Let’s face it, starting a business can be very easy, but staying in business can be very difficult given that our customers have too many choices on where to spend their hard-earned cash. So the question I posed to small business owners was “How do you make your business stand out from the crowd so that people will choose to spend their dollars with you?” Here are 30 of the best responses that I received from businesses located all over the world! I hope there’s a few that resonate with you.
1. Give ‘Em What They Want
For us, at The Burger Dive, it was all about offering something that we didn’t think our city really had, and that we believed would be wanted. Our city is overflowing with fast food burger chains, and a couple of higher end burger chains, but it really lacked that one little mom and pop burger joint that everyone loves. We have maintained our standards from day one, using only fresh and quality ingredients. We make everything ourselves, and it has paid off. People tell us daily “this is the best I’ve ever had,” and they say they can really tell the difference between us and our larger chain competitors. It really comes down to freshness, and also our creativity with our burgers and our specials.
Thanks to Brad Halsten, The Burger Dive
2. Become a Winner
We have won multiple awards and we are proud of them. The awards have become not only a pat on the back, but a great marketing tool that really gets our name out there. The award definitely holds its value as the years go on.
Thanks to Matt Pringle, DCP Productions
3. Become Really Good at Something Really Difficult
We are a team of professional organizers who specialize in the severely cluttered and hoarders. We actually receive referrals from other organizers because this is a very difficult segment of our industry and is too much for many organizers.
We allow the client to be in command of their costs by charging hourly rather than making them buy a package up front and we make sure they are very comfortable with their organizer since this is SUCH an intimate business. We offer a quicker turn-around time if they are up against a deadline (often imposed by the county) while still allowing them to keep their dignity and self-esteem.
Thanks to Maria Spetalnik, ConquerTheClutter
Related: Media Branding Tips
4. Cater to Your Customer
Madcapz are specifically made for women by a woman. Most ball caps are made for men so they are too big and don’t fit women well. Our caps are low profile, meaning there is less room in the crown and this is better suited to women’s heads.
Also, Madcapz are available in over 20 fabulous prints; most baseball caps are in boring, drab colors and splattered with corporate and sports logos.
And finally, a growing trend with our buyers: they love that our baseball caps are Made in the USA! Most ball caps today are made in Bangladesh and China, ours are made here and buyers love that!
Thanks to Carrie Bell, Madcapz
5. Tap into What Works and Make it Your Own
We are a military/patriotic fashion apparel brand. We just got started about 2 years ago but within 18 months had the most popular website among our competitors and the second largest following of fans on Facebook. How did I do it? A lot of long nights… But seriously, we separated ourselves. When I started the business I really just wanted something cool to wear that looked modern but had a military or patriotic twist to it, being a veteran of the United States Army and a Drill Sergeant at the time.
We took modern cool looks and quality from what’s currently hot in the market, put a patriotic or military twist on our designs and then guaranteed our apparel for life like another apparel retailer does. We really didn’t innovate anything, but took what works from other successful companies and put them together to come up with us, Grunt Style. It’s worked fantastically and we continue to explode with growth.
Thanks to Drill Sergeant Daniel Alarik, Grunt Style LLC
6. Specialize: Be The Expert-Then Deliver
There are a ton of freelance writers, but not many have expertise in my niches (aging, senior care, evidence-based health advice, and high-end SEO friendly content for websites). My clients come to me for expertise they haven’t seen elsewhere. They could pay cheap prices for lesser work, but they know that with me, they’ll get exceptional content that beats the competition’s. So I help their businesses stand out too! I also strive to be outstanding to work with.
Thanks to Leigh Ann Otte of LA Wordsmith
7. Ice The Cake
So many businesses advertise their “quality” or “speed” as if the competition doesn’t have this. Come up with something the competition doesn’t have, something extra – icing on the cake. I don’t market this enough – maybe I should – but when we write a book for a client, we will happily prepare a synopsis and query letter at no extra cost. We only bring this forward when a lead asks about what comes after the writing. It helps close the sale rather than generate new leads.
Thanks to David Leonhardt of THGM writers
8. Be Authentic, Be Bold, Be Different!
Here is something different in this day and age, NEVER TAKE ANY ONE for granted, listen to your clients. provide value in your products and service, and go above and beyond to make people feel like they are your only customer. Return to simple values such as face to face marketing, handshakes, and then use modern day technology to stay in front of them and provide resources, education establishing yourself as the authority in your field.
Thanks to Marc Abelman, Las Vegas Interior Design
9. Be Honorable and Forthright and You are Golden
Honest straightforward communication and portrayal of your product. No gimmicks schmooze.
Thanks to Lys Fulda, Sphinx Group
10. Cater to A Specific Niche
We make accommodations for, and cater, to special needs kids.
