or branding) and put it in a line up with your competitors. Brace yourself, and then be honest – is it immediately obvious to anyone with a brain what your product does better than everyone else’s? If not, then you’re not standing out from the crowd.

5. Target a different audience

I’ve saved the best until last. Companies spend a huge amount of time thinking about how they can improve their products. But in my experience, they don’t think nearly enough about how they can improve their audience. If you can find a new market, then you’ll stand out from the crowd simply by turning up and acknowledging their existence. Think about potentially underserved age groups, incomes, lifestyles… Think about selling your product in a whole new country before everyone else gets there.

Paul Edge is director of Cruise Club UK

SME Publications/ SME XPO 2024