Whether you're a startup founder working on your first product or a small business owner contemplating your next customer acquisition strategy, how you differentiate will have huge impact on your business. And an unrefined strategy here could jeopardize long-term survivability, especially if you're building a brand in an already crowded market vertical.

As a case in point, search for public certified accountants via the New York State Education Department website and you'll find over 58,000 accountants listed as of January 2018. Talk about market competition. How do you possibly target new clients or stand out from the rest? I interviewed three accountants that are leading the pack in New York to extract how they're succeeding in a market filled with competition.

#1 -- Proactive, Practical Innovation -- Jody Chesnov, Rosenberg Chesnov

Chesnov explained that their financial and advisory services firm focuses on delivering innovative and practical solutions to their clients. Not only do they provide a wide range of services, but they also proactively monitor metrics to quickly identify trends (not something you typically think about your accountant doing). A customized workflow is also developed for each client, which can be incorporated in-house.  


Don't run away from innovation--embrace it. You don't need to hit home runs with evolving your product or service offering, but those 'base hits' will absolutely keep you relevant and ahead of the curve. 

#2 -- Owning a Niche -- Christopher DeMayo, Withum Audit Tax Advisory  

DeMayo shared that their firm differentiates through focusing on servicing the startup sector and emerging growth sector. Instead of adopting a 'spray and pray' approach to customer acquisition, they define their specific target market for maximum efficiency and growth opportunities--and they own it.


Even if you can provide a variety of services to many types of clients, be laser-focused on a niche, own that category, and solidify yourself as a 'go to' expert. 

#3 -- Providing a Complementary Service Suite -- Erenik Nezaj, Nezaj & Co

Nezaj takes a highly personalized approach with their clients, which is a driver to the firm's growth. By intimately understanding their client problems, they are able to develop complementary services to support voids that exists for any finance team.


Get in the habit of spending more time studying customer pain points -- both those that exist today and any that can be anticipated. Once you know the problem, finding a solution is easy. 

If these accounting firms can develop a unique positioning for themselves in a market sector rife with competition, there's no reason savvy entrepreneurs, startup founders, and small business owners can't do the same. By thinking differently, defining their market, and proactively innovating, there's no telling how much a business can accelerate their growth potential.

Differentiation should no longer be a barrier, so don't let it be. 

Published on: Feb 16, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.