Ever wonder why some businesses grab attention effortlessly while others just get lost in the crowd?

The secret is differentiation. Like the image of flowers above, getting attention is all about standing out from the competition.

Companies that have nailed being distinctive.

We find that looking at companies doing this well is great inspiration.

Take Warby Parker, for example. The company offers affordable, attractive designer eyewear sold by friendly and knowledgeable staffers.

But what are they REALLY selling?

They’re not just selling glasses. They’re selling an enjoyable shopping experience and sharing their social mission.

Socially conscious, their “Buy a Pair, Give a Pair” program is all about giving back by training opticians in underdeveloped countries to provide residents with low cost glasses.

Interestingly enough, we wrote about Warby back in 2021 when we were looking at companies that successfully master customer engagement. We can learn a lot from this  rockstar company that prioritizes their social mission. 5 traits that successful businesses use to engage customers.

Similarly, Patagonia differentiates itself with a strong commitment to environmental sustainability and employee well-being.

What they really sell is a healthy lifestyle.

Not only do they use recycled and organic materials in their products, they advocate for clothing reuse. Known for providing outstanding benefits and fostering work-life balance, employees are encouraged to enjoy outdoor activities and receive paid time off to work on environmental projects.

What can small businesses learn from success stories like Warby Parker and Patagonia?

It’s not just about WHAT you sell and HOW you sell it. It’s about a lifestyle and what your brand stands for.

As marketers, we think about this all the time. It’s not easy for small businesses to compete with larger, more established companies with large budgets.

But then we catch an episode of Shark Tank and see a brilliant example of entrepreneurship and niche marketing in action. A clever solution to a nagging problem.

How does that happen? What are these entrepreneurs doing that you’re not to rise above the competition?

A lot of soul searching. Even more trial and error. And thorough research.

Whether you’re a startup or an existing company looking to rebrand, the process is the same.

What makes your small business special?

Here’s what we do when we’re working with a new client and need to establish what makes them unique.

Initial Research: Who else is out there?

We dive deep to understand everything about your business.

Client Collaboration: Through a creative marketing intake form, we gather everything we can find about  your company.

  • Who is your competition?
  • What’s unique about their products or services?
  • What is their customer promise?
  • What about their reputation? What do people say about them?
  • If relevant, what do their employees say about the company?

You’d be surprised at how many employees are not on the same page as their management team.

While we’re researching,  you are completing a creative intake form with questions about your USP, customer promise, any marketing you’ve done to date and anything else that will help us establish (or reestablish) your brand.

Strategic Analysis: the research and your input goes into a spreadsheet. So we can see at a glance how your small business compares to others in your market. And together we can build a clear USP that will be the centerpiece of your marketing going forward.

How does this process apply to building a website?

How to Make Your Small Business Website Stand Out in the Crowd

Think differentiation. Embrace distinctiveness. How do we (or you) apply that to your website development?

  1. Do something different. If your competitors have corporate looking sites, make yours less corporate and more approachable. At the same time, make sure your website is visually appealing and engaging.
  2. Have a clear message that immediately tells visitors how and why you can help them. Preferably right up top.
  3. Streamline the User Experience. Make sure your website is user-friendly (UX).and make it easy for visitors to find what they need.
  4. Content Structure: Use bullets and subheads to break up text, so it’s snackable. NO long paragraphs without breaks!
  5. Optimize your site so Google (and people) can find you.
    Otherwise, none of the first 4 matter.

Beyond the Launch: Ongoing Marketing.

Once your website is finished and launched, there’s still plenty of work to be done.

Time to promote.

If you don’t tell people you’re here, you don’t need to worry about standing out because they’re never going to find you. Visibility is critical.

Promoting your website through targeted marketing – social media, advertising, email or print campaigns, public relations, and networking – is crucial. Focus on one marketing channel and do it really well before expanding your efforts.

Hire a marketing firm if you have the budget. If not, do it inhouse until you’re able to farm out this work. But don’t try to be all over the place.

Excel first, then expand.

Some excellent resources for developing your USP and standing out in the crowd:

Differentiate or Die by Jack Trout and Steve Rifkin

Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable by Seth Godin. Described as  a  cult classic that revolutionized marketing by teaching businesses that you’re either remarkable or invisible.

Remember, standing out isn’t just being different. It’s about being boldly and authentically you.

Read more about standing out from the competition by building a better brand.