As it appeared in the Daily Nation on May 7th 2019
Dr. Lucy Kiruthu
What is so unique about your business? How does it stand out from the competition? I often pose these questions to business leaders and entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, many businesses lag behind in their uniqueness. As such, most business leaders cannot authoritatively explain what makes their business different. Some mumble about their choice of name, logo, product range, service and location as a source of uniqueness. Others indicate that they have some unique selling proposition (USP) without distinctly articulating it. To survive in today’s marketplace, smart businesses are intentional about differentiating themselves. They clearly think through their uniqueness and are proactive about creating a business that stands out from the rest.
In his book, “Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable” Seth Godin states that in a crowded marketplace, fitting in is failing and that in a busy marketplace, not standing out is the same as being invisible. It is crucial to stand out. There are many ways that businesses can differentiate themselves and stand out. One can make their business different by basing its existence on a unique idea. A business can also choose to be very clear about the distinctive problem they solve or the unique need that they satisfy. Many businesses have gone this route and become very successful. The story of Amazon.com selling used textbooks to university students in its start-up phase is one that speaks into solving a problem. What problem is your business solving?
Further, a business can differentiate itself by targeting a specific customer niche. For example, if you are in hairdressing you can narrow the target market to only school-going girls. If you are a shoes retailer, you could have specific stores that only target those with size seven and above as such customers find it daunting to get shoes in a regular store. Alternatively, if you are in the cake business, you can choose to provide speciality cakes such as gluten-free, egg-free cakes and the like. Many businesses have succeeded by staying away from the masses and choosing to satisfactorily serve a specific niche. To succeed, a business does not need to serve everyone.
An extraordinary customer experience is another great differentiator. Many businesses talk about their customers being important but do nothing about it. Others simply copy what their competitors are doing. To survive in today’s marketplace, consider designing a customer experience that stands out. Such a customer experience makes the customers feel special and keep them coming back for more. Today, many businesses across the globe are differentiating themselves through their customer experience. Such businesses have learnt that their customers can be easily hooked to an outstanding experience. Businesses that give consistent outstanding experience have learnt that they must embed customer centricity into their culture.
I believe that many businesses fail because there is nothing unique about their offering. Being unique gives a business the much-needed competitive edge. It makes the business stand out. If your business has been struggling in attracting and retaining customers, it is time to think differently. Start by developing a differentiation plan and gain clarity about your uniqueness. Once it is clear how your business will stand out, allocate the required resources to support the efforts. Think and act differently and make your business stand out!
Dr. Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer. Connect via twitter @KiruthuLucy