The following answers are provided by members of Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.
1. Focus on Your Major Differentiator
Find the biggest thing that makes you different and triple down on it. Build the product around it. Make your marketing all about it. Tell your investors about it. You may love four of your other major features but lead with the differentiator every time.
2. Find Your Niche
There will always be competition—always. But how you pivot, adjust, and move yourself away from your competition will be what makes you stand out. Find a smaller, more defined market if the other guy is going after everyone. By strategically targeting a smaller group in a smarter way, you’ll inevitably stand out and secure your place.
3. Get Your Customers to Share Their Wins
The best companies don’t have to toot their own horn because they have a band of satisfied customers doing it for them. So rather than playing keep-up with your competitors, get your customers to share their wins publicly and with their friends. The company with the most satisfied, vocal customers wins.
4. Get User Feedback
Have people (friends, family, etc.) try out your product or service to better understand what people like/dislike and how they feel that it differs from what’s already out there. Get suggestions on changes, too. It also helps to know what your competition is doing. What makes them unique? How have they found success? What can you learn from their successes and failures?
5. Research Your Target Audience Thoroughly
When you have a deep understanding of your target market, you’ll know how to approach them, appeal to their wants, and show how you’re different from the crowd. Make sure to position your business as a trusted business adviser and not just a salesman trying to make quota. Also, research your competition to learn how you’re different/better, and use their weaknesses to get your foot in the door.
6. Focus on Your Value
Understanding the competition is useful, but it won’t help you build better products. To grow your business, focus on understanding your market and the value you bring to it. Keep these first principles in mind, and use them to create great products. Apple succeeded not by chasing after its competitors, but by understanding what its customers wanted and sparing no effort to bring it to them.
7. Tell a Different Story
As a small company in a competitive market, it may be difficult to compete with pricing or marketing. However, it is possible to be competitive with branding. By developing the story and spirit behind your brand, you can compete with large companies using a relatively small budget.
8. Stop Worrying
If you are spending time worrying, the competition is going to gain additional ground on you. While I pay attention to what I can offer that’s different, I don’t dwell on it. Instead, I start putting those messages in the content that goes out in campaigns. I also look to see if we can further develop other features that can increase the distance between us and the competition.
9. Bring More of Yourself to the Business
If your business is growing, you’re on the right track. In a crowded market, you’re limited in the number of ways you can differentiate yourself –- whether it’s price, add-ons, or otherwise. The one thing that no one else can copy is you. Bringing more of yourself to the business can help build trust and cause more people to want to do business with you. Content is one of the main ways to do this.
10. Find Influencers to Talk About Why They Like You Best
Nothing is a better differentiator than someone who is admired by the masses talking about why they prefer your product or service over any other in the market. Even if your product is close to other products, many audience members will take the word of influencers over any other criteria.
11. Be Aware of What They Are, and Promote Yourself as the Opposite
Similar to college football recruiting landscape, there is no perfect school. Every school has ammunition to downplay their competition’s strengths and accentuate their own. Likewise, in the business world, be the opposite of your biggest competition. It’s a big market out there, you’re bound to attract some that share your values.
– Andre Chandra, I Print N Mail
12. Define and Maximize Your Unique Selling Proposition
Have an impactful USP that your audience can identify with as being the best solution to their problem, and make sure you are the only one that fits this proposition. What is it that sets you apart from the competition that no one else can duplicate? This is also known as the competitive advantage. Be specific.
– Thomas Mello, A1 Garage Door Service
BusinessCollective, launched in partnership with Citi, is a virtual mentorship program powered by North America’s most ambitious young thought leaders, entrepreneurs, executives and small business owners.