There are a lot of advantages for being the first to market: name recognition, popularity, and momentum. But what about if your product is the fifth to market? Or the fiftieth?
Just because other organizations provide a similar product or service, doesn’t mean you can’t find positive and impactful ways to cut through the noise. Here are a few ways to stand out in a crowded marketplace so that your marketing makes an impact.
“If people like you, they’ll listen to you. But if they trust you, they’ll do business with you.” – Zig Ziglar
Think of the last person who stood out to you while you were walking down the street. Was it a business person in a suit hurrying by? Probably not. We tend to take note of human interactions. Those who make eye contact and smile warmly, or give us a passing friendly compliment.
Do all of your competitors “speak corporate”? Do their emails and communications seem lifeless? This is a great opportunity to differentiate yourself by speaking to your customers in a more relatable and human tone.
Be conversational in your messaging, and speak as you would with a peer or friend, rather than using jargon or “management speak.” If your communications come across as warm, human, and inviting, you’re more likely to leave a positive impression, which is always great for business.
This is a good time to look at every touch point you have with customers. Conduct an assessment of your confirmation emails, receipts, invoices, 404 pages, and newsletters to find ways to improve the tone and message. Every touchpoint is an opportunity to leave a positive and lasting brand impression with people who interact with your organization.
Find your niche
“If everybody is doing it one way, there’s a good chance you can find your niche by going exactly in the opposite direction.” – Sam Walton
There’s an overarching drive in marketing to reach larger and larger audiences, as quickly as possible. But when this strategy is applied to how we identify potential customers, we tend to make critical and costly errors by going too broad. In an attempt to be relevant to a wide audience, specific solutions that would be useful to smaller audiences are ignored in favor of a watered-down broad message, which appeals to few.
There isn’t one message that appeals to every possible market segment for your business, so focus on creating unique messaging that appeals to a series of specific needs or problems. For example, if you were marketing a bank, you wouldn’t use the same message for your business loan clients, safety deposit box clients, and checking account clients — they all have different reasons for visiting your bank. If they all receive the same message, they would all feel like you “didn’t understand their needs” or “didn’t offer what they needed.”
Instead, focus on one market segment and address their needs and wants, and scale out to other similar niches and segments as you grow. Focusing on one niche could give you enough traction to pursue other markets, snowballing into a much larger organization than if you had tried tackling them all at once. Sometimes it’s better to be a big fish in a small pond.
Find a purpose
“True happiness… is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.” – Helen Keller
The world has had enough of soulless corporations. What can you do to make the world better? Committing to purpose rather than profits can go a long way in differentiating brands from one another. While socks, salad dressings, and shoes might not sound like industries that drive an impactful change in society, even these industries have rock stars who stand out due to their purpose and message.
John’s Crazy Socks is a business founded by John Cronin and his father. John, who holds the position of Chief Happiness Officer, has not let Down Syndrome hold him back from running a wildly successful sock company, specializing in unique and humorous patterns. A portion of every sale goes directly to a variety of causes such as the Special Olympics, The Autism Society of America, & the National Down Syndrome Society.
Newman’s Own salad dressings was founded by actor Paul Newman and has proudly committed to contributing 100% of profits to charity since their founding in 1982, an overall sum of nearly $350 million. By focusing on charity, Newman’s Own stands out as a way to make a positive change in society with what would be an otherwise uneventful grocery purchase.
Tom’s Shoes first marketed their shoes with the memorable phrase: “One for One”, meaning one pair of shoes were donated to a 3rd-world country for every pair purchased. The shoes are priced similarly to other men’s and women’s shoes, but are sought out specifically for their positive social impact they drive. This approach has resonated well with socially minded consumers, who have built Tom’s into nearly two-thirds of a billion-dollar brand in just 12 years.
Consumers are getting smarter and more socially aware when they spend their money. By aligning your company’s success with the benefit of others, your brand can stand out as a contributor to the community, while improving its brand equity. But remember to be authentic in this. More and more companies are cause marketing. Your efforts need to matter to stand out.
Focus on providing value
“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole.” – Theodore Levitt
While many companies focus on the features & functions of a product, many times they miss what the user is trying to do, or what they hope to gain from a purchase. Peter Drucker said it succinctly: Focus on the value you add and not the service you perform.
By focusing on the problems you can help with, you can connect at an emotional level with other people facing the same problem. Demonstrate how your product will solve a problem, make their life easier, or help them save the day, rather than how a product performs a specific task.
If you can empathize with your target audience, and show them how your products can improve their capabilities, you’ll leave a positive impression compared with other vendors looking to just sell a substitute good or service.
While vibrant advertising, big budgets, and even a colorful mascot could help you stand out visually, consumers are looking for business leaders to stand out in more substantive ways. By focusing on interpersonal communication, social responsibility, finding your niche, and providing value, you can stand out by creating positive brand equity that others want to be a part of.