Thanks to David Perkins, Bubble Swim School
I am a freelance copywriter competing with dozens, if not hundreds, of other freelance copywriters for assignments. However, with a degree in Chemistry and an insatiable appetite for understanding anything related to science and technology, I have a unique selling proposition. There are plenty of good writers “out there” who are terrified of anything having to do with technology. There are also plenty of highly skilled technical people who can’t tell you in English exactly what it is that they do. I have the rare ability to interview a scientist or an engineer, or read a very technical paper, and translate the “Techno-Babble” or “technical gobbledygook” into compelling English that even people with no technical training can read and understand. My corporate logo is a red apple, and my tag line is, “Technical copy with a delicious difference. Like an apple, it will be “red.” This is how I differentiate my business from my competition.
Thanks to Robert P. Baker, Copy To Go, Inc.
12. Create a Better Experience
Ringadoc puts patients in touch with doctors from any phone, anywhere, anytime. Our meticulous attention to technology separates us from our competitors. We devote just as much time to perfecting our software as we do to finding the best team of doctors, because we believe great technology goes a long way in creating a better healthcare experience. Most recently, we developed the first app that enables patients and doctors to video conference right on their Apple and Android devices.
Thanks to Stephanie A. Higa, Ringadoc Communications
13. Position Yourself As The Expert In Your Field
I try to not be a jack of all trades. We have a tendency to say, “Oh sure, I can do that.” By doing so you quickly find yourself in an over promise, under deliver situation. If you don’t spread yourself too thin, it gives you a chance to perfect the areas that you are really good at. That way you can be THE person in town who is the expert to work with. Be sure to have a list of people you trust to suggest in the fields that you don’t cover. You want to be the person your client consults for referrals!
Thanks to Darlynn Nangano of Little Blog Dress Media
14. Do it Differently Than Your Competitors
Listia.com is an online marketplace where you can buy and sell things without money. You post auction-style listings to earn credits, and can then use those credits to buy things from other users. It’s a great way to trade things you don’t use for things you actually want.
Our main competitive edge is being a truly free service, as opposed to eBay who charges listing fees to sell your things. In addition, we offer a charity donation feature so users can essentially turn the things they don’t want into charitable donations (www.listia.com/charities). We’ve captured a lot of users from the eBay market as well as the Free listings on Craigslist, and hope to continue expanding our services so everyone can barter instead of buy.
Thanks to Mabel Yoshimoto, Listia.com
15. Tell People HOW You Are Different
I changed my tagline last year to: We are not the biggest mover, but our clients tell us we are the BEST!
Then all of my follow-up with prospects and customers outlines how/why our clients say we are the best. This puts psychological triggers in their head so once we provide services for them (and my guys in the field are aware of this campaign), then when we ask for a testimonial they already have it in their head, that we are the best, and are more inclined to put that in their testimonial.
Thanks to Jim Howey of TechMove
16. Speak Their Language
We are the first marketing communication firm in the world to achieve LEED Platinum. LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design and was established in 1993 by the U.S. Green Building Council to encourage sustainable building practices in the U.S. My traditional marketing communications firm has clients in the building materials industry and we wanted to increase that business. Getting accredited, teaching LEED and finally getting the office Certified at the highest level tells our potential clients that we know what their customers are wanting in sustainable building products and that we can speak the customer’s language.
Thanks to Chuck Lohre, Lohre & Associates Marketing Communications
There are many companies that offer marketing services to small businesses. What makes Market Mommy different? We cater to the mom business owner who is trying to get her business off the ground in an affordable manner. All of our services are extremely low cost, yet professional. We help moms brainstorm and develop a marketing plan that is both effective and realistic. Our rates are low and we suggest other marketing efforts that are affordable as well.
Thanks to Dawn E. Berryman, Founder, Market Mommy®
18. Be Yourself, Have Personality
For many freelancers, we ARE our business. There’s just one person, just us. So, just like in personal relationships, just be yourself. Your business is unique because you are unique. Allow your personality to shine through. You don’t have to be the biggest or the fanciest or the most well-known company to be successful. Just look at me. There are bazillion web designers in Phoenix. What sets me apart? I treat clients like friends and let them get to know me.
Thanks to Perri Collins of Perri Collins Consulting
19. Partner with Your Customers
My company stands out because we make our members/customers revenue sharing partners in our business. Our referral program pays our members a percentage of the earnings of the customers they refer to us. They earn money without even shopping and establish residual income for themselves.
Thanks to Frank DeBlasi, Hoopla Doopla, Inc.
20. Helping Nurses Become Heroes
I recently launched a nurse speaking, training, and consulting business. At first, my sales message looked like the others (telling potential clients I could help improve their nurses’ clinical and professional…etc). Ugh. I looked like a cookie cutter. So, I got to the core of what I was trying to do and simplified my message. I want nurses to believe they are heroes; that making a difference is a choice. What makes me different is I tap into their emotions and help them believe in themselves.
