Thoughtful marketing to make you stand out

Standing out and achieving cut through is not about quirky adverts or promo stunts. They can get you noticed, though perhaps for the wrong reasons.

It’s about first identifying and understanding your dream target customer. Then, determining how you deliver value to them through your product or service offering in a way that is far better than your competitors.

Do that, and your target customers will notice you.

Who are your competitors?

There are the obvious ones – people who run a business offering similar or identical products or services. If you are a bricks and mortar business, this would include people in a similar location to you too.

Less obvious are ones who may be offering a substitute product or service. For example, if you are a restaurant, you may think of your competitors as other restaurants. However, this is where really understanding your customer is so important. What fundamental need is your restaurant satisfying? Your customer’s hunger? What other service providers satisfy that need? Supermarkets and take aways - both traditional and online. What could you be doing to entice your target customer to visit your restaurant on those occasions that they might settle for a home cooked meal or a takeaway?

For me, an example of an indirect competitor would be a training company offering courses on value proposition development.

So how well do you know your competitors and what they are up to?

Finding out who your competitors are varies very much from industry to industry. If you are a restaurant, as in the example above, it is pretty easy. By the very nature of the business you are in, everything is visible.

If you are a consultant like me, it can be harder but not impossible. Boolean searches on LinkedIn are a starting point. Online and offline networking is another way. Asking questions, being observant. Mystery shopping. Checking out freelancer sites. A simple Google search can also reveal quite a lot.

What should you be trying to find out about them?

If you have taken the steps to identify your dream target customer and have reviewed your product or service offering to determine how it is delivering them value, then you should be easily able to frame what you need to find out about competitors?

  • Are they delivering against a key customer need that you currently are not?
  • If so what can you do if anything, in response?
  • Are then any key customer needs or desires that none of your direct competitors is delivering against? Could your business step in?
  • What about your indirect competitors. Is there something that they are not able to deliver customers that you could do?

Keeping to the food theme, think about what Deliveroo has done. It identified a need that no-one else was meeting - people wanting restaurant standard food delivered directly to their home or office. The average standard takeaway simply cannot compete with restaurant standard food. Deliveroo decided it could fulfil this need by partnering with restaurants to deliver restaurant quality food into people’s homes or offices. Giving people the option of food at a standard they’d get in a restaurant but delivered directly to them.

It’s an iterative process

Yes, if you haven’t done one recently, you should go away now and complete a competitor analysis. However, once you’ve done it, it’s not something you tick off your list and forget about. Always be on the lookout and tweak your offering if relevant in response to new things you discover.

In our rapidly evolving world, your customer needs are likely to change, providing threats and opportunities that you should keep abreast of.

Your competition is unlikely to be resting on their laurels (well some of them). Neither should you.

Think what Tesco did back in the day with their loyalty scheme and HSBC with First Direct.

A final point

Having made the time to find this information and have it at your fingertips is of course a good thing, but don’t ignore your instincts, especially if they are at odds with the findings of your analysis. If that happens, don’t be afraid to make a judgement call.


This article also appears on LinkedIn

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