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Become the Lone Wolf: 3 Ways to Separate Your Startup From the Pack Don't just promote your product. Find, shape and market your core values to stand out from the crowd.

By Walter Chen Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


The lone wolf gets a lot of guff for separating from the pack, but when it comes to entrepreneurship, separating yourself is exactly what you should be doing. The startup world is remarkably competitive, and about 90 percent of startups will fail.

Not a fun statistic -- I know.

Chances are likely that your business exists among a large wolf pack of startups that all seemingly provide the same service. This is frustrating when you know that you are providing an important product. You know it's different from other products because you have spent months -- even years -- creating it, but customers haven't had that time. They've only just met you, so unfortunately, you run the risk of looking identical to a service they already use or know of.

Related: If You Build It, They Will Not Come

Take the companies and MailChimp, for example. At first glance, each of these companies specialize in sending email. Looking at their features, prices, testimonials and even benefits, a new user would have no problem choosing one by randomly drawing from a hat. However, at a closer look, you begin to see what sets them apart. You begin to learn about their core value, and suddenly you're seeing them in a new light.

For example, it turns out that is known for making it easy to send emails to your customers who are already using your app. Their main focus is to help you communicate better with your customers, in a tailored way, personalized to what the customer is already doing in the app. On the other hand, MailChimp is focused on email marketing and making it easy to send email newsletters to anyone you might have on your email list. This core value sets them apart, and once you see it, the two products couldn't be more different.

Based on their core values, one is more concerned with growth, while the other focuses on retention. Depending on your company's strategy, you can make an educated decision between the two.

How Wistia broke from the pack of video hosting sites

A recent study shows that 1.8 million words have the same impact as a one-minute video. That's about 150 days of writing that can all be packaged into one tiny video. So it's no coincidence that a myriad of video hosting companies have entered the startup scene in the last 10 years.

Wistia is a company that knows better than anyone the trials and tribulations of feeling overshadowed in a massive wolf pack, as there are several other video platforms offering basic video hosting functionality. With this kind of competition, how do you set yourself apart? How do you break off from the wolf pack and find success in your own adventure? Moreover, technology is constantly changing. How do you market a reliable product when software is bound to go through countless features and continuously evolve?

The answer to these questions boils down to one simple concept -- a gold mine that makes people trust that you have just the product they need. Just four years ago, Wistia was doing everything they could to market their product to as many people as possible. They would advertise the features of their video platform left and right, which essentially resulted in a crazy marketing spider web that muddled the overall essence of their product.

You can list feature after feature and spout benefit after benefit, but if there isn't one unified idea to umbrella that under, people are going to miss out on that "aha!" moment that will make them recognize the value of your product.

Related: 3 Tips for Building a Business That Reflects Your Deepest Values

This idea will form your core value -- all you need is a mission and a vision. Here are three ways to get there:

1. Establish your mission to help your customers.

Wistia co-founder and CEO Chris Savage highly encourages companies to write down their mission as a way to focus on what it is you are trying to help your audience do. You mission is something that will establish who you are and will convey your passion for your product. Writing it down and ingraining it in your marketing strategy will change the way that people see your product. This is why Wistia markets to their mission as opposed to their product.

Before establishing a mission, Wistia was marketing to their product. This means that they were sharing all that their product had to offer without really providing a basis for what exactly it was they were offering. Chris couldn't quite figure out why they weren't growing, but once they established a company mission, they saw everything about their marketing transform for the better.

Wistia's mission is to empower people to use video. Knowing this, they don't make any marketing decisions that contradict this statement, and this resulted in a significantly broader range of content they could produce. Just look at their blog. It's chock-full of fun content including actionable tips on how to make your videos more accessible using captions, improved tools for your video library management, how to create visual stories with a B-roll, and much more.

This content fits under their mission because it's helping their users get the most out of making their own videos.

2. Define your vision to differentiate your product.

Having a mission is great, but when it stands alone, it can seem rather static. It's also important to look toward the future and set goals for your company. Wistia has done this by defining their vision. Your vision is something that differentiates your product from everything else on the market.

Wistia came to their vision by realizing that people were using their product for a multitude of reasons -- marketing, internal training, collaboration etc. -- which looks great, but also makes it really hard to focus on everything. They realized that what it came down to was that Wistia was built for video marketing. You could use Wistia for everything that people had already been using it for, but it was built for video marketing.

The introduction of Turnstile on Wistia was what really set their vision in motion. Turnstile is a tool that lets you identify leads and capture emails through your video. Unsurprisingly, people saw Turnstile and suddenly realized why Wistia was different from other video-hosting platforms. No other video hosting platform was allowing you to run analytics, capture leads and capture emails through the video on your site. Wistia's clients could get actionable data telling them what segments of their videos people were watching.

It's their video marketing that sets them apart.

3. Market your core value to build an educated and loyal consumer base.

Once you have established the two tenets that make up your core value, marketing will naturally become a lot easier, and the period of time from when someone learns about your product to having an "aha!" moment will get shorter and shorter.

Once Wistia established their mission and defined their vision, they started integrating this language into everything and began their solo journey away from the rest of the pack. Their external marketing emphasized that they were a video-marketing platform, and their content made people feel empowered to use video as a tool. Internally, they implemented their core value into the ways they thought and talked about their company out loud and on their site.

Suddenly, Wistia found themselves a proud lone wolf.

Related: What Volkswagen Can Teach You About Values-Based Marketing

Walter Chen

CEO & Co-founder, iDoneThis

Walter Chen is the founder and CEO of iDoneThis, the easiest way to share and celebrate what you get done at work, every day. Learn the science behind how done lists help you work smarter in our free eBook: The Busy Person's Guide to the Done List. Follow him on twitter @smalter.

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