It’s never been more important that brands take proactive steps to stand out from their competition, as otherwise they run the risk of failing to optimise their market share and losing custom directly to rivals.
The question that remains, is how can businesses in competitive markets ensure that their proposition stands out in the minds of consumers?
Here are some ideas.
- Determine a unique proposition and market this tenaciously
Before you start to sell your product or service to anyone else, you have to sell yourself on it. A USP gives a great deal of clarity to your business model, what your company does and why you do it. It’s the glue that holds your team together. It’s the force behind your company’s growth. It’s what your customers remember you for. It’s why your customers choose you, over your fierce rivals.
Does brand advocacy ring any bells? Word of mouth marketing (WOM) is one of the most powerful forms of marketing, and a well-defined USP can help to build a base of brand advocates – in other words, people who speak favourably about your brand or product, and pass this message onto other people.
To define a USP, you will first need to develop a greater understanding of your brand and its proposition, so that marketers can help you create a truly effective strategy that reflects your identity.
This is where your brand’s values come into play, as by clearly defining these it is possible to create a unique proposition that is unlike any other in the market and capable of resonating with customers.
Detail is key here, whether you rely primarily on your brand’s identity or a couple of unique selling points that relate directly to your products (or services).
You will also need to have a deep understanding of your marketplace and target audience in order to understand the demand and conversion trigger points in the customers purchase journey. A USP can be the make or break with these trigger points, and this is the area where most SMEs fail to capitalise.
Not all small business owners have the knowledge or expertise to define this strategy which can help to shape your marketing campaigns to the right audience, at the right time. That’s where strategic marketing consultants can come in handy to layout the fundamental rules of marketing and help to define clear and targeted marketing strategy to increase the ROI on your marketing spend.
Ian Kirk, consultant and owner of marketing consultancy business, Opportunity Marketing, tells us what a USP exactly should mean to businesses.
Ian said, “A USP should be short, sharp and to the point. Get across how it will benefit the buyer in a way which the competition isn’t and you will soon find a greater number of enquiries coming in and, arguably more importantly, a much higher conversion rate.”.
- Humanise your brand and develop its personality
If you do choose to differentiate your company by developing a brand identity, it is crucial that you focus on creating a relatable persona that humanises the business.
This is something that has worked particularly well in the financial services sector, which suffered considerably in the wake of the Great Recession as banks and lending institutions lost any sense of unique appeal in the eyes of customers.
The Bank of America was one of the first institutions to combat this, initially by responding directly to the needs of their customers and striving to forge better consumer relationships by humanising aspects of its service. This subsequently made their customer’s feel more like humans, creating a unique proposition in a market known for its cold, concise and uniform treatment of consumers.
So, by building a brand persona that is built on core values, it is possible to humanise your business and increase your market share accordingly. Remember, people connect with humanity and human values that they can relate to, so leveraging this can be a purposeful tool in industries that have become over-populated with staid and similar marketing propositions.
- Become a thought leader in your market of choice
While it may be tempting to dismiss thought leadership as a classic example of business jargon, it is in fact a key marketing weapon for brands who wish to differentiate themselves in their chosen market.
In fact, this tactic can even be successful if every single one of your competitors follow the same path, as the key lies in your execution and how effectively your target customers with your content.
To understand this further, you simply need to look at the online shoe firm Zappos.
After all, this is a brand that has positioned customer service at the centre of its culture and business model, transforming this into a low-cost and high-return marketing channel.
Referred to by Seth Godin as a ‘scalable way to delight’ that speaks to customers when they are at their most engaged with the brand, it has established Zappos as a thought-leader in the evolving field of customer service.
There are other ways to achieve this too, with the cultivation of insightful content and training videos one of the most accessible. Producing conversational podcasts is also an excellent way to inform and engage customers, particularly with this medium having experienced growth of 23% in 2016.
While you will ultimately form a unique approach that reflects your brands, just remember to identify the core channels though which to target specific consumer segments and tailor your content for each one.
- Engage in disruptive marketing and create a brand new value proposition
Historically, the word ‘disruptive’ has not had positive connotations, but this has changed in the field of marketing during recent times. This is thanks to the emergence of disruptive marketing, which leverages innovation or a brand-new value proposition to displace existing methodology and operational tactics in a specific sector.
Make no mistake; this is an exceptionally effective way of standing out from the crowd, primarily because it actively positions a brand at the opposite end of the spectrum to their competitors while affording them a unique selling point.
One of the best examples of this is the progressive lending outlet Zopa. Formed in 2005 as a way of tackling high interest rates and diminishing returns in the financial market, it created a peer-to-peer lending platform that revolutionised the entire sector.
This brand has also made disruptive marketing a key part of its long-term strategy, with plans to redefine its customer service proposition and even open a next generation bank in the years ahead.
The lesson here is clear, as disruptive marketing can enable your business to stand out from its competitors so long as it continues to offer a strong value proposition to customers. It also helps when adopted as part of a longer-term strategy, as this outlook gradually becomes the key attribute of your brand’s identity and a unique proposition to present to customers.
The last word
While anyone can tell you need to be bold and different if you are to stand out from your competitors in a crowded marketplace, identifying practical ways in which to apply such a mind-set is easier said than done.
The tips that we have shared here should help you to bridge the gap between theory and practice, while enabling you to create a unique position for your brand without compromising on its ability to reach traditional or mainstream customers.