The old adage, “If you’re not first, you’re last,” couldn’t be further from the truth when it comes to business success.
Being first-to-market may have its advantages, but long-term success is not a race — it’s how you make a product or service better than that of your competitors. “Better” can mean anything from the product or service itself to customer service, pricing, or marketing strategy.
We asked entrepreneurs from the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC):
“If you’re not the first in your space, how do you rise above the competition and differentiate your company from the other businesses that do the same thing?”
Here’s what YEC community members had to say:
Offer Lower Prices
“This is our company 100 percent. We beat everyone’s price. Nobody can beat us. If you’re looking to differentiate yourself from your larger competitors, you need to cut the price or have a MUCH better service. We decided to cut the price. It’s working well so far!” ~ Peter Daisyme, Hosting
Focus on One Thing
“If you find your company is not in first place in comparison to your competitors, a method of differentiation is to focus on one aspect of your business product/feature and make it the best in your space. The second step is to market the focused product/feature explaining how it is better than your competition.” ~ Phil Chen, Systems Watch
Improve Upon Customer Feedback
“Just because a company is first in your space doesn’t mean everything about them is good. Look for what the customers say and keep an eye on finding the strengths and weaknesses in the space. Once you identify the strengths and weaknesses, get creative and innovate, helping you differentiate yourself from the crowd and offer a solution consumers are seeking.” ~ Stanley Meytin, True Film Production
Differentiate at the Strategy Level
“I’m a consultant, and anyone can offer the same types of services. But not everyone can provide the same level of strategic planning I do. There are lots of consultants and some are better than others. What sets the great consultants apart, regardless of their niche, is their strategy. My strength is in strategy and executing the strategy. What’s your strength? That’s your differentiating factor.” ~ Nicole Munoz, Start Ranking Now
“Doing what everyone else does is comfortable and ‘safe,’ but stir some controversy and do something drastically different! It takes courage but focus on one thing you think others are doing incorrectly, or not doing at all, and consistently demonstrate how you’re bucking the trend. Then, shout it from the rooftops in all of your marketing and communication.” ~ Dan Pickett, Launch Academy
Be Deep, Not Broad
“If you’re a second — or third — mover, you’ll be playing catchup to some extent. Instead of trying to match the existing players feature-for-feature, focus on the few most important features and make them obviously and substantially better. You’re going to win over clients not by checking off feature boxes, but by creating a superior experience for the things your users want to do most.” ~ AJ Shankar, Everlaw, Inc.
Market Your Individuality
“Your business branding should be focused on showing potential customers how you stand out from similar companies. Emphasize these aspects of your business’s identity and your customers will take note.” ~ Simon Casuto, eLearning Mind
Communicate That “The Battlefield Has Changed”
“In mature or crowded markets, one of the key ways to sell against established competition is by convincing the customer that the landscape has changed. ‘Product A may have met your needs before, but your needs have changed and our product understands that.’ This method is in play everywhere from CPG (Progresso attacks Campbell’s with ‘ready to eat’) to cars (Audi trashes ‘old luxury’) to media.” ~ Jack Hanlon, Kinetic Social
Create a Niche
“Even if other companies provide the same service or product, you can create a niche by targeting a specific customer group. Decision makers are more likely to purchase the product/service if it is specific to their industry versus general. So, figure out how you can speak directly to one customer group, determine which features/benefits/messages apply to them and communicate directly.” ~ Angela Harless, AcrobatAnt
Make Your Core Values Reflect Something New
“In the business of luxury mattresses, I’m faced with several competitors who produce good, high-quality products for the same market as me. However, I am the only one who emphasizes the green technology that goes into making my products. By planting a stake in the ground in advocating for environmental protection, I make my values known to my customers and stand out from the crowd.” ~ Firas Kittaneh, Amerisleep
Emphasize Your Unique Strengths
“For our company, we lean on four differentiators. First, we promote our unique investment thesis and our superior customer service, including response time to inquiries. We also have a unique business model that differentiates us from other companies. And finally, it’s important for us to show that we are investing and more than just a manager.” ~ Jeff Carter, Grand Coast Capital Group
Clearly Define Your Added Value
“Think of yourself as a potential client. What would make you choose your company over your competitors? How is your business relevant to your market, and where does it stand out compared to the current players? Do some research on your market and industry trends, and use this information to determine your added value. That will be your competitive advantage.” ~ Alfredo Atanacio, Uassist.ME
Look Into Other Industry Leaders
“It can be extremely helpful to look into other industries than your own and see what their leaders are doing when trying to differentiate. Even if you are not in tech, you can still look at Apple’s business plan and marketing strategies and utilize them in your own way. Looking into other industry leaders may open your mind outside of the ‘box’ of what your competition is already doing.” ~ Miles Jennings, Recruiter.com
Define Your Purpose
“You know what you do, now figure out why you do it. This ‘purpose statement’ transcends industry, creates company culture and defines your brand. How can you infuse this into the everyday behavior of your employees, your customers and the public? Look at Zappos, Tesla, Apple — the why creates an emotional connection so that you aren’t defined by your industry, but by something much more impactful.” ~ Jennifer Blumin, Skylight Group
Focus on Quality of Process
“You can really beat your competition by making it easier to do business with you than with them. Consider things like their refund policy, satisfaction guarantees or any other barriers to doing business that they have in place. Check reviews to verify if those barriers are a pain point with consumers, and if they are, streamline or remove them in your own company.” ~ Dave Nevogt, Hubstaff.com
Rise Above Image via Shutterstock
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Wonderful post, to reflect best ways which can actually help in staying ahead in race. As improving upon customer feedback is the best foot forward for not only impressing loyal customers, but making a name in industry.
great tips except lowering price. Don’t confuse being busy with making money. Dropping price can often diminish your value in the marketplace, paint a picture of low value, attract the wrong customers, and tie up time with price shoppers and deal seekers who can be demanding.
Great post. Staying ahead the pack is what makes the difference even though keen competition is very healthy for business. What to do appears so simple that one wonders very quietly why everyone is not doing it.
Differentiation is KEY to move ahead in all mature, competitive business environments. Of course, assuming culture values differentiation. While differentiation will get your customers through the door you then need to use another strategy to keep them in and coming back: price? Service? Process? atmosphere?,….