Winnie Hart, an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member from Houston, is the co-founder of Twin Engine, a strategic marketing and brand strategy firm. We asked Winnie about the importance in standing out when growing your business. Here's what she had to say.

My sister, Lorrie, and I are identical twins. Being identical twins, we know a lot about the confusion and frustration that comes from a lack of clarity when things look the same. Until our late teens, we were known as one person: "Winnie-Lorrie" (that's one word) or "The Little Twins." It has taught us a simple truth about differences and standing out. When you look at identical twins, what do you think? How are they different? What makes each of them unique?

We live in a world that appreciates and expects individual differences in appearance and behavior. So when we encounter two identical individuals (like Lorrie and myself), this experience challenges our beliefs about the way we look for differences in people, companies and brands. Of course, identical twins are never exactly alike, and some differ in profound ways. Yet we can't stop comparing them and trying to find the differences that help us tell them apart. By taking a closer look at twins, we can learn a great deal about the concept of differentiation. By looking past what's simply intriguing, we can learn about how we perceive differences in anyone or anything. When I look at my twin, I can experience how others view me-- and actually see myself from outside of myself.

From first-hand experience at refining our individuality throughout our lives, we've perfected the ability to perceive distinct differences in other people, companies and brands. This is the difference between success and failure in today's overcrowded marketplace where businesses are failing due to their lack of ability to clearly communicate what makes them distinct from the competition. You may have a solid business strategy and plan, an excellent product or service, dedicated employees and a rock star sales team--you may be doing all of these things right--but if you don't stand out, you lose. So, given that most competing products look almost identical, a failure to differentiate yourself and communicate your value propositions with fresh and compelling messaging can be a critical factor in a marketplace where the competition is both ever-present and growing daily.

Back in the day, marketers would try to reach consumers at home as they watched television or read newspapers, but now advertisers reach consumers in real-time, trying to catch their attention at every turn. It is absolute sensory overload as companies press harder to make their brands stand out. The internet and global media have drawn every industry in to international focus. With these changes come expanded opportunities and exposure.

If a company does not tell its own story, someone else will create one for them. We know that familiar and trusted brands have the ability to cut through the clutter-- especially when a prospect needs the product or service that it offers. Consider Uber, Panera Bread, Warby Parker, Southwest Airlines or Starbucks, to name a few. The obvious question is: How does a brand become familiar and trusted? And for emerging businesses, how can they stand out from their competitors in a way that people learn to know and trust them? The answer is distinction.

As business leaders, if we focus on what makes each of us distinct, prospects will not be confused by all of us looking the same. We will each stand out and operate from our distinct advantages-- those talents, qualities and values that define who we are as individuals and as businesses. The secret to gaining distinction is to influence prospects by being who we are, operating from a foundation based on purpose and working from a position of confidence about what differences we can make in people's lives.