Journalists love unique stories, controversial news and innovative ways of doing business. Companies that have unique value propositions and differentiated products and services can attract attention their way, and this creates more consumer awareness.

Standing out can be as simple as having compelling offers such as free one-day shipping; money-back guarantees; double or triple rewards points; free airline or hotel upgrades. Or producing truly visionary products like Tesla's Cybertruck or when Steve Jobs first introduced the iPhone back in 2007.

In a crowded marketplace, differentiation is a strategic advantage. Here are ways to differentiate from your business competitors.

Make Your Offer Compelling

Steve Jobs said that "Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower." Compelling companies are the talk of the town: The buzz allows the business to gain momentum and grow sales.

However, producing an irresistible product or service is anything but.

CEOs can be intimidated to pursue bold visions like constructing the biggest structure in a city, or designing low-cost space vehicles, or manufacturing the most tech-advanced vehicles in the world. Such endeavors are perceived as risky and expensive. Also, when starting a new venture most business owners add one or two product features that nearby competitors aren't offering: Simply adding features is not compelling enough.

Elon Musk, Richard Branson and other business influencers generate millions of dollars in free publicity for their companies, where other organizations must pay for it. Aside from media attention, compelling offers gain widespread consumer interest. And the word-of-mouth excitement often spreads online like wildfire.

Management should strive to be one of the top companies in an industry, as well as seek employees, partners and investors who share the bold vision. As the saying goes, go big or go home.

For instance, the Ghermezian family immigrated to Canada from Iran in the 1970s and brought a biggest-is-best strategy in the mall industry. Led by Yonah Ghermezian, Triple Five Worldwide owns and operates Mall of America (Minnesota, USA) and West Edmonton Mall (Alberta, Canada) which are identified as the two largest shopping complexes in the world by Guinness World Records.

In 2018, the family opened American Dream Meadowlands. The New Jersey mall spans over 3 million square feet, and houses the largest indoor water theme park in the Western Hemisphere. The extreme size of the malls enables the company to attract shoppers and tourists from every corner of the globe, something regular malls can't do.

Climb the Reputation Ladder

"It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it," said Benjamin Franklin.

In the age of social media, news of controversial behavior or statements can spread globally in seconds. Thanks to digital platforms, personal and business reputations are more transparent and available than ever. Climbing the reputation ladder means having better brand prestige than your competitors, and having a workplace culture of integrity and fairness.

Amazon's rating system influences online shoppers to buy a product or not. For smaller companies, a high or low rating can make or break the business. Users read comments on whether a product is useful or whether a company is trustworthy. According to a 2018 study by TripAdvisor, 97% of business owners said online reputation management is important to their business while 98% said the same for online reviews.

"We grew our real estate firm into the largest in Panama by always protecting our reputation," says Baruj Avram, founder of Titanium Group. "When it comes to large transactions, clients first need to trust you and your product before doing business. Unfortunately, many entrepreneurs forget this fundamental aspect."

Creating a good business reputation means honoring a product-returns policy; delivering on time; providing timely and friendly service; publishing accurate ingredients, as well as keeping factual records; and ensuring that goods are safe for consumption.

Earn Big With Premium Services

The problem with offering products or services similar to everyone else is that you run a commodity business. Such businesses represent a race to the bottom. Commodities are interchangeable and indistinguishable, and therefore entrepreneurs are forced to compete strictly on price.

Why should people buy from you when they can buy from someone else? They can purchase a commodity from a vendor who is closer to their house, or who offers convenient packaging or two-day shipping. Your business would be at the mercy of the whims of chance and misfortune.

Excellence is a two-way mirror in competitive industries like sports, fitness, and nutrition. Consumers in this space are enthusiastic and health-conscious. They'll spend more to optimize their health. Businesses can earn higher margins by offering premium products and services that are easily embraced by the wellness crowd. Think of the Impossible burger: The plant-based meat is 3 times more expensive than normal beef, yet demand is through the roof.

Another example is Royal Personal Training which provides athletes, celebrities and high-net-worth individuals with premium training, exercise classes, physical therapy and nutritional products. Founded by Shahin Safai, the success of this business shows consumers aren't always looking for the cheapest price but instead the best offer available.

Compelling businesses create buzz. People are naturally drawn to outstanding products and services, as well as prefer to do business with companies that have an excellent reputation.

Jan 18, 2020