There’s never been a more crucial time to differentiate your business, whether you sell on Amazon, drop ship, own an e-commerce store, or even if you’re in SaaS. Technology has greatly reduced the barriers to starting a business, meaning you can only expect the competition to become even more fierce.
If there’s nothing differentiating what you and your competitors offer, buyers will only focus on price. From there, things can only go downhill as prices race to the bottom and profit margins become vanishingly small.
Brand positioning is what saves you from looking — and hence having to charge — like everyone else. The way your business differs from others tells potential buyers how and why you’re the right choice for them.
The goal of brand positioning is to create a unique impression in a potential buyer’s mind so that the buyer associates something specific and desirable with your brand that is different from your competitors.
There are a lot of positioning frameworks out there, but I particularly like the one offered by strategic planning consultant Victor Cheng in his book The Recession-Proof Business. Cheng says the best positioning makes a unique, compelling and credible offer to a potential buyer. To figure out how you can stand out from the crowd you need to ask yourself three questions.
1. How do I make my offer unique?
The first step to avoid being like everyone else is to stop telling your buyers what everyone else is. Saying you’re “the best” at something doesn’t mean much if everyone else is saying it. Neither does “free” or “fast” shipping if all your competitors promise the same thing. Brands discover their uniqueness by focusing on the who, what, where, why, when and how of their offer.
Who do you serve? Consider that Infusionsoft and Convertkit both offer email automation services, but Infusionsoft markets to businesses and Convertkit markets to bloggers.
What do you offer? Netflix and Crunchyroll both offer streaming services, but Crunchyroll focuses exclusively on anime.
Where do your sales happen? Human sells healthy food products through vending machines. Graze sells theirs only through the postal system.
Why do you do what you do? TOMS sells shoes to make needy kids happy. Zappos sells shoes to make customers happy.
When do you fulfill? Amazon and Alibaba both sell products but Amazon offers same day delivery, compared to Alibaba’s 7-to-30-day delivery time.
How do you do what you do? Gillette sells shaving products. Dollar Shave Club sells the same thing only as a subscription.
2. Is my unique offer compelling?
Uniqueness itself is not magic. When you’ve discovered the different ways you can make your offer unique, the next step is to discover which of those offers your customers would like best. In other words, they need to value what makes you different.
In the end, your unique offer has to be something potential buyers genuinely care about. The key to making your offer compelling is to solve a problem that your buyer already knows about and wants solved, and then to solve it in a way that it creates a real, tangible benefit to them.
WordPress provided a content management system long before HubSpot got into the market, but HubSpot became a billion-dollar business by differentiating itself with services that supported sales and marketing teams. It was able to charge more for that difference because it solved a burning pain point for businesses looking to get content onto the web.
Talk to your customers. Pay attention to their pain points. Then make sure your unique offer provides a true solution.
3. How do I make people believe my unique offer?
Your unique and compelling offer means nothing if no one believes you. Credibility is what leads your buyers to finally take action. For your offer to convince people you need to provide proof that it will deliver results. There are several best practices for creating credibility.
Show customer testimonials. If potential buyers see people like them getting results from your offering, they are much more likely to believe it can do the same for them.
Get specific. Generic, commonplace promises like “We offer fast shipping” simply do not cut it anymore. Everyone’s offering fast shipping. Drill down to specificity with your offer. Domino’s Pizza made a fortune from its promise to deliver pizza in 30 minutes or less.
Offer a free trial. While predominantly found in SaaS, this strategy is slowly moving into ecommerce — especially for subscription based products. Let your buyers try your product for free first.
Guarantee your product. If you are confident your product will do what you say it does, prove it. Offer customers a money-back guarantee. Moreover, a guarantee brings fence-sitters over onto your side of the ecommerce landscape.
Differentiating your brand doesn’t have to be complex, and the benefits can be amazing. Stop shrinking your profit margins to compete. Instead create a unique, compelling and credible offer for your buyers. Stand out from the crowd!