It's hard to be completely unique. In fact, most successful ventures are only partially unique, different, or innovative. Unless you’ve moved into full-invention mode, it’s likely someone has created a version of what you are doing as a business, service or product. It’s likely that there are multiple people doing something very similar to you at the same time, on the same block, or around the world as you are. I’d even venture to say that if you can’t find something similar to your venture, it’s a sign you’re at one of the extremes: you’ve hit on something amazing, or you have a complete dud.

When the challenge of looking for ways to add "uniqueness" to your similar looking business, I recommend applying design process to areas of your business. Design can be the great differentiator. Here are three simple ways to apply design to your venture…aka hiring a designer or creative professional to help you uniquely stand out in similar spaces as your competition:

1. Competitive Visual Audit
Have a designer collect competitive and/or inspiring imagery, products, and collateral from a range of competitors, or other brands you like.  Then compare design attributes like colors, messaging, imagery, branding and analyze the collection to identify possible voids in the market, or opportunities for differentiation. For example, things like a better name or logo, or color scheme to stand juxtaposed to competitors in your space. To optimize this exercise, create a list of questions to ask as the results you’ve collected are compared. Questions like, "why do I like this brand better than that one?" or "What color could I own in peoples mind, that others don't?"

2. Create an Identity System
Even though the baseline for a solid corporate identity system is a memorable and easy to spell name and logo, a good designer can take your identity further by creating a defined application system for applying it to a range of items like; transportation, apparel, signage, web site, and collateral. This will give you a more unique, confident, consistent, and professional effect in the market place as the brand grows, and new opportunities arise. This effort can prove flexibility in your brand and give you a guide for brand extension. In some cases this application system can create a following of fans, and even an identity your employees or customers can identify with and rally around.

3. Brainstorm Brand Hooks
Spend a few hours with a designer or design team, and tell them what you’re about. Tell the designer what your consumers are like, what motivates them, what problems you’re trying to solve, and what you like and don't like about other brands, or your own brand. Make sure you add a white board and challenge the designers to help you come up with marketing hooks or "differentiating features" that you can incorporate, or even own to improve your company.

As more companies, services, and products become commodities, the need for uniqueness is important to stand out in your market. Working deeper with designers can help you find ways to differentiate your business, rise above the competitive noise, and often creates intellectual property and extra brand value.  It’s worth the investment.