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How to become the only obvious choice for your target customer

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“The biggest problem in getting to the top… is getting through the crowd at the bottom”. That’s one of serial entrepreneur Nigel Botterill’s essential business rules – and, having built eight £1m businesses from scratch in the last eight years, he knows a thing or two about standing out from the crowd.

But standing out from your competitors is about much more than coming up with a catchy slogan – though that can certainly help. Do your customers see you as a commodity? If so, you’re not “The Special One”, you’re like any other business and you’ll be forced to compete on price.

Most businesses say, “Our people are the difference” or “Free Quotations” (does anyone actually charge for quotations these days?). You might as well say, “Do business with us because we’re pretty much the same as our competition but we’re really good at it”.

Only when you differentiate yourself in a clear and powerful way can you become a Category of One company.

But before you come up with how you’re going to stand out from the crowd you need to know who you want the crowd to be. Remember the three Ms:

(1) Market – who your who is;
(2) Message – what you’re going to tell them; and
(3) Media – how you’re going to tell them.

The most important thing is that your market needs to be specific, identifiable and contactable.

To become a true Category One company you need to follow three rules:

(1) Know more about the customer than anyone else – not just who your customer is, but what makes them tick and what they’re thinking. If you’re not sure, survey your best companies.

(2) Get closer to the customer than anyone else – what else could you know about your customer to get even closer? Whether it’s knowing the names and ages of their children or, like Amazon and Netflix, simply knowing what they’ve bought before and are likely to want to buy again, make it your business to know.

(3) Emotionally connect with customers better than anyone else – it doesn’t always take much, but the smallest gestures can mean a lot, whether it’s a local bookseller popping round to deliver an order to a house-bound customer and bringing a box of chocolates as well, or a behemoth like Disney making every visitor to their parks feel like they’re a friend.

When I teach this course to business owners at the Entrepreneurs Circle Training Academy I find the question that most companies find toughest to answer is: What’s your story? The answer is not, “I make widgets” or “I sell software”. Think about what’s important to you and why you go to work every day. If you don’t have a sense of purpose – what’s really important to you and what the point of it is – you’re going to find it hard to beat a competitor who has figured out these things.

You’ll then find it easier to come up with a strapline for your Category of One business. It needs to be something that makes you stand out, or something your competitors cannot say.

Here are a few possible angles:

  • The result or outcome your customer gets;
  • Your track record of proven results;
  • Your bundle price or payment plan;
  • Your guarantee; or
  • Your awards.

There are four other angles you can use for straplines:

(1) Try the negative: “This isn’t for you if…”
(2) Add a time frame: “This positive outcome will happen before…”
(3) Or else: “We’ll refund your…”
(4) Powerful words: “The only”, “the UK’s fastest”, “the first”.

Think about what you offer or do for your customers that your customers don’t. Think of some-well known examples. Premier Inn’s “A good night’s sleep guaranteed or you get a full refund”; Kia’s seven-year warranty on all new cars; or Netflix’s boast that they provide the largest selection of independent films of any movie rental service.

A Category of One is a clever truth. It is self-appointment, self-promotion and self-aggrandisement. You don’t need anyone else’s permission to be successful.

Andy Willcox is chief marketing officer at Entrepreneurs Circle.

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