Opinion: What makes you different from the competition?

If you can't define what makes your product or service different and valuable, and to whom, eventually you'll be nothing more than another low-cost commodity fighting for position by playing the pricing game.

Credit: Markus Spiske/Pexels

Answering that question will help your product or service avoid becoming just another commodity

In his monthly column for BCBusiness, Richmond-based employee engagement and internal brand communications expert Ben Baker shares his insights into how to communicate value effectively, so people want to listen and engage. In the end, it’s about creating influence through trust.

In my neighbourhood, there are two Japanese restaurants in the same mall. In fact, they’re side-by-side. I have no idea which is better, or even why I should set foot in one over the other. It got me thinking: What makes you different?

Every business has the opportunity to demonstrate its uniqueness. The problem is, most never take the time or effort to understand why they’re different from their competition. People often go into business because they’re passionate about something, but so does everyone else.

Here’s the thing: if you can’t define what makes you different and valuable, and to whom, eventually you’ll be nothing more than another low-cost commodity fighting for position by playing the pricing game.

So how do you stop being a commodity and start being a brand worth loving?

First, you need to understand why you got into business in the first place. What drove you, or the company you work for, to incorporate and start serving customers? Many young entrepreneurs I ask tell me that their top motivations are making more money and having greater independence, neither of which is a great answer. Those are outcomes, not reasons for being. The money will come, and maybe the freedom to keep your own hours, but neither reward justifies launching a business when you know that one out of every two fails in the first five years.

 With that in mind, here are some questions every business should ask itself regularly:

  • Who are the people we can truly help by making their lives better?
  • What problem do they have that we can solve?
  • Can we solve their problem in ways they will find financially viable and easily implementable?
  • Why do people find us valuable?
  • How can we serve our clients better than our competitors, and what makes customers loyal to us?
  • Do we have policies and processes in place that make things easy for customers to work with us?
  • Do we enable customers to tell our brand story to those they influence?
  • Do our employees believe in the value of our company, and are they trained and empowered to take care of our clients?
  • Do we have the staff in place to serve our customers, and can they answer the questions above?

By coming up with answers, you’ll be on your way to understanding who you are valuable to and why—and offering people a customer experience that will keep them loyal and make them champions of your brand.

But to get there, you need engaged employees who understand that the business is unique and believe in it.

Staff must believe that you offer better products or services than the competition and can solve clients’ problems. If they don’t, how can they be expected to convince your customers that you’re the right choice?

Getting your employees on board, by offering training on the nuances of your product or service and your brand, is the first step toward enabling them to provide expert customer service. A few more questions to consider:

  • Do our employees know what makes us valuable?
  • Do they understand how our best customers look and sound?
  • Do they understand why our customers buy from us and not from the competition? Do they know how to provide service to customers that will wow them?
  • Do they know how to tell the story of our company in a compelling way that demonstrates why we’re the right choice for our customers?

If you want to convince people that your business is different, start by knowing the answers.

Ben Baker wants to help you engage, retain, and grow your most valuable asset…your employees. He provides workshops and consulting to enable staff to understand, codify and communicate their value effectively internally and externally and Retain Employees Through Leadership. The author of Powerful Personal Brands: A Hands-On Guide to Understanding Yours and the host of the iHeart Radio syndicated YourLIVINGBrand.live show, he writes extensively on brand and communication strategy. 

Ben’s complimentary online course, Know – Like – Trust: How to Develop Your Personal Brand, is now available. Click here to access the course.