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General Business Tips

Define Your Difference To Stand Out and Make Your Business Shine

by Erin Ferree

Thoughtfully defining your business-and your differentiation-will help you to understand who you are, what you do, and what makes you different.

Not many small businesses take the time to answer those core questions about their business, but those answers are essential to creating a strong brand identity, focused messaging, and effective marketing materials. Having these will make a stronger impression on your target audience. And, once you stand out, they'll be more likely to remember you when they have a need for your products or services.

Taking this step will make you stand out from your competition. Just think of your competition -- and how they communicate about and market their businesses. So many people are out promoting their business without knowing these basic facts about their businesses, that if you have these elements in place, you'll outshine your competition.

In order to define your company's difference, you need to:

Determine your firm's characteristics:

Who Are You: What is your business all about? What is your mission, and what are your values? Is one of your goals to expand into other areas besides sweeping, if you haven't already? What are these other areas, in order of planned expansion?

What You Do: What are the unique services and/or products that you offer? Study and contrast your business with the competition. Are there niches you serve that others in your market area do not? Do you have, for example:

  • Quieter or more dust-free sweepers?
  • Uniformed employees?
  • 24-hour access?
  • Website and/or email access?
  • Property condition checklist or checking procedure?
  • GPS on your sweepers?
  • Backup sweeper available at all times?
  • Any other competitive advantages?

Who Is Your Competition: Who offers the same or similar services or products as you? Who are you consistently quoting your service against? These are your closest competitors, the ones with which you should be most concerned in the definition process. The more you know about your competition, the better you will be able to differentiate your sweeping company from theirs.

What Makes You Different:

How are you different from those competitors?
What specific areas of service do you offer that they don't?
Can you cite advantages in how you conduct your business?
Do you offer a wider scope of services?
Do you serve a wider geographic area?

Be careful to avoid the differentiators "better," "faster," and "cheaper"-they're either too subjective or too difficult to maintain as your business grows and matures. Your differentiators should stay with you for the life of your business.

Plan for your best customers:

Who You Can Best Help: Determine who makes up your target market. It's best to determine everything you can about the companies that have become your best clients.

Do they tend to be remotely managed or have onsite property managers?
What's the size of property or client firm you seem to do best with?
You may even want to consider facts like the typical age, race and sex of the property managers or points of contact you have had the best success with.

How Best to Reach Them: Once you know who you want to help, the next step is to determine how to let them know that you can help them. This means determining how to market your business and which types of media are best to get your message out.

There are many new media possibilities, some of which your competitors may be missing out on. These include: Online directories like and Local Internet search directories through Google and Yahoo!.

Which Differentiators Will Compel Them: Creating differentiators will also help your target clients to identify with you. If you know enough about them to show that you specialize in their industry and their problem, then they're much more likely to hire you.

Defining Your Difference by answering all of these questions allows you to thoroughly understand your business and to better communicate with your customers. When you are specific about what you do differently from your competition, customers can easily identify you as the most appropriate business to meet their needs. It truly simplifies your marketing and promotional process. Plus, the more differentiation you can show, the more likely it is that you won't lose a contract because another contractor is willing to beat your price per sweep by a few percentage points.

Ideally, the above process is done prior to initially creating your brand and marketing materials. However, most readers of this article will already be in business and have those items in place, whether or not you're happy with them and the results they help you to achieve.

Periodically, no matter what size business you have, it's a valuable process to reevaluate your company in terms of the information discussed above. That's the best way to ensure you continue to grow toward your long-term goals, and that your brand and marketing efforts will do their part to make you stand out from your competition because they will communicate your brand differentiation.

About the Author:

Elf Design Logo Erin Ferree is a brand identity designer who creates big visibility for small businesses. As the owner of elf design, Erin is passionate about helping her clients stand out in front of their competition and attract more clients. Her "Define Your Difference Branding Workbook," which is available FREE by signing up to her free twice-a-month newsletter, will help you with your brand definition - the most important step in the brand identity design process. You may contact Erin by email sent to:

If you have questions or comments on this article, please let us know.

This article was added to in 7.07.

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