4 Simple Tips for Standing Out in the Crowded Startup World How to differentiate your business in the competitive startup landscape.

By Roy Dekel

Key Takeaways

  • The importance of deeply understanding your competition, striving to be different and humanizing your brand
  • What to avoid when striving to be unique

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

We're stepping into a high-stakes journey: the world of startups. Competition? Inevitable and intense.

The landscape of business competition in the U.S. is a fascinating study of dynamism and resilience.

The current business census underscores a vibrant, competitive environment. I guess we can all agree that competition is the lifeblood of innovation, growth and long-term business success.

Stalwart entrepreneurship is a testament to this fierce competition, with levels remaining steady at approximately 250,000 new applications per month. Yet, the terrain is not evenly spread. Some sectors are more competitive than others, indicating the need for diverse strategies depending on your industry.

Here are some simple tips you can use to make sure your startup stands out from the competition.

Related: 3 Ways to Stand Out from Competitors

1. Understand your competitors — deeply

The sporting strategy from Sun Tzu's The Art of War applies here. It emphasizes the importance of thoroughly understanding your competitors to achieve victory.

Studying their strengths, weaknesses and strategies will allow you to adapt and find new paths to success.

Knowledge of your opponents aids your victory. Yes. But understanding isn't just about knowing their products or services — it's below the surface.

Subscribe to their newsletters, and test their offerings. The more comprehensively you grasp their operations and offerings, the better equipped you are to spot gaps they've left for you to fill or outclass.

2. Never underestimate the competition

In this sphere, pride can be the first step towards failure. It's a big mistake to believe your startup is the brightest in the market.

For instance, assuming that your business will gain instant traction and everyone will know about it is a common mistake.

Gaining visibility and recognition takes time and effort, so it's a must to have a solid marketing strategy in place to reach your target audience and stand out from the competition.

The same principle is also repeated in Sun Tzu's The Art of War. It might sound stern, but it's a path toward adaptability and growth.

Keep learning, keep innovating, and pivot quickly if required. Acknowledge that there may be competitors out there doing some things better or more inventively. Standing still is not an option.

3. Differentiate yourself

Front and center here is the often-overlooked Blue Ocean Strategy — instead of endeavoring to be better, why not strive to be different?

Explore uncharted territories in the marketplace rather than jostling for space in the crowded, existing matrix. In Blue Ocean's case, that means creating new markets or redefining existing ones.

Take a moment. Are there product enhancements your competitors are missing? Or a customer segment they're not addressing? That's your opportunity to revolutionize the market. Be distinct. Provide the unexpected.

It's more about disrupting the market than competing within it. By creating a niche market within an existing market, you can differentiate yourself and stand out from your competitors.

Related: 3 Reasons to Be Grateful for Tough Competitors

4. Humanize your brand

In an age where customers are bombarded with AI and brands vying for their attention, a human touch can be beautifully refreshing.

How about bringing your customers into your world? Being transparent about your process can make your customers feel a part of your story — like they're a part of something bigger.

Engage with your audience consistently and authentically. Pay attention to their needs, address their concerns promptly, and greet them warmly when they interact with you. Cultivate a community where they feel valued.

When striving to be unique, what should you avoid?

You may consider undercutting competitors on price to stand out. While that might seem like an easy way to distinguish your business and attract customers, it's a risky strategy.

Underpricing your products or services could, paradoxically, make your brand appear inferior. Rather than attracting customers, it might drive them away, causing them to doubt your value proposition.

Moreover, underpricing can force you into a precarious position, operating on meager profit margins. Any business that seeks long-term success must be able to innovate and grow without financial pressure.

Related: 4 Ways to Stand Out In the Most Crowded Markets

Though it may feel like you're walking into a storm, remember Sun Tzu's enlightening words: "Amid chaos, there is also opportunity."

Continue to explore, grasp the essence of your competition, keep pushing boundaries and, importantly, dare to be different.

However, some businesses also fail to succeed because they take on too many challenges at once. They try to do too many different things at once, and they can't keep up with all of them.

As a result, they fail because they are spread too thin. This lack of focus often causes overwhelming feelings and makes some give up before they reach their goals. Being different also means prioritizing and focusing on the most important things.

Take this challenge head-on, and success won't be far away.

Roy Dekel

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

CEO of SetSchedule

Roy Dekel is the CEO of SetSchedule, an American software company specializing in big data and AI technologies. Preceding SetSchedule, Roy sold billions in financial products and prior to trends, institutionalized the buy and hold residential lifestyle model managing a lofty residential portfolio.

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