Heather Allard is a mother of three children and the founder of three successful businesses, including The Mogul Mom, a blog and weekly email for mom entrepreneurs. It’s about diaper changes. Startup funding. Car pools. Play dates. Profit margins. Terrible twos. Legalese. Tween angst. Oh yeah, and building an empire somewhere in the middle of all that. Today, she tackles an important subject for Etsy sellers: differentiating your product in a big marketplace.
My brother Sean emailed me to ask what I thought of a new business he had in mind: all-natural dog biscuits.
I know Sean would really enjoy this line of business. He loves dogs, he’s worked at a dog shelter, and last year he was inspired to help resolve his dog Aidan’s food sensitivities and skin troubles. He bought a recipe book for dog biscuits just so he could experiment with baking treats from different all-natural ingredients so Aidan could enjoy munching without suffering.
Knowing that Sean would enjoy this business wasn’t enough, however, for me to recommend it.
I Googled “all natural dog biscuits” to see the competition Sean would be up against. There were 303,000 results. Clearly, there are already plenty of these all-natural treats on the market. That didn’t mean Sean should abandon his business idea. It did mean he had to be smart about setting up shop.
Be Smart by Being Different
Before beginning his business in the world of all-natural biscuits, Sean would need to know his points of difference. What’s a point of difference? It’s how your product stands out from that of your competitor’s, in a very specific, good way.
To figure this out, you need to know how your product is different in all sorts of ways, good and bad.
Some points of difference that Sean could consider:
- Customer service
- His story (how, why or where he makes them)
Sean might decide that his dog treats feature all natural, exotic ingredients, the benefits of which include easing indigestion and helping with weight loss programs in pets.
The biscuits might be available at certain renowned pet stores and also online. They could be shipped free of charge and even offered in gift-wrapped packaging.
His website might have an automatic replenishment feature so customers never run out, and they could also contact Sean personally to ask his advice on buying treats that are perfect for their pet’s needs.
Sean might also play up the story behind the creation of his business to add an extra point of differentiation from companies born just to make profits.
How to Discover Your Difference
Knowing your points of difference — and the overall differentiation that helps you stand out from the competition — can really help you market and sell your products or services.
Here are two easy ways to figure out your points:
Method One: Be a Detective
- Draw three columns on a piece of lined paper.
- In the first column, list one of your top competitors.
- In the second column, write how your products are similar (both use organic fabric; both cost $25; both are crocheted hats, etc).
- In the third column, write how your products are different (theirs are made in China/mine is handmade; theirs costs $49/mine costs $29; theirs comes in two colors/mine comes in 10, etc.).
Repeat these four steps for up to 10 competitors. When you’re done, look for recurring points you’ve listed in the “differences” column.
Find any? Bingo — those recurring points show some major differentiation that lets you easily stand out from the competition.
It’s that simple. Find someone you can ask what makes your product stand out. And by someone, I mean someone unrelated to you. Not your mother or your sister or your husband or your best friend.
Ask your customers.
What do you ask them? Ask them why they purchased from you. Ask them if they considered buying from the competition and if so, what made them choose your product instead. Ask them what they like about your product (and what they don’t!), and ask why they feel your product is the best choice for them.
Ask these questions to as many customers as you can — preferably, over 20. Write the answers down, and scan through the list to spot recurring points of difference. To make this process even easier, you could send a quick survey to your last 50 customers using Survey Monkey — your answers will be organized and ready for point of difference analysis.
And then, once you’ve determined your point of difference…
Market, Baby, Market!
When you know your points of difference, you have a golden path to sales. You can market what makes you stand out and make sure potential and new customers know what makes you special.
How do you market your differentiation? Mention it everywhere.
- Your Etsy Shop Announcement and Profile
- Your business cards
- Your company name (Think The Launch Coach and Toys-R-Us)
- Your tagline (Annie & Paige: Modern Pooch Portraits & Prints)
- Your wholesale brochure
- Your website bio
- Your product packaging
- Your shipping container
- Your logo
- Your email signature
- Your social media profiles and backgrounds
When you define your points of difference and market them well, you stand out in the sea of similar products. You’ll easily be able to answer the crucial question customers always ask:
“Why should I buy from YOU?”
Practice Makes Perfect
Before you set off to determine your own point of difference, let’s do a little practice exercise to strengthen our marketing muscles.
Fox and Clover: Find the Points of Difference
Sabrina Baissas from Fox and Clover is an Etsy seller with loads of points of difference that she markets in many places. For our practice, visit Fox and Clover and spend a few minutes there reading and browsing. Then, in the comments below, let me know her points of difference and where she markets them. Refer to the above list if you need a little help. Then, for extra credit, tell me which type of customer her points of difference appeal to and why.
Now, Over to You….
Okay, you’ve warmed up your marketing muscles, now it’s time to determine your own points of difference so you’ll stand out from the crowd and sell more.
If you enjoyed this post and want to learn more smart strategies to boost your business, sign up for The Mogul Mom’s free weekly email.