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How to differentiate your business and gain a competitive advantage
by Sue Barrett

With business comes competition. Itís not enough to demonstrate that you can deliver what the customer wants. You need to look beyond what everyone else is doing. Position your product as clearly different and better than the competition.

Differentiating your business can also help your company from becoming stagnant. You constantly want to be improving your services so that you can attract new customers Ė as well as keep the ones you already have.

learn what your customers want

Discover what your customers want, and what your competitors donít offer. You really need to understand your customers Ė and this includes potential buyers as well. How do you find this information? Ask your customers!

Differentiating your business from the competition requires looking at your business in another perspective Ė from your customerís shoes.

Online discussions and chat rooms can be a quick and easy source for gathering first hand information from customers and prospects. You can also put together a simple survey or questionnaire to get feedback on ideas and issues pertaining to your business.

Listen to your customers. New and different ideas are healthy for business. Even a small, simple change can significantly increase profits if it targets your customersí wants.

analyze your competition

Differentiation makes your business memorable and credible. You want a prospect to be able to quickly and clearly understand what you do and what sets you apart from your competitors. So letís look at our contenders to see what weíre up against:

 

- Who are the major competitors in your industry?
- What product line does each offer?
- In your industry, what are most companies in competition about?
- What are the specific strengths of each major competitor?
create product differentiation with creative techniques

Incorporate features that deviate from the average characteristics of your industry. Focus on features that achieve what your customers want Ė and youíll be able to cause buyers to choose your brand over others. Increase the VALUE or your product or service, but more importantly, make sure that your customer perceives that increased value. The more difficult it is for your competition to copy your idea Ė the better.

This type of sales positioning will work best when:

(1) there are several ways to differentiate your product or service and 

(2) the buyer can use your product or service in different ways.

Think out of the box. Go against the norm and adopt a bold approach to doing business in your industry. Focus on an aspect that you believe your business can uniquely excel at. Examples of values and benefits:

 

bulletSuperior service
bulletGreater product availability
bulletHigher quality
bulletBetter performance
bulletIncrease intelligence
bulletGreater durability
bulletRespected image / prestige
bulletTechnology leadership
bulletSatisfaction guarantee
bulletLower cost
bulletFaster delivery
bulletMore customer support
Save time and money! Itís important that you understand your customerís desires before you develop your differentiation strategy. Some things to be careful of:

 

- Make sure that buyers perceive your productís features as a benefit
- Donít raise your prices too high and drive away customers
As part of the marketing strategy differentiating your business is an ongoing process. The marketplace is always changing. Donít be afraid to change with it Ė just do it in your own unique way.

Sue Barrett works for HomeBusinessCenter.com and has helped hundreds of entrepreneurs successfully start their own home-based businesses. For more information about resources in this article, visit www.homebusinesscenter.com, email Barrett at editor@homebusinesscenter.com or call 877.678.6571.

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