Back in the day, when our conversion optimization agency focused on athletic and outdoor brands, business owners would frequently come to us with an urgent request. "We love the work you’re doing," they’d say, "but we want you to make ours look just like Nike’s!"
Since brand differentiation is one of the fundamentals of strategic marketing, that put us in a tough spot. Our job is to help clients, not hurt them. What do you say when a client wants to hire you to do something you know isn’t wise? Do you speak your piece and take the job anyway? Do you try to talk them out of it?
Answering these questions led us to what may be marketing’s best-kept secret -- something right in front of us all the time, but not visible until we focused on it. Our job switched from trying to prevent one client from wanting to mimic another client’s success to helping each of them realize something crucial -- their insights were better than Nike’s!
Your ideas are better than your competitor’s ideas too. Here’s why…
The other company’s story is not your story
Unless a former University of Oregon athlete teamed up with his track coach to launch your company from the trunk of his car, your story doesn’t match the Nike story. That’s as it should be.
Your strongest selling point is that you aren’t like the competition. You’re different. You’re unique. You have your own story. You’re you.
A recent trend has been to call a company the “Uber of X,” or the “Kickstarter of Y.” But if you are brand X or Y, are you really going after the same customers?
When you differentiate your brand, you create a path to sales that doesn’t rely on lower prices. You create a framework for effective marketing and increased online conversions. Customers want to know why they should buy from you. Tell them.
The other company’s customers are not your customers
Even in tightly-defined markets, your best customers aren’t the same as the target audience for other companies in the niche.
Your job is to identify your unique place in the market and to call your audience out from the crowd. That means your messaging and branding will be yours alone.
Going back to the “Uber of X” trend, think about Uber and Lyft. While they technically sell and market very similar services, Lyft identified that Uber owned the higher end “black car” market. So instead, they focused on the friendly neighborhood driver who picks you up in their own car, not a semi-private driver in a black SUV. This has helped them to carve their own niche of customers to market to, as opposed to following Uber blindly.
You want to base your user experience on what converts your customers, not on what converts for the competition. Think:
- Who is attracted to your company, your products and the way you do business?
- Who is most likely to buy from you instead of from your competitor, and why?
The better understanding you have of your own best-customer personas, the better equipped you are to create the messaging and the atmosphere to attract them.
The other company’s strategy is not your strategy
It’s one thing to observe a competitor’s actions on their ecommerce or lead-generation website, but it’s quite another to know how well their strategy is working. Here, for instance, are some things you don’t know:
- You don’t know the ROI they are generating.
- You don’t know how much traffic they’re drawing.
- You don’t know their conversion rate or other important metrics.
Those who copy the work of others are just as likely to copy bad lessons as they are to copy good ones.
Our mantra, here at The Good, is “Develop a hypothesis, test the theory, observe results, and test again.” It’s difficult to test a competitor’s work, but it’s easy to test your own.
Your insights are better than your competitor’s
Your insights are better than your competitor’s because your insights come from knowing your own story, listening to your own customers and working out the strategic plan that best fits your business.
“Thinking out of the box” may be an intriguing idea, but you first need a box to think out of. Draw your own line in the sand. Determine the type of people who best fit your customer personas, and make every part of your brand serve that market.
You don’t need to be more like your competitor, or Nike for that matter. You need to be more like you.
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This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com. Minor edits have been done by the Entrepreneur.com.ph editors.