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How to Stand Out When Everyone Claims to be Unique

How to Stand Out When Everyone Claims to be Unique Jeffrey Fleischman
I recently attended a client meeting and the topic we were discussing centered on their brand and value proposition. Within a few minutes the discussion centered on what made their company different from their competitors. There was much discussion and debate, at times heated, that they were “unique.” So I asked, what makes you unique? What followed was a laundry list of accolades and proclamations why they were different and better than their competitors. After politely listening to this I simply replied, “you’re not unique.” To their chagrin they doubled down and made impassioned statements to substantiate their uniqueness. I listened patiently and when they finished I politely repeated, “you’re not unique,” in fact all your competitors make the same claim so how does a client discern who is unique?

The vast majority of companies, mainly service oriented ones, is that you’re not unique and as hard you try to convince others that won’t change. There may be some degree of differentiation in delivering an outcome however all your competitors will claim to produce the same results. When you’re in front of a customer or prospect your firm is one of many making the same claims and likely using the same superlatives. Some companies have proprietary software that provides a service, however, they are likely to have competitors that offer a similar offering. Apple is credited with creating the smartphone market and it was unique for a while but they now have significant competition that in some ways are out innovating Apple. Uniqueness in a world with low barriers to entry has a short shelf life and while it may be the initial hook a company needs to be adept at delivering on customer needs.

When I worked at large global companies like American Express and Citibank I was bombarded daily by companies that told me how they would revolutionize my business. I would hear about their uniqueness, which sometimes came in the form of “industry leading”, “we are the only ones in the industry that can do this”, “cutting edge” and my favorite “world class.” Even more disconcerting were some companies that had a value proposition and sales pitch that was about them not about how they could help my company. After hearing this incessantly you become tone deaf, after all not everyone can be unique – someone has to be second or third. Find the niche where you have a sustainable competitive advantage but it must be intertwined with an ability to understand and deliver solutions to meet a specific need(s) or drive specific outcomes.

So how does a company demonstrate uniqueness? My recommendation is to stop trying to convince people unless you built an anti-gravitational space ship that can travel at speed of light for less than $100. Place an emphasis on how you’re going to solve their pain points or get them to the next level. Your focus should center on:

  • Being a good listener – understanding what the objectives and goals of a company are is the single most important priority. One of the most engaging tactics you can undertake is to connect with a company based on what they are telling you is priority to them – play it back to them so they know you understand their needs.

  • Understanding their pain points or challenges and providing solutions for them. Nothing is more frustrating than participating in a discussion or presentation that has little to do with what a client wants or needs to hear. The most effective way to drive engagement is to focus on solutions to their challenges.

  • Building trust that you can deliver. Tell them things they should know and don’t be afraid to push back – good managers can tell the difference between a respectful difference of opinion and someone telling them what they want to hear.

  • Demonstrate that you have a track record and use customer testimonials to back it up. The best proof that you can get the job done is to illustrate how you’ve done that in the past. Don’t sell them; convince them they can’t get there without you and show them the path you’ll take. Teach them something they didn’t know and you’re on your way.

At the end of the day you’ll win business if you convince others that you’re that beckon of light that will get them to where they need to be. Don’t be overly concerned whether or not you’re unique; you need to convince them that you can move the needle. If you’ve done your homework and provide solutions and a path to drive specific outcomes the likelihood of success spikes. The road to success is that you can show that you can implement a game plan backed by client case studies - if you’re truly unique all the better.

Jeff is a senior digital and marketing executive with a track record of executing growth strategies that result in bottom line results. He is a skilled visionary experienced in leading multi-million dollar strategic initiatives that defines new ways...

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