The beauty of free enterprise, capitalism, or whatever you want to call the backbone of the American economy is that anyone from anywhere can launch a business.
As a result of this freedom, the American marketplace is full of small businesses and locally-owned enterprises. In fact, there are almost 28 million small businesses in the U.S. Since 1995, small businesses have generated more than 65 percent of the new jobs for the country. And while roughly 90 percent of startups fail, approximately 543,000 new ones are launched each month.
While these are all fantastic numbers – save the 90 percent attrition rate – the fact of the matter is that many industries in this country are seriously overcrowded.
Take, for example, live streaming social media. This industry hardly even existed a year ago, yet there are already dozens of startups fighting for a piece of the growing market. You have Periscope, Meerkat, Facebook Video, Blab, and a handful of other minor players fighting it out. And this is a brand new industry!
This high competition makes it challenging for even the most successful brands to stand out. As a business owner, or marketer tasked with elevating the status of your brand, it’s imperative that you find a way to rise above the crowd and overcome the burgeoning list of industry competitors.
Here are four tips to get you started:
1. Pursue alternative pricing
The quickest way to get noticed is to offer alternative pricing that stands in stark contrast to the competition. There are three general ways of doing this.
Low pricing: The first option to consider is low pricing. If you’re able to sell a similar product or service at a lower price point than the competition, you’re going to garner attention. This is obviously much harder than it looks, though, or everyone would offer lower prices.
Premium pricing: The opposite strategy involves developing premium pricing. If your products are extremely high quality and your target market has the budget to pay a higher price, then you can benefit from differentiating your brand in this manner.
Unique structure: The third option is to offer a unique pricing structure. If everyone in your industry offers a 90-day retainer for services, consider offering a month-to-month payment structure. People like alternatives and a unique option can grab attention.
It’s a good idea to start with dollar signs, since most markets are based on how much products and services cost the consumer. However, it’s not the only way to stand out.
2. Devote your brand to customer service
Establishing a customer-centric culture is the second best way to stand out in a crowded industry. According to Andrew O'Connor, director of search at American Addiction Centers, customer centricity is important for three reasons:
- The balance of power has shifted to consumers, who can now amplify their pleasure or displeasure with businesses via social media.
- Automated business models have made personal customer service less frequent.
- Long-term loyalty of a customer base is the best way to guarantee profitability for years to come.
By building a customer-centric company, you can stand out against the collection of other organizations in your industry that turn a blind eye to customer issues.
3. Forge partnerships
At some point, you have to realize you can’t do everything on your own. Even the most powerful brands find it valuable to forge partnerships and relationships with other businesses. This doesn’t necessarily mean the competition, though. This isn’t about mergers or acquisitions. This is about cross-industry partnerships that help you offset deficiencies and leverage resources you don’t have.
The Coca-Cola Company and Ericsson recently did this to help rural communities that needed access to better resources. Are there any businesses in other industries that you could combine forces with to strengthen an aspect of your business or increase recognition?
4. Don’t be afraid to pivot
The term “pivot” often gets exaggerated in entrepreneurial circles. People assume it means you completely abandon your core business activity and spin off in other direction. It’s not always this dramatic, though. Sometimes a pivot is nothing more than a very subtle decision to specialize.
For example, let’s say you’re a full-service landscaping business that earns 75 percent of your revenue from mowing lawns. Instead of competing with the other lawn care companies in your area that offer the same services, why not dedicate all of your resources to offering cost-friendly mowing? It’s part pivot, part specialization.
The majority of businesses in crowded industries fail to stand out because they don’t do anything to differentiate their brands. They simply do what everyone else does, content with scraping by and ignoring the scary proposition of taking a risk.
While part of the problem is the sheer volume of competition in industries such as law, health and construction, the other half of the problem is that many business owners are afraid of standing out. They like the idea of differentiation, but when it comes down to taking action, they can’t seem to step out on a limb.
If you truly want to stand out in a competitive industry, you must take action. The tips mentioned in this article are a great place to start. As millions of new businesses launch in 2016, it’s important that you stop following the crowd and start forging your own path.