As the online business world continues to boom, many new businesses are sprouting up that are eerily similar to other, larger, more established businesses. There is a thin line between learning from the success of others and flat-out copying them. The former is recommended, the latter is not. You want your business to be different, to be unique, to deliver something no one else does. So then that raises the question: What does it really mean to be unique?
Competing: The two factors
In the world of business, you’re only ever competing on one of two things: price or value.
When your business offers nothing different, nothing unique, nothing that sets it apart, you inevitably end up competing on price. The only way to continue to get customers to purchase from you is to drop your prices lower than the competition. And the reason for that is because there is no other differentiator. Your product or service and your competitors’ products or services are the same. So the decision factor becomes the price.
On the other hand, when you offer something that others in your industry do not offer, then you have the opportunity to compete on value. Essentially, customers will choose you because they want that additional value, or that value that is different from others. Will all customers choose you? No, of course not. But those that will are the ones that you should be targeting anyway. They are the ones who fit the description of your ideal customer. And so because they appreciate the additional value you provide, they will be willing to pay for it. And so the decision factor here is the value, not the price.
The link between value and price
You might be thinking that there is a decision that is made between the additional value and the additional price. And you’re right. The additional value you provide must be in line with the additional price of your product or service. Customers absolutely do have a threshold of how much they are willing to pay for the additional value. So before you price your product or service, it is highly recommended that you get a feel for this.
So now that you can see the benefit in providing a product or service that offers additional or differentiated value, how can you make sure that your product or service is created that way? Well, this is where we talk about being unique. The idea behind building a product or service that is unique is that it offers something that others do not offer.
There are three ways you can do this
The first way is to have a product or service that is so unique that no one else offers it. This is known as product innovation. For example, when the iPod came out, this was its edge.
The second way you can do this is to have a better product or service – something that already exists in the world, but which you provide incremental value around. So for example, lifetime access to courses was one of these, but since becoming popular and more “the norm”, they’re not a differentiator anymore. Providing better customer care, a higher level of service, a longer guarantee, a better quality product, a product that does not contain any toxic chemicals – these are all things you can include to differentiate your product or service and elevate it from the competition. If you’re a coach or a teacher, this could be your unique method or your unique point of view.
And the last way you can do this is to make your product or service available in a market in which it currently does not exist. This is a great way to ensure you don’t have any competition. However, it requires plenty of research and an operating model designed to support a business in a place or space that others have avoided. My favorite example of this is Carmike Cinemas which operates only in towns of 200,000 inhabitants or less. Their entire business model is built around this, which demonstrates how a large cinema group would not be able to turn a profit in these areas, if they were to use their existing operating models.
What makes your product or service unique?
So where does this leave you? Well, whether you have a product or a service, it is critical in this day and age, more than ever, to know what makes you unique. Spend some time figuring it out. If you’re a service provider, do you provide something that others in your industry don’t? Can you leverage that and make it a centerpiece or a highly marketed point of differentiation? If you’re a product-based business, what features or aspects of your product are not available in your competitors’ products? Again, you’ll want to look at leveraging that and making it a highly marketed point of differentiation.
What if you can’t find anything unique about your product or service?
Now, what if you can’t find a point of differentiation? Well, the only way to truly know if you are offering something that is different is to compare the features and characteristics of your product or service with that of your competitors. So grab a piece of paper, list out all the characteristics, and create a comparison. Now, what’s different? If there STILL isn’t anything that pops out that makes your product or service different, it’s time to go back to the drawing board. Find a gap in the market and fill it. Find something that no one else is offering, and offer it. Find something that your soon-to-be customers want and provide it to them.
So, what does it really mean to be unique?
Having a product or service and saying it’s unique doesn’t have to refer to it in its entirety. A unique product or service can be something that exists in the world, but with a different set or combination of characteristics. It’s always great to have and to know what separates you from the crowd, but that by no means requires you to fall into the product innovation category. Remember that there are other ways to stand out.