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Crafting Differentiation: How To Separate Yourself From The Competition

6 min

You may have thought when that light bulb popped up above your head a few months or few years ago that you had finally tapped into something that no one had ever thought of before. However, since you started to do a little research, you have no doubt found that there are already similar companies out there that offer the same sorts of things that you do. Shucks. But, even if there aren’t – if you’ve genuinely discovered a true gap in the market and currently doing all you can to exploit it, the simple fact is that it won’t be long before a few other wily entrepreneurs out there will want to take a slice of that action away from you for themselves.

This is inevitable – and in fact, it’s a good thing, especially from a consumer point of view.

When one company holds the monopoly over a certain sector or area of consumer sales, there is no pressure on that company to do everything it can to continue to prove its worth. Such things become commoditised, and, with no competition, it’s the consumer that loses out.

Look what happened to the MP3 player industry, for example. Apple managed to pretty much wipe out all of the competition with its iPod range. Now, I’m not saying that Apple products aren’t brilliant, because they are – but without a meaningful competitor, Apple could, did and do charge pretty much what they want for their iPods.

We Can’t All Be Apple

Be that as it may, the truth of the matter is that not everyone who starts up a business is going to able to have the same market penetration as the likes of a giant like Apple – as much as we’d all (secretly) like to.

No, for the overwhelming majority of startups and SMEs, we’re going to be facing some stiff competition for our services and wares throughout the whole lifespan of our businesses.

If the truth be told, often founders of companies who have a great idea or a great product that they want to take to market, although they are undeniably great inventors and innovators, they aren’t always the best business people and marketers. That is to say that entrepreneurs are not always the best differentiators.

Having a great new product or service that you want to sell is one thing – but convincing the paying public of that is something else entirely.

And the trick is learning how to differentiate yourself from the competition in marketing campaigns. This means that you have to make yourself stand out, you have to separate yourself from everything else that’s out there and cut through the clamour of the marketplace. Only this way will you catch people’s attention, and often the only way to do this is by differentiating your brand through marketing.

So, with this in mind, we’ve got three top tips to help you do just that.

1. Get Inventive On Instagram

I’ve found myself writing a lot about Instagram marketing recently. Social media has gone visual – there is no doubt about that any longer. People want an image when they’re scrolling through news feeds – even on primarily text-based networks like LinkedIn and Twitter (though of course, now you’d be a fool not to accompany your tweets with an image – but that’s for another blog post…).

Perhaps this is most clearly demonstrated with the popularity of Instagram. Instagram is all about the image. In fact that’s the only thing that it’s about, besides a few hashtags – you can’t even link your posts back to your website. Indeed, this means that your Instagram following has to be completely engaged with you on the platform itself. And the best way to do that is to get your following to start creating content of their own.

Oreo is one brand that have got this completely nailed with their #playwithoreo hashtag. This is where the brand encourages their fans to come up with all sorts of weird and wonderful ways to use the Oreo cookies – usually by making artwork, fun recipes, or even by inventing games that can played using the cookies as rollers or counters or what have you. Here are just a few examples:


This is great stuff – fans are absolutely 100% engaged with the brand, are creating their own content, and followers have real reason to keep coming back to the page for more. Think about this technique – how could you get your followers doing something similar with one of your products? It will certainly make you stand out from the crowd.

2. Collaborate With Someone From Another Industry

Not to keep blowing on the Oreo horn – but, in my opinion, when Cadbury and Oreo came together they invented what is possibly the nicest bar of chocolate of all time….


Ok – it doesn’t have to be a product that you can eat. It can be anything at all.

Take Patagonia, for example. Recently, the high-end clothing retailer partnered with eBay to create a site where people are encouraged to sell their second hand Patagonia clothing to one another.

The possibilities are really endless. If you’re developing websites, then why not form a partnership with a respected blogging house, so you can then offer your clients not only the best new websites, but the best content to adorn them when they’re up and running. Whatever you can think of that will add value to your existing product, you can really start to differentiate yourself from the competition by making a deal with someone from another industry to make you (both) stand out.

3. Vigorously Target A Particular Demographic

Too many startups think that they have something that will appeal to everyone, and thusly come up with some very woolly marketing campaigns that, in their efforts to please as many different people as possible, are so non-committal that they end up pleasing no one.

Don’t let this be you. Think about what you’re trying to sell – who is your target market, really? Don’t be vague, just be right.

Let’s say you’ve just started distilling some of the finest bourbon to have ever come out of the Scottish Highlands. It’s a fancy, sophisticated drink for which you are going to charge a fancy, sophisticated price. So it’s no good at creating any marketing material at all that is targeted to student drinkers, who just want to get as drunk as they can by spending as little as they can. It just won’t work – not even a little bit.

Similarly, you also don’t want to try and spread yourself too thin. If you’re a web designer, again, for instance – you know you have the skills to pretty much put together any website that your clients want, but you know that really you have the best skills at building e-commerce stores on low budgets. So, sell that quality. Make that your speciality, and you will very soon start to appeal to a very particular type of customer, and you can start building your reputation from there.

How do you make yourself stand out from the competition? Got any tips or tricks that you think our readers might find useful? Please share in the comments below. 

Kerry Butters
Kerry Butters
Kerry is a prolific technology writer, covering a range of subjects from design & development, SEO & social, to corporate tech & gadgets. Co-author of SitePoint's Jump Start HTML5, Kerry also heads up digital content agency markITwrite and is an all-round geek.