Have you heard that there's plenty of room at the top? Don't believe it. Nobel physicist Richard Feynman's well-known comment, "There's plenty of room at the bottom," is more accurate.

OK, he was talking about nanotechnology. But his words apply just as well to the world of business. Why?

Because a massive 80% of entrepreneurs who start new businesses--yes, that's eight out of 10--crash and burn within the first 18 months, according to Bloomberg.

It's easy to say that they simply didn't make enough money to stay afloat, but the truth is that the seeds of failure were planted long before the cash ran out.

There are many reasons that businesses fail, but the one that I've noticed most often is a lack of differentiation in the marketplace.

In other words, some entrepreneurs don't do enough to separate themselves from the competition. They fail to demonstrate to their audiences that they offer something of unique value that others do not. They struggle, ending up barely hanging on and fighting for the bottom share of their market. Most die quickly (the 80%), but some may skimp along for years, not quite failing but never really tasting success either.

How can you avoid that fate? Decide what makes you and your enterprise different from others in your industry. The answer's there. You just have to find it--and then exploit it. Make it the focal point of your marketing efforts.

Here's how I went about differentiating myself and my firm:

If you've read any of the eight best-selling books I've written on personal finance, tuned in to my weekly radio show or even read a few of my columns here, you'll quickly notice that I write differently and speak differently than others in my field. You may or may not like my style, but you will notice that at least I'm different. I don't sound like the others.

That didn't happen by accident. I've worked hard to separate myself on a personal level. But I didn't stop there. My firm is different too.

For instance, we're selective about where we advertise; you won't see our ads in media outlets where we'd be indistinguishable among the crowd.

Also, we pride ourselves on something we call One Face, One Voice--which simply means that clients who visit any of our 41 offices across the country will get the same advice from the advisors there as they would get from any of the advisors in the other offices. Not many in my industry can say that. In fact, some of the big Wall Street firms have thousands of financial advisors, but they often differ widely on the investing strategies they recommend to their clients.

You can set yourself apart from your competitors too. Start by examining your website: Does it truly represent you the way you want to be represented? Does your business card do that? How about the way your telephone is answered?

Perhaps you'll find that you need to change one or all of those--and that may prompt you to discover other ways to distinguish yourself.

Failure to take this important step puts you and your business at risk.

And if that's true in today's business climate, you can be sure that making yourself stand out from the rest will be much more essential in the near future--when exponential technologies reshapes the entire business landscape.

Published on: Nov 11, 2015
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