To stand out in business is not a simple task. Just because it may be difficult doesn’t mean you should be afraid to try. In fact, the very phrase “to stand out” means something different to everyone, and it really comes down to what standing out means to you personally. Take some time to ponder the following: Why do you want to stand out?
- Is it because you want people to realize your personal uniqueness?
- Do you have a particular target audience that you're hoping to attract by standing out?
- Is it that you need to find a way to uniquely position your brand in the minds of others?
As soon as you know the real reason that you're looking to stand out, you will want to formulate a plan for doing it. And let’s agree right now that you won’t go around doing cheap, attention-grabbing things like shaving your head and beating up a car with an umbrella—yes, just like a certain blonde singer did in 2007.
Standing out doesn't have to be over the top. There are many ways to do it that are well within reach.
1. Over Deliver as Often as Possible to Stand Out with Customers
Giving your customer more than they were expecting is a great way to stand out. Creating this type of goodwill whenever possible is how you’ll keep them returning to your store or website. Let’s face it. Who doesn't like to receive more than they expected?
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Give a bonus, this could be a sample product, access to a coaching call or access to a private mastermind.
- Offer a coupon for a discount on their next purchase. Repeat visitors, anyone? You don't have to stop at just offering a discount. Again, consider offering a free sample, a consultation or a BOGO (buy one/get one) type of deal.
- If you offer a service, the best way to over deliver is to complete the project early. Beating deadlines is a wonderful way to add value to your offers and begin to build loyalty among your customer base.
- Small gestures can go a long way. Sending a hand written thank you note in the mail is one option. Other ideas include sending birthday or anniversary cards. And remember: you can come up with your own unique anniversaries!
- Customer of the month or customer shout out. Everyone loves positive reinforcement. Why not thank your customers or highlight something they did that you appreciate with some public recognition!
2. Make Things Right for Your Customers with the Least Amount of Hassle
Of course nobody wants to see their product returned, and who wants to deal with complaints? But both of these things are part of running a business. The way you deal with each can make or break yours.
If you sell any type of product or service people will need a way to contact you after purchase. If a product is defective it will need to be replaced and the easier you make this process the happier your customers will be.
Most consumers understand that a defective product may occasionally slip through the cracks. Or, sometimes a product just doesn't meet expectations. No doubt you have experienced this at some time. The sales page and reviews looked fabulous yet when you used the product, you did not see the results you expected. Wouldn't you ask for a refund? So would your customers.
Whether your business is online or offline you need to make it easy for customers to process a return. If you quickly replace the item with a new one or issue a refund, you likely won't lose the sale.
Don’t make them go through Olympic-style gymnastics for resolution. If you do you will stand out for the wrong reason, and all but guarantee that will be the customer’s last purchase from you.
3. Nail Your Elevator Speech
Many people have difficulty with this one. More often than not they aren’t thinking in terms of what they can do that will deliver value in a unique way. They get so caught up in the idea of wanting to stand out, that they forget the most important part—exactly what benefit they provide to their customers.
Put together a succinct blurb about your business, so that you can say it to anyone who asks; keep it short, roughly one minute. Being able to sum up the value–driven part of your business in this way will allow you to get at the essence of your mission and express it in a way that will intrigue your listener to want to engage in a deeper conversation.
- Outline what makes your business unique. What are the primary features of your product or service? How are they different than your competitors? Write these down in simple bullet point format. Then cut out irrelevant words and explanations. Pare your message down to the bare minimum, the most basic essence of what you are offering.
- Write your problem/solution statement. Pull the appropriate bullets into one sentence. It helps to put them in terms of a solution to a problem, since this is the most important part of anything you are selling. It’s why people buy. For example, “I provide ready-made templates for people that don't have time to write their own.” This doesn’t tell someone exactly what you do, but it intrigues them to want to learn more.
- Write your features/benefits statement. Write another sentence that explains the key points of how you deliver that solution. Your statement should be a very brief summary of the key features and benefits of what you are selling. For example, “By writing the templates for them, I free up their time to focus on other parts of their business.” This isn’t a sales pitch, which would turn off someone that you just met. It’s a summary of why your solution actually works. It shouldn’t give a person all the details of your business. Instead, it should create an opening for more questions. In other words, it’s a way to get a discussion going.
- Put it all together. Now that you’ve written the basics of your elevator speech, it’s time to put it all together. Practice saying it out loud and add other details to make your speech sound natural. Try it out on someone else and get their feedback and reaction; time yourself to make sure your speech doesn’t take more than about a minute. Finally, take the time revise and revisit your elevator speech frequently, especially as your business changes.
4. Collaboration Over Competition: Make Friends with Your Peers
One of the worst things you can do is not interact with your peers. Don’t fall into the trap of hiding away from other entrepreneurs. (Business life is not some huge competition and everyone in the same space is not automatically an enemy.) Instead, turn the other business owners in your niche into collaborators. Get creative. Think outside of the box on options that would be beneficial to your customers.
Create a rolodex of resources and when appropriate refer businesses to others in your network that offer quality services and products to meet your client's needs when you do not offer your own solution. If you’re customer requires a complementary product or service to achieve their end goal, don't hesitate to send them in the direction of another reputable business for it.
Ultimately, your job is to solve the customer's problem, even if that means telling them to go somewhere else. The customer will more than likely appreciate your honesty and come back to you when they need products or advice again. If they had a positive experience, they are also more likely to spread the word about your superior customer service.
5. Don't Be Afraid to Be You
While the internet is a fantastic way to communicate with your audience. It is also a way for you to hide behind your website. Coming across as a “real person” can truly make or break your business. You don't have to go all out and start relaying your personal life, but to stand out you do want to add that personal touch to your business.
Here are three ways to help people trust your business by showing them that you're a human being:
- About page – Showing your face and creating an “About” page on your website is really effective. Here you can describe a few details about your past. You can also explain how you got into your current business, and even add your interests and passions.
- Email list – Another way to come across and connect more with your audience is by sending emails to your list. Again, you don't have to get too personal, but connecting by using personal stories has been shown to be an effective method.
- Social Media – Don't forget about using social media to connect with your customers. It never hurts to add some images of where you live, or what you are up to. Include snippets from both areas of your life to your business page.
As you can see, none of these methods are particularly extreme. You stand out by showing value, not by shocking or eliciting some kind of quick response from people.
Which strategies will you use to stand out in business? Tell us in the comments below!
About the Author
Andrea Hubbert, principal at Hub+company, is a versatile integrated marketing communications professional with one primary passion: to empower creative individuals and their companies to design and market the business lives of their dreams.