Business differentiation: Finding your uniqueness, niche, onlyness…

Differentiation is the ability to stand out from the competition in this overly cluttered marketplace. You cannot succeed in this marketplace by following the leader and providing me-too products and look-alike services. To stand out, you cannot be slightly different, but you must be dramatically, boldly, radically different. In the words of Doug Hall, author of Jump Start Your Business Brain, “When you offer a dramatic difference, you increase your odds of success by 353 percent.”

How can a business differentiate itself from its competitors

Differentiating a business is a concept that is easy to understand but often difficult to accomplish. You cannot achieve differentiation in a vacuum. Sitting alone in your office, trying to envision a difference won’t work because “you can’t read the label when you’re inside the bottle”. 

Instead, differentiation can best be achieved by brainstorming with a diverse group of employees, customers, vendors, and fellow small business owners. The group is simply looking for the answer to one or more questions, “What can we do that no one else does? What consumer problem can we solve that no one else has solved? What niche can we occupy that will distinguish us in the marketplace?”

In Portland, Oregon, Jenny Nguyen solved a problem and found her niche. She and a friend went to the local sports bar intending to watch an NCAA Division 1 women’s basketball playoff game. The local pub had multiple televisions tuned in to various men’s sporting games, but Jenny and her friend couldn’t convince the bar owners to tune into the women’s basketball playoff game.

Motivated by this negative experience, Jenny opened a sports bar dedicated exclusively to women’s sports. After being turned down by traditional funding sources, she launched a Kickstarter campaign and generated over $105,000 in less than a month.

Jenny’s pub is the only sports bar in the country that provides nightly viewing of women’s sports programming from numerous streaming sources. She reached out to various women’s sports leagues and streaming networks to get permission to play their content in her bar. She formed various agreements with the: 

  • Portland Thorns 
  • Just Women’s Sports, a national sports media company 
  • ESPN3, an on-demand sports channel 
  • Oregon Ravens, a Women’s National Football Conference team 
  • ATA Football, a service that provides live and on-demand streaming of women’s football.

Jenny’s mission has paid off, with women’s sports fans filling her pub to grab a drink and enjoy a game with family or friends. She made one more brilliant marketing decision; she named the sports bar, The Sports Bra.

Business author Marty Neumeier urges you to complete this sentence to find your uniqueness, or as he calls it, your “onlyness”: “Our brand is the only _____________ that___________. 

  • In the first blank, put the name of your category (web design, car repair, or accountant).
  • Then, in the second blank, describe your difference (specializes in websites for the dental industry, repairs cars overnight when customers don’t use them, concentrates in small business accounting with extensive advice and counsel).

Let’s see how The Sports Bra would complete this exercise: “Our brand is the only sport’s bar in the country that provides extensive access to viewing women’s sporting events while enjoying a drink with friends and family.”

There are other attributes to a good idea. First, does your new idea solve a problem that will make people’s lives easier? Does your idea solve this problem better than other products or services in the market? If other products are available to solve this problem, can your product provide a better solution? Secondly, is your idea scalable? Can you expand your concept to other geographic areas or other target markets? Finally, can you expand your idea and monetize it in multiple arenas?

Once you have a business niche that’s dramatically different, we’d be happy to share our 78 years of experience to design, fabricate, and install a sign that visually tells your story, and attracts customers.

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