Startup Marketing

Differentiation for Startups

Whenever my first sales professor was asked how to handle the competitors, he would tell the class to acknowledge that they exist, but say nothing more about them and move on. But wait, I would think, isn’t differentiating yourself among competitors in your market an important part of getting ahead? The answer is complicated. My sales teacher’s blunt answer was partially right: it’s easy to want to sabotage your competitor or talk about how much better you are than them, but it always ends up hurting you more than it helps, so just don’t do it. Why does it hurt more than it helps? Simply put, it makes YOU look tacky by coming off as needing to badmouth the competition to get ahead instead of getting ahead by letting your business speak for itself. Differentiating yourself without dissing your competitors can be difficult as a startup, so here’s a basic rundown of how to differentiate your startup the right way:

First off, the best way to differentiate yourself from your competitors is to strategize your own position in the marketplace. Positioning yourself in your marketplace creates an identity for your company, and helps your potential customers understand what you’re all about. How do you manage to position yourself within your market you ask? Well, a good strategy for positioning one’s self in the market is influenced by these four variables:

Market size
If you are a pocket drone company, there is probably only one other company (if any other companies) who do anything close to what you do, so it’s easy to focus on specific traits about your company that make you different than them. However, if you own a cupcake shop, you’re looking at hundreds of competitors and have to make sure your store has some element which makes it one of a kind.

Customer segments
It is crucial to keep your customer in mind when positioning your business. You must satisfy their desires/ needs, and if you can provide for a desire/ necessity that hasn’t been provided for, you’re golden.

Competitive analysis
This is where differentiation comes into play in a big way, understanding your competitor’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats will allow you to focus on the aspects you do better and work to improve the aspects you don’t do as well.

Method for delivering value
The way in which you deliver the value of your product/ service determines your company identity, make sure your method of delivering value makes you more different, rather than similar to your competitors.

After you’ve created your positioning plan, there are some important things to keep in mind as a growing company to maintain a strong brand: Startups are often malleable, and have the tendency to change and veer from your original vision, but once you have positioned yourself in the marketplace, it is important to continue to have a laser focus on your original goals and stick to that original vision. Inconsistent companies can’t have a solid position in the marketplace and therefore can’t have a solid chunk of the customer base within the market. Along with sticking to the original goals and vision, identify the values and mission statement for your company right off the bat and swear by it. The only time it is acceptable to change your positioning strategy/ identity is if the original one had failed. In that case, go back to the drawing board and use your failure as a learning experience in creating a stellar brand.


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Posted in Tara's Tactics: What I've Learned as an intern.

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