According to Oberlo, there were 2.5 million new business applications filed in the first six months of 2022 alone. That’s mind-blowing. If you’re a small business owner, you know that standing out from competitors is crucial for the success of your business. In this blog post, we’re sharing an exercise so you can build a brand that stands out in a noisy online world. If you’re struggling with how to position your brand, be sure to take lots of notes.
To start this exercise, grab your favorite notetaking tool and list out your Top 3-5 competitors. You can do what works for you best: a 1-10 sliding scale, a visual chart, a list, etc…whatever works best for you and the best way you understand data.
It goes without saying, your business should look professional especially if you’re charging high-ticket prices. But looking like a legitimate business doesn’t necessarily help you stand out. So let’s dive into this exercise so you can build a brand that also positions you to grab the attention of your target audience.
Side note: For this exercise, we’re going to work from the outside in…meaning we’ll start from how people might first interact with your brand and work our way into the operations and heart of your business.
1. Create Visuals that Stand Out
When looking at your competitors, what colors are they using for their business? Be sure to take notes on their main brand color, color palette, and why they chose to use these colors. If your competitors are primarily using neutrals, consider using colors that are bolder and attention grabbing. Consider using lots of bright colors if your competitors have a more black-and-white look. If your competitors use a lot of light pinks and it makes sense for your brand to utilize the color pink, maybe your pink is a more saturated, bold pink.
We love talking about style because your visual style can communicate the personality of your brand. If your competitors’ visual style is primarily clean and minimal, are there ways your visual style can show more of your brand personality by introducing patterns or designing your layouts in a creative way? If your competitors’ visual style is more technical, consider using a style that’s more illustrative or textured. Your visual style will help your brand stand out from the noisy online world.
The fonts you choose for your brand aren’t necessarily a make-or-break on their own, but when combined with your colors and style, your fonts can either contribute in a big way or distract your audience from what you want to communicate. If your competitors tend to use a typical font, try a font that’s more creative that expresses your personality. There are a ton of creative and affordable fonts available for purchase on Creative Market. If your competitors are using serif fonts, consider using something cleaner and more modern like a sans serif font.
2. Nail Down Your Niche
Depending on the type of business you run and where you hang out online, businesses in similar fields tend to serve similar audiences. For example, if you are a virtual assistant, many of your competitors might be serving a similar audience: female creative entrepreneurs who are a year or two in their business. If your business serves the same audience as your competitors, it’s going to be harder to stand out. Is there a different target audience you’d be passionate about serving? Instead of female creative entrepreneurs, maybe you can focus on women who have a side hustle and want to grow that into a full-time business.
Let’s say you have a similar target audience as your competitors, you could consider serving a different industry. Instead of serving design agencies, for example, maybe you could focus on helping accountants and bookkeepers. Where and what industries do your competitors focus on and is there a different industry that could benefit from your business?
Size and Stage of business
If you and your competitors are serving the same target audience and similar industries, try listing out the size and stage of businesses your competitors work with. Do they work with businesses that are currently in the start-up phase or are they working with businesses that are already well established? If your competitors are focusing on working with big agencies, would it make sense for you to focus on serving businesses that aren’t interested in scaling through an agency model?
3. Offer Services that Stand Out
When making notes about your competitors, what does the pricing of their services look like? We don’t want you to slash your prices just to get more clients because it will actually hurt your business and your industry in the long run. But when you’re collecting this data, is there anything that jumps out at you that you can do differently? Maybe you have a similar price as your competitors, can you offer a payment plan that’s more realistic for your target audience or even offer multi-tier packages?
Businesses that are similar to yours will most likely have a very similar framework, but not always. Write out what your competitors do well and make notes on what might be missing or something you can do better. To build a brand that stands out in a noisy online world could mean building a framework that includes an extra step to guarantee bigger results for your clients. Maybe your framework is taught through a different lens that makes your content easier to consume which makes overcoming pain points and obstacles so much easier.
There are both direct and indirect benefits that come with your services. You and your competitors will most likely have similar benefits, but how can you communicate them in a way that actually connects with your target audience? There is so much content online that says pretty much the same thing…enough to make someone’s eyes glaze over. But what if you were able to communicate your message in a different way that actually gives your audience that lightbulb moment to help them achieve their goals? Understanding the wants and needs of your target audience and communicating this clearly and consistently will help your brand stand out in a noisy online world.
4. Differentiate Your Process
If your competitors take 4 weeks to deliver their service, maybe your timeframe to deliver similar services is only 2 weeks. Instead of a project taking 3 business days, maybe your timeframe is only 1. Please note that we’re not saying to find shortcuts that hurt your business, but it’s just one way that could separate your business from the rest. Instead of having clients enroll in a 6-month membership, maybe you offer a membership that lasts for 12 months.
From automated workflows to client gifts, there are so many ways to make your client experience stand out in a noisy online world. Take notes on what your competitors are doing well, what’s missing, and what you can do differently. If your competitors don’t have a way to keep working with their clients long-term, maybe you can create a way to continue working with your clients in the future. If your competitors don’t offer a referral program, maybe that’s something you could consider for your own business.
When it comes to handing off any deliverables, this could be as simple as delivering files that are most convenient for your clients. Maybe it’s delivering file formats they didn’t ask for, but you take the initiative of sending them extra files because you know they’ll need them later on down the road. Maybe it means following up with a call 30 days later to help them with any questions or issues they may have run into.
5. Communicate the Heart of Your Brand
Cut through the noisy online world by being you and sharing what you believe in. Whether you realize it or not, your core values help you distinguish your brand from your competitors because they can either resonate with your audience or not. If one of your core values is efficiency, you’ll probably attract clients who don’t have a lot of time and want things straightforward. If one of your core values is having fun, you’ll want to make sure your visuals, framework, and client experience all reflect that. Developing your core values is personal and should be unique to you. Be sure to take your time and really discover what makes you unique in your values.
Let’s say you are a marketing consultant and your competitors want to build a million-dollar agency. That could be your goal too, but maybe it’s not. Instead of building an agency, maybe you’re more interested in building a business through coaching. Maybe you’re completely happy being a team of 1 or 2 and want to build a legacy by offering courses and workshops.
Building connection and trust are essential to business especially if you’re building an online business. What do your competitors do to build their community? Is there a way that you could build your own in a unique way? What does community look like for your competitor and what could that look like for you? Instead of Facebook Groups, maybe you’ll build your community on Circle. Maybe by doing outreach to the community on Instagram, maybe you’ll focus your attention on building your LinkedIn platform.
Build a Brand that Stands Out in a Noisy Online World
We hope you found this exercise helpful. It takes a lot of time and research to study competitors…and many tend to skip this part. If you don’t want to struggle with how to stand out, you need to collect the necessary data. And as your business evolves, expect to do more research.
Once you’ve collected your data, write out a plan that aligns with your vision and strategy…then execute it. There are so many different ways to build a brand that stands out in a noisy online world so don’t feel overwhelmed or pressured to be different in every single category. When comparing notes with businesses that are similar to yours, there will be some overlaps. The more ways you can find ways to set your brand apart, however, the easier it will be to stand out.
Just remember, find your unique thing and do it better than anyone can.
Until next time,