Do you think you have an utterly unique product? Here’s the truth; you probably don't, and that’s not a bad thing. Some of today's most successful products aren’t all that new, original, or unique. True, you need to be innovative and flexible to succeed, but you don't have to reinvent the wheel.
The classic example is Google. Larry and Sergey didn’t invent the search engine, yet the one they came up with is generating billions of dollars in profits.
This is because it differentiated itself from a sea of other search engine competitors over the years. It did this not so much through its capabilities ... but by how it was presented. This is the type of approach you have to take in marketing your brand in order to stand out. So, if you want to truly differentiate yourself in a crowded market, here are six tips to help.
1. Be Human
Businesses tend to forget that customers are human beings — and human beings like to buy from other human beings, not faceless companies. In the face of social media automation strategies and big data, the human factor tends to disappear sometimes. You need to be as human as possible, which means focusing on authenticity, trust, and passion.
Of course, being human doesn't have to be difficult. If you've forgotten how (we all forget sometimes), here are a few tricks to try out:
- Don’t take yourself too seriously and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
- Create an “About Us” page that isn’t stuffy and full of business jargon. Write personal tidbits about your staff members, like favorite films, the most common error they make, and what they’re passionate about.
- Showcase photos or videos of your team members being one thing: themselves.
- Engage on social media. Don't shout. Instead of using social media strictly as a promotional tool, converse with your followers and ask and answer real questions.
- Sign off social media messages or emails with your name to show there’s someone behind that computer monitor.
2. Focus on Relationships
People who build brands for a living often tend to believe there’s only one or two ways to build relationships in the current digital landscape: social media and emails. But remember, people don’t buy from companies, they buy from other people. Every business owner should be personable and focus on building and maintaining relationships with clients, whether they’re one-time shoppers or longtime buyers. Unsure how to start creating long-term, lucrative relationships with your customers? Here are some tips:
- Communicate early and regularly. Create unique and engaging welcome emails for both your marketing lists as well as your customer.
- Reward your customers with customized discounts and genuinely special deals. Just look at Starbucks, which reported a 26 percent jump in revenues and an 11 percent spike in profits due to its rewards program.
- Ask for feedback. Audiences feel valued when they know their opinions are actually seen and appreciated. This can be done through a customer survey or an open-ended email.
- Be honest, especially about your mistakes.
3. Talk to Real People
It’s easy to forget to talk to real people. Let’s face it: every day we’re looking at statistics, perusing case studies, and reading articles about how to connect with our customers. Well, it’s time to set aside the numbers for a few minutes and start real conversations. I often recommend placing “conversation starting” on your to-do list each day.
A stupendous way to accomplish this online is through social monitoring software. I recommend platforms like Hootsuite, Sprout Social and Meltwater to see what people are saying about you so you can chime in. There are more unconventional methods you can use as well, such as MyBlogU, a free blogger collaboration platform that lets you brainstorm with other blogging and marketing professionals. You can also use Medium to interact with fellow contributors by inviting them to your draft to brainstorm, edit and improve the overall quality of your story.
By speaking with genuine individuals, you can spark new ideas, solve problems creatively, create innovative content marketing materials, get help with research, and even locate interesting, hard-to-find graphics.
4. Show Yourself
Don’t be afraid to show yourself. And, when you do show yourself, demonstrate how you’re different from your competitors. A great way to do this is by writing the way you talk. Developing an authentic voice that cuts through normal business jargon sets you apart and makes you memorable. Second, offer value through online networking by making it a point to be available on Facebook and Twitter to answer questions and provide service.
Third, showing yourself can be as simple as utilizing free tools like WiseStamp in order to create your own email signature. Include elements like your picture, company logo, social media links, or even one of your favorite quotes. Reports indicate that this simple addition can improve email open rates, boost social media followers, and enhance conversion rates.
5. Read More
What’s the best way to stand out from a crowded market? Read more. Seriously, that’s all. Just read. I find that I get FOMO if I don’t keep up with changes in marketing techniques. So I read. Regular reading has also proven to boost intelligence, improve creativity, increase empathy and enhance brain power. All of these are crucial to succeeding in the world of business.
Even Doug Edwards, Google’s first director of marketing and brand management, echoed this advice, saying, “I tried to absorb all the information I could from outside so that occasionally I could contribute a perspective that was different, without being completely idiotic.”
6. Build on Your Strengths
The best way to stand out is to take what's already working for you and do it more. Many people are strong at identifying personal strengths. But how can you do the same in your businesses — especially online? Don’t be fooled by vanity metrics, such as registered users and raw page views. Wins, strengths, and “what's working” are all measured mainly by one thing: conversions.
Optimizely is one tool I’ve found that helps to hone in on this. This service lets people who don't have technical expertise make changes to their site so they can test how visitors react, see which variations work better, and maybe even get results right away.
TrenDemon is another product that lets you see your strengths. From blog posts to landing pages to subscription signups, this company finds the paths and pages in your site which convert best. Then, it automatically engages users with content and custom CTAs based on each user's real-time activity. In other words, it takes some of the guess-work out of what's working by identifying your site's most profitable customer journeys.
Whether or not you use a tool online, the point is to build on your strengths by analyzing the content and strategies that are most effective. This, along with staying up on trends, adding a human touch, and focusing on relationships will help you be that one trusted and reputable brand customers turn to.