Let’s do a quick exercise together. Open up a text document, or grab a pen and paper. Now write down answers to the following two questions:
- What makes you different from your competitors?
- If I were a potential customer, why would I hire you over anyone else?
If you struggle a bit answering this, you’re not alone. Most business owners and freelancers have trouble answering this.
And those who do have an answer, their element of differentiation is usually not strong enough to sway customers to their business.
If you don’t have as many customers as you’d like, and find that you lose a lot of them to competitors, it’s time to find what makes you different from your competitors.
We’re going to find it out together in this article.
But first, let me share how differentiation was one of my keys to success.
My Big Break
Early in my online career, I started a lot of “me too” businesses. I’d see some business that seemed to be making money and would try and do what they were doing.
As you can guess, I didn’t do very well.
My big break occurred when I sat down and examined three things:
- What’s something I’m good at? (working with WordPress sites)
- What’s something people need? (help with their WordPress sites)
- What can I do that is different than everyone else? (offer help in consulting style phone conversations)
So I started a business where people would pay for 30-minute blocks of my time to help them over skype, either with troubleshooting, learning WordPress or making customizations to their site.
At the time, there weren’t many others offering this service. Yet it was something people needed. So that was my differentiator: you could call me up and I will help you with your site right on the phone.
Now, how can you differentiate your business?
What Makes You Stand Out?
Look at your answers from the two questions at the beginning of this article.
Now let’s critique them. There are three elements which make a good differentiator.
Do yours meet these three?
What Makes A Good Differentiator
Number 1: Does your customer actually care?
Whatever you use to differentiate your service, it needs to be something that your potential customer will look at and go, “Wow, I need to hire them.”
Too often, this is not the case.
I’ve met WordPress freelancers who tell me that their differentiator is their command of many different programming languages.
To them, this isn’t a differentiator.
Whatever you identify as your differentiator, make sure it’s something your customer is going to care about.
Number 2: Needs To Be Unique (To Some Extent)
I’ve had WordPress freelancers tell me their differentiator is their knowledge and skill with WordPress.
The problem is that almost every WordPress freelancer has knowledge and skill with WordPress.
(Yes, some have more than others, but I’ll get to that in point three.)Having a differentiator that is a common trait among your competitors is not a differentiator.
Now, a company like Crowd Favorite has a definite differentiator. Their CEO, Karim Marucchi, once said that the reason their clients hire them is not just because of their programming skills, but also because of their project management skills.
For larger clients who value project management, this is an important skill. And is something that differentiates Crowd Favorite from its competitors.
Whatever your differentiator is, make sure it is unique.
Number 3: You Must Be At Least 10x Better Than The Rest
Now, let’s assume that your WordPress skills are better than the rest of your competitors. That can be a form of differentiation.
But only if it is a whole lot better.
Let’s take a simple example to demonstrate this. I currently pay $5 a month per user for my Google For Work service. It works very well for me.
If a company came along and said, “Brandon, we can save you money by offering you the exact same service, but for $4 a month per user,” I’d say no.
Because the price difference here is not that much better. It’s not worth me moving services just to save a dollar a month.
But, let’s say I’m running an ad campaign and spending $1,000 a month. If a company comes along and says, “We can run the same ad campaign for you, but for half the cost,” they will certainly get my attention.
The point is, when your differentiator says you are better than your competitors (such as cheaper, faster, easier, etc), it has to be much much better… not just a little bit.
Find Your Differentiator
Here are three ways I’ve used to find (or create) my own differentiator.
1. Offer A Skill You Have As A Complimentary Service
Let’s assume you do WordPress development for clients. But you also have skills in SEO. Your point of differentiation could be that you not only build WordPress websites, but you build sites that will rank higher in search engines with your SEO service.
2. Learn A New Skill And Offer That As A Service
Maybe you don’t have a skill right now that you could offer as a complimentary service. But we live in a time where learning skills online is easy and cheap. You can take an online class through Udemy or watch a tutorial on Tutsplus. Maybe in addition to offering web development services, you can offer logo creation once you’ve learned Adobe Illustrator skills.
3. Ask Your Existing Customers
Sometimes, you may have a point of differentiation and not know it.
For instance, when I started my WordPress help service, some of my clients would come to me and say, “Brandon, the reason I decided to work with you is because your intro video showed your face and your voice. You seemed like a real person rather than someone I was just emailing.”
I realized that my intro video where I explain how my service worked was attracting clients. So I made that video the first thing visitors saw when they landed on my page. And conversion rates went up.
So ask your existing clients why they chose you over your competitors, and you may find your point of differentiation there.
Emphasize Your Point of Differentiation
Now that you know what makes you different from everyone else, make sure potential clients know it.
Add it to your website. Tell potential clients during initial phone calls. Don’t make it some afterthought. Make it large and obvious.
That differentiator is an important element of your success.