One of the most critical things you need to think about as you grow your startup is how to make your business stand out from the crowd. In a marketplace where being different means a better chance of surviving and getting funding, having a unique point of difference is one of the most important things you can do for your business.
With more and more businesses leaving traditional software behind in favor of agile cloud products, the opportunity for SaaS startups to step in and offer solutions is enormous. But there’s a downside.
In a $214 billion global industry the opportunities may be plentiful, but for new businesses trying to be seen and heard among the noise – the struggle is real. It’s going to be more and more important to stand out as a company, and get creative with your thinking and marketing.
Find your business’s unique point of difference
Finding your unique point of difference will help you equip your startup with a strong value proposition that instantly sets you apart from competitors that aren’t quite so clued up with their marketing.
What is a value proposition?
Your value proposition tells customers at a glance what you do, and how you’re different (and better) than similar companies in your space. It might not be the actual features of your product that set you apart, but the way you deliver your service or disrupt a traditional method (think Uber, for example).
Examples of strong value propositions include:
Stripe – “The new standard in online payments”
Target – “Expect more. Pay less”
HubSpot – “There’s a better way to grow”
Zapier – “Connect your apps and automate workflows”
These are all recognizable statements from companies that stand out in their respective markets for their branding and positioning. Getting clear on exactly what makes your business unique through your point of difference will help your customers understand what’s unique about you too.
Leverage your team to make your business stand out from the crowd
Hiring a great team is important on many levels. Obviously they’re there to help your business grow, but a team that’s proud to work for your company and proactively spreads positive things about your business via their online channels is a huge bonus.
Leveraging the networks of your team can help make your business stand out from the crowd, as they can help spread the word about your product and solutions to a wider variety of people. Dedicated team members are natural evangelists for your company and can also provide support in terms of keeping an eye out for positive and negative feedback online while responding quickly and appropriately.
Sales, customer support, and service
Teams that go above and beyond in their quest for customer satisfaction and happiness can help make a business stand out from the crowd as well. A company with a likable approach and friendly team has an immediate advantage.
Customers want to feel heard and understood by the companies they support, and they might have taken a big gamble doing business with your startup.
Find ways to make people successful using your product and ways to support them so their experience with you is as smooth and memorable as possible. This could be as simple as checking in with a personal phone call or email to make sure customers are happy with their plan and service. It’s also a smart tactic to increase your customer retention rate and encourage referrals from your subscribers.
The element of human connection is at the heart of your business growth; it’s what makes your business unique. If you have terrible customer service and people walk away from you with a bad experience, you’ll also stand out eventually – but for all the wrong reasons.
Know your competition’s point of difference
While you shouldn’t obsess about your competitors, it’s always good to check in on your competitors every now and then. Knowing your competition’s points of difference can be particularly useful in determining your competitive differentiation.
Startup businesses can get caught up in the excitement and pressure of their new venture and forget that they have competition. Realistically – a lot of competition. This could be from other entrepreneurs building similar solutions, or from well-established companies that have a head start.
Looking at what your competitors are doing well (and what they’re doing badly) can help you figure out new ideas for your own company and competitive differentiation.
Checking out review sites and forums can dig up insights on the weakest points of your competitors’ products and services, giving you a competitive advantage in your market if you can avoid (or improve upon) their shortcomings.
Branding is an important part of your point of difference
Invest some time and money into creating a brand strategy and voice guide. Companies with consistent imagery, tone, and messaging across all of their marketing channels have a better chance of standing out and resonating with their target customers.
Not only that, but investing in a brand style guide early on will actually save you time and money further down the road when it comes to training new hires and creating content.
We can all see the websites and logos in our minds when somebody says “Slack. Mailchimp. Basecamp.” Not only that, but we can hear their distinct tones of voice in their content, copy, and advertisements. Purposeful, playful, and helpful.
These companies haven’t made products that are mind-meltingly different from any of the other products out there in their space. It’s the way they “speak” to their subscribers and leverage their point of difference that makes these businesses stand out from the crowd. They’ve created likable brands that people want to do business with.
Note: If you can’t figure out exactly how to be likable right now, at the very least make sure you’re not unlikable!
Creating a standalone document that unifies your company’s language, mission, value proposition, and editorial voice allows you make sure all your team members and contractors are on the same page when they’re designing, developing, and writing. No matter how many people come and go in your company, your guide will be there to help them stay aligned with your point of difference.
Creativity sets your business apart from your competition
The online world is awash with tired ideas to help your company stand out. For every so-called thought leadership article written, you can bet there are thousands of startups reading them and wringing all they can out of the exact same “best practices.”
Standing out from the crowd doesn’t mean following the herd; instead, create a defined point of difference by letting your own creativity loose on your brand. This is what sets you apart from your competition.
Find ways to work with relevant influencers and websites to leverage their audience. They can help spread the word to relevant audiences that you may not otherwise easily reach.
Get creative on social media. Interesting promotions, videos, and partnerships can all be great points of difference to your startup. It doesn’t have to be all about advertising.
Make sure your website is sharp and on-brand at all stages of your growth. Bad design and copywriting should be avoided at all costs, so it’s worth putting some effort into creating a streamlined user experience as early as possible.
Look for ideas offline! Great ideas can’t always be Googled. Everywhere you go there’s marketing that could translate into fresh ideas to help your company stand out. Television ads, retail store promotions, networking events, and trade shows can all help give you perspective on different ways to promote and market your startup.
Making your business stand out from the crowd is getting more challenging. It’s also becoming a necessity. There’s a low entry level to the startup world, and every entrepreneur wants a piece of this lucrative and delicious pie.
As the marketplace gets crowded, founders and marketers need to leverage all the moving parts of their business in order to survive. Creating a strong, memorable brand and being a likable company that customers want to do business with will help you create your point of difference and stand out among an increasing sea of sameness.