3 ways to create a strong competitive differentiator

Alice Hollis

Alice Hollis Ltd. - More than words®

So what do you want to be famous for?

A simple enough question, but the answer might not be what immediately springs to mind.

For example, as a copywriter you might think I want to be famous for writing great copy, but I don’t. I want to be remembered as someone who made you smile – although equally happy if you remember me as the cake lady!

Creating a strong competitive differentiator is all part of your brand – it’s the thing that makes you different to everyone else.

Think of it as a safe space where you play alone and without the threat of someone constantly want to take your things.

If I asked whether you would rather:

  1. compete against every other IT consultancy offering ‘best of breed’ technology.
  2. compete against yourself because the customers trust your people more than the tech.

What would you choose?

In my experience there are 3 tactics you can employ to create a strong competitive differentiator:

1. Living your values

Firstly, do you have any? It doesn’t matter how small your company (I operate as a company of 1) you need some company values. These are the things that you commit to living and breathing every day and the things that help guide your decision-making process.

Secondly, do they live in every aspect of your business? Present in every message, every piece of content and every touch point in your customer journey? Or are they just something pretty you stuck on a wall or printed on a notepad for the company update?

For example, my brand, more than words®, is born from the desire I have to not be ‘just another copywriter’. People choose me, which makes me feel really happy – so in return, I commit to going above and beyond at every opportune moment to make them happy in return.

I do this through:

  • walue 1: embracing my quirkiness. Whether that’s my random ideas, choice of glittery heels or freshly baked cakes at every meeting, my aim is to make people smile.
  • walue 2: continuous learning. My brain is like a sponge so I’m always seeking out new insights to better myself and my clients.
  • walue 3: Happyness. From random acts of kindness to daring to be brave in the pursuit of something new – and of course, purposefully misspelt because things don’t always go according to plan!

2. Say no

This can feel really scary at first, but it’s very empowering and it’s healthy for your business.

If you’re constantly saying ‘yes’ to everything, you get stuck being ‘busy’, which then means you’re likely to miss a really exciting opportunity when it comes your way.

I remember starting out in the wonderful world of freelance, I was approached by an agency that was looking for a copywriter. It seemed like an incredible opportunity – a retainer that would guarantee work every week. And the MD even conceded to my demands, summing up our meeting by saying:

“So you’re saying that you’re only prepared to work 2 days a week rather than 5, that you’ll work the hours you want rather than office hours, and you’ll work from home rather than our offices.”

But ultimately I turned it down because in my gut it didn’t feel right – and the next week I landed an incredible opportunity that literally had me jumping with excitement.

As any good marketer will tell you, marketing is about excluding people as much as it is including them.

So make sure that your content and promotional efforts are targeted towards the people you really want to work with, and that you qualify hard to ensure that every opportunity you land perfectly fits the vision you have for your business.

3. Be consistent

One thing that astounds me about the freelance community is how genuine these people are. Most of them I’ve met online, usually through Twitter chats or the social communities.

To me, they’re a tiny picture in a little circle where I only get to read their comments and replies rather than chat over coffee.

And then when we finally get to meet at industry conferences, they’re exactly the same in person as they are online – the only thing that surprises me is the accents!

If you want to be known for something, you have to show up and always be the same, regardless of whether that’s in-person, on your website, on social media, via email…

Every time you present yourself in the same way, it reinforces the perception people have of you and ensures you do not disappoint.

For example, it sounds stupid, but if I failed to turn up to a client meeting without glittery heels it would be remarked upon.

Over time, you’ll start earning a reputation. Think Friends episodes, you’ll be “The one where…”.

You’re probably not going to be “The one where I’ll get a great cloud migration” because you’ll be something bigger and better – something your customer values more…

“The one where they remember the small details, like my dog’s name.”

“The one where we have chocolate biscuits in every meeting.”

“The one where I can grab a desk in their office whenever I pop into Newbury.”

Fancy a second opinion?

If you’re thinking about how to strengthen your competitive differentiator, I’m more than happy for you to use me as a sounding board.

I might not be a specialist when it comes to branding, but I’ve supported plenty of other companies through the process in the past and created my own!

I’d love to hear your ideas…

What do you think?

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