Differentiation, competition, positioning… call it what you want, but the thought of someone else doing the same thing you do for the same people is enough to send shivers down the spine of many a creative and entrepreneur.
It doesn’t have to, though. Re-framing competition and differentiation as something that works for you, rather than against you, is one of the best things you can do for your business.
Here are 4 ways to make differentiation work for you:
1. Market Validation
The fact that competition exists in your market is a tremendously good thing: it means there’s already a market and demand for your services. Let’s face it: your business exists to make money, so it’s good to know there are customers who want what you offer. Embrace the fact that you have competitors to differentiate yourself from, because if you didn’t you probably wouldn’t have a business.
2. Remember How You’re Special
Lots of entrepreneurs will tell you that competition doesn’t exist. While that’s not true – by definition if someone else is providing the same services as you competition does exist – you can easily make competition irrelevant by demonstrating the unique strengths and traits that make you, well, YOU. And when you sell yourself rather than your services you make your competitors a moot point because only you can be you.
Sometimes, though, you might find it hard to remember what makes you special, or simply find it difficult to communicate it to the world. After all it’s not the most natural thing in the world for most people to go around telling everyone how great they are. However, it’s relatively simple to look at your competition, remember how and why you do things differently, and build that into a story you can share with potential clients and customers. And sharing that story is what will differentiate yourself from everyone else which helps your best customers find you.
3. Understand What Customers Value
Just as your competitors can help you differentiate yourself, they can also help you understand what the customers in your market value. Paying attention to what’s working and what’s not for everyone, not just your business, multiples the information you have on hand to make decisions around what direction you want to take your business.
This works both ways: not only will it uncover potential opportunities you might want to pursue, you’ll also notice competitors doing things that end up attracting the exact opposite kind of customer you want. Take note to ensure you don’t mistakenly do the same.
4. Cut Your Risk
Let’s face it: as an entrepreneur you’ll constantly be faced with decisions around whether or not to take risks, chase trends or change how you’re doing business. Frankly it can be exhausting. Especially when the decisions you’re facing aren’t all that exciting to you and instead feel like just another something you have to figure out.
Why not cut out some of those decisions and risks by allowing your competitors to figure it out for you? If there’s a trend you’re not immediately sold on or a new business model you’re intrigued by but not ready to jump in on with both feet, look for a competitor who does. Watch them, see what happens and make your decisions based on what you observe.