Everybody knows that. The problem is that almost everybody thinks they are different. It doesn’t seem to matter whether someone is selling software, professional services, or cars: Everybody thinks they’ve got something special to offer. In their minds, they’re unique. But not everybody sees them that way, and there are two groups of people for whom this is a big deal.
If you’re trying to win customers you’ve got to give them a good reason to come to you. Being slightly different from the competition isn’t enough. If there’s really no difference between you and a competitor, why would someone choose you?
Being two percent faster or three percent more efficient isn’t enough to separate you from the competition. Sure, there are economies of scale that can work in your favor, but most people (and other businesses) aren’t looking for something that’s incrementally better. They want something that’s significantly better.
Being cheaper than the competition doesn’t work, either. There will always be someone who is willing to work a little cheaper. Getting into a price war is a losing proposition.
Local loyalty doesn’t count for much either. Despite peoples’ protestations to the contrary, customers don’t always remain loyal to their local suppliers. And if you plan to scale your business—really take off with it—being local could actually work against you.
What does drive customers to a business? And what keeps them there? Solving their problems in a way that nobody else can. That means getting into the heads of your customers and finding out what they really struggle with. It means discovering what they think will make them successful—and delivering it. That is different. That makes you stand out.
Your customers, however, aren’t the only ones for whom you need to stand out. We all know that attracting and keeping the right employees is absolutely essential to business success. But guess what? There’s a lot of competition for the best employees, too. Why would the brightest and the best choose to work for your company? What makes you stand out to them?
Sure, your compensation needs to be competitive. You’ll never save your way to success. But money alone isn’t enough of a motivation. The kind of employee you really want is motivated by being part of something significant, something different—and increasingly—something that will make a difference. Does your corporate culture exhibit that? Do people coming into your company have a sense that they will make a contribution and that you’re open to (good) new ideas?
Your culture is about more than an occasional pat on the back or a certificate or a Starbucks® card as a reward (although, there’s nothing wrong with those things). What motivates the kind of employees you really want is when they can look back and say: “I helped build that!” That’s different. That’s part of what can make your business stand out to employees.
Is your business really different? Ask you current customers and your current employees to tell you exactly why you’re different. If they can’t give you a clear answer, you’ve got some work to do!