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This Is the Most Important Marketing Question You Will Ever Ask

What makes you special?

By
This story appears in the March 2022 issue of Start Up.

What makes you special?

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It's a hard question to answer, but you'll need to grapple with it over and over again. Because let's be honest: As soon as you start a , you are competing in a world of noise. There are competitors to differentiate yourself from. channels to stand out in. Social media platforms to gain audience in. You have signed up for a non-stop marathon of gaining attention and building momentum and competing for your consumers' precious time — and you cannot even begin to succeed in this race unless you commit to answering this question.

So once again: What makes you special?

The answer may surprise you. You might think it's a particular product or feature or branding scheme of yours. But if you talked to your customers — really talked to them — you might discover that it's something else. Maybe it's how your makes them feel. Maybe it's your empathetic customer service. Maybe it's the way you deeply understand your customers' needs. Maybe it's just you, who like and feel good about supporting.

Related: 3 Ways to Stand Out from Competitors

I recently discussed this with a 16-year-old entrepreneur who started a coffee company. He was convinced that his age made him special. "How many times do you hear of a 16 year old that started his own business?" he asked me in an email. My answer surprised him: I hear from 16-year-old entrepreneurs all the time. Maybe once a week! And they all think their age differentiates them. (You can read our entire exchange here, in my newsletter.)

Within his community, I'm sure he is unique. But because I'm the guy that everyone pitches their business to, I see a pattern that most people don't.

That pattern is important to know about, because it extends far beyond age. This isn't a teenager thing; it's an everyone thing. As the editor in chief of Entrepreneur magazine, adults routinely pitch me stuff that is nearly identical to what other people are doing, and they're talking about it in nearly identical ways. I also see people create or market products in ways that are undifferentiated, and try to appeal to customers in ways that are not unique, and all of them need to take a step back and ask themselves that very, very important question:

What really, really, really makes me stand out?

Whatever your answer to that question is, look again! You are unique. You have something valuable to offer. If anyone has chosen to work with you, they have done so by choosing you over someone else. You must know: What is that reason? And how can you communicate it to others in a way that feels not just convincing, but compelling?

People often think they know what works. They think they understand their audience. They assume something will be easy and straightforward. And then they learn that, to really get it right, and to really stand out, they had to look again.

So look again at that question: What makes you special?

Now start answering it!

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