Thanks to Renee Thompson of RTConnections
21. Be Old School!
I know that what makes my business stand out shouldn’t be so simple, or old school, but it is. I live by this motto: “Do What You Say You Will Do!” I know it’s not the golden rule, but pretty close to it. I am constantly amazed that my clients thank me for doing such a simple thing as returning a phone call. But, when your friendly competitors take days, or do it not at all, it makes you stand out from a huge pack. All you have is your word, respect it and others will respect you!
Thanks to Karen Berg of United Brokers Group
22. Personal Recommendations and Testimonials and Celebrity Endorsements
I work as a professional magician in the UK and it’s important to stand out in some way as there are hundreds of magicians fighting for the same (relatively small) amount of business and little to differentiate them. One thing I have done is to make sure I get personal recommendations and testimonials from people who have hired me. It’s always useful to have plenty of these on your website, they really help. People can be a bit wary, as they know these things can easily be faked, so actual screenshots of any written “thank yous” are very powerful.
Also, I love celebrity endorsements. They are tricky to come by, but worth their weight in gold. I was working in a restaurant and an old guy came in with his family. I went over to do some magic for them and (OMG!) it was Jimmy Page from Led Zeppelin! I made sure to get a photo with him and put it onto my website; I’ve had several bookings as a result from people who say “If you’re good enough for Jimmy Page then you’re good enough for me!” Always be ready to grab a picture with any celebrity you come across, even if you only speak to them for a few seconds grab that shot, it will be invaluable.
Thanks to Mike Stoner (magician) Magician For Hire UK
23. Provide a Money-Back Guarantee
We offer a 100% money-back guarantee for our services. This means that if one or more objectives are not met within the agreed upon deadlines, we will give the client back every penny of their fee. At first glance, there appears to be a lot of risk involved with doing this. However, we’re confident in our experience and the level of services we provide to our clients.
Thanks to Tim Parkin, Parkin Web Development, LLC
24. Provide a Free Trial
GovernmentAuctions.org is a subscription-based service that gives the customer the best and cheapest possible way to view and participate in government auctions via our site. We have changed the game by offering people an initial three-day free trial membership which has never been done before by anybody in the industry.
Thanks to Ian Aronovich, GovernmentAuctions.org
25. Offer Something that Your Competitors Don’t
In Phoenix we have a lot of problems with car windshields breaking due to rocks from never ending road construction and excessive heat. The problem was that you could get your windshield fixed one day and then need it again the next. Our glass company, Desert Breeze Glass become the exclusive licensee of Diamon Fusion glass guard which is a coating that is applied to the exterior portion of the windshield making it water and rock resistant. We have several insurance agents who have said their glass claims have reduced from the repeat glass offenders since applying DFI to their windshields. This makes agents refer customers to us again and again.
Thanks to Cathryn Curcio of Desert Breeze Glass
26. Don’t Follow the Dots, Create Your Own Path
At SaveOnBrew.com we have both a blessing and a curse by having a very unique product. It is easy to share with people and we often hear “why didn’t I think of that.” The downfall is we have no marketing model to follow. We had to become just as unique in our marketing techniques as our product.
Thanks to Jennifer Davidson Director of Operations SaveOnBrew, LLC.
27. “World Change is How We Roll.”
Sevenly is a social good startup that stands out from the competition in several key ways. Lots of people sell cool t-shirts, but we sell tees with a cause. Each purchase gives $7 to the charity of the week. We also standout by getting our customers involved in promoting the cause. For example this week, when we hit $4,900, we’ll have raised enough to pay for a clean water well for a village in Peru.
Thanks to Justin Palmer, Sevenly
28. It’s All in The Name
I think our memorable name differentiates us from competitors: Fatpacking
Obviously people don’t base their decision to join our weight loss backpacking trips by name alone, but it does get them to at least consider us.
Thanks to Steve, FatPacking.com
29. Stand Out on Every Level
Boxiecat.com is the first provider of mail-order subscription-based home cat litter delivery. The number one way we stand out is by being more convenient. In truth, we also strive to provide a better product in a more green way and to have great customer interactions. We really try to stand out on every level, as a startup, we know that’s our best chance for success.
Thanks to Josh Wiesenfeld, Boxiecat.com
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30. Send Your Message in a Unique Package
It’s trickier to get the attention of the decision maker with your message. Two ideas we’ve used that have worked: (1) We have emailed a letter to a nearby pizza restaurant, they printed it out & delivered the pizza (vegan & cheese free since we publish a newspaper on natural preventive health) with our letter taped on top of the box. This idea was a big hit and helped establish the relationship and sale. (2)
Send your info by mail in nice 4 color/gloss file folders (label goes horizontal).
Thanks to Thomas Katovsky of Healthy Referral Newspaper
Want to get more inexpensive and practical small business marketing ideas, grab a free ebook called “Build Buzz for Your Biz, 23 Creative and Inexpensive Marketing Strategies That Will Get You Noticed” at https://23kazoos.com.
Wendy Kenney is the bestselling author of How to Build Buzz for Your Business available onAmazon.com, and has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Newsday.