How to differentiate your business from its competitors

How to differentiate your business from its competitors

There are several simple steps you can take to make your business stand out from the crowd, says Lidia Rumley, brand consultant and founder of The Brand Storyteller.

1. Be clear why your business exists and what its purpose is

Lidia says: “Create a brand story which captures the meaning behind your brand - your purpose, your passion, not just what you do but how and why you do it. It is no good just coming up with a set of branding buzzwords to put out to the world; you need to back that up with credible details that prove you are what you say you are. Look at it as the ‘about us’ section of your website - think about why you started the business and be clear what your mission, vision and values are. It could be that you have identified a great gap in the market, or that you want to change the way things are done.”

2. Give your brand a strong personality

Lidia says: “People want to know what to expect from your brand when they engage with it, so it is important to define a strong personality for your brand which will create an emotional connection with the people you want to reach. This is what helps to encourage people to stop scrolling, Googling or looking for further solutions.”

3. Identify your audience

Lidia says: “You need to understand who your audience is because you will not be able to communicate effectively if you don’t know who you are talking to. Don’t just broadcast about yourself to the world; communicate the problems that you solve for your customers. That is important because they need to recognise themselves when they land on your website or social media. They need to feel like, wow, this is speaking to me. If they feel like you are communicating with them in a way that resonates, they’ll be much more likely to buy from you.”

4. Be consistent in your communication

Lidia says: “It is really important to be consistent in what you say and how you say it. If you have previously been focused on talking about the quality of the shoes you sell and then you suddenly have a rant about something political on social media, for example, that will feel quite jarring for your customers. They may not make a conscious decision to interrogate why you were saying what you said, but if something feels off, they will instinctively jump away quickly because there are so many other brands calling for their attention. The problem with being inconsistent is it is then much harder to win those people back, because their lasting impression is that something wasn’t quite right and that breaks trust. Small businesses today have lots of ways to talk to their customers – through their website, social media, PR, email newsletters – but what is important is that you speak to them in a consistent way so that people develop trust in your brand. So don’t veer wildly in your messaging or in your tone of voice.”

5. Focus on amplifying what makes you different to your competitors rather than what you makes you similar

Lidia says: “Lots of businesses will try to be like another brand; they will look at The White Company, for example, and think I know, I will do something fantastically calm and minimalist and people will love it because it is very on-trend. But then it is very hard to separate your business from that. So always focus on what is different about you rather than what is the same if you want to stand out.”

6. Don’t obsess over what your competitors are doing

Lidia says: “It is important not to be blinkered and to have an idea of what others in your field are doing, but it is more important to put your time and effort into doing what you are doing well. If you can create the right messages that resonate with the right people for your brand, you don’t really need to worry about what somebody else is doing; there will be a place for you out there.”

7. Don’t be too aggressive

Lidia says: “If you try to suggest overtly that you are doing something better than your competitors, it can come across as being defensive. You can be the right fit with lots of different people; you don’t need to try and steal customers away from your competitors.”

8. Keep your messaging simple and repeat it several times

Lidia says: “Don’t try and tell people too many things; have a small series of messages that you reinforce time and time again because consumers don’t necessarily make a decision about something the first time they hear it, they need to warm into those decisions. So have a small number of messages and reinforce them on a regular basis so you can start to embed them into your customers minds.”

Three things that businesses can do right now

1. Get a big sheet of paper and start writing down anything that you think could be a part of your brand story; you can sift through and put it into a more cohesive order later

2. Think about who your customers are, what you are offering them and how they fit into your story

3. Focus on what makes you different rather than what makes you similar

Lidia Rumley is the founder of The Brand Storyteller.

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