“Whatever you do, be different. If you’re different, you will stand out.” —Anita Roddick

“No one remembers you for standing in the crowd. But they do remember you for standing out of it.” —Eddie Harris

How are you going to keep standing out from the crowd? You have competition – either similar products or services or substitutes (people do it themselves or they choose not to do anything, or they do something completely different with their resources).

Big companies throw a lot of money at this problem: buying ads, elaborate campaigns, looking for opportunities to ride a viral cultural wave. But what about small businesses? Allocating precious resources to maintain or even raise visibility takes away from both profitability and business improvements for customers, employees, and owners. And while you likely need to do some ad buying, visibility for small businesses depends on standing out for the key value your business brings to the market.

Let’s look at that more closely because a lot of the time people assume that means your product or service has to stand out all by itself – that somehow you have to have some twist added to attract attention. And while that can be fun and helpful for short term visibility – like a human-interest story in the paper or a flash mob event – that’s not sustainable and may not reflect the unique combination of skills, personality, culture, resources, attitude, and focus your business offers.

Here are some other ways to stand out that truly make a difference for small businesses:

  1. Amazing service: this can be at the time of delivery, before, after, follow up, and all of the above. This kind of service creates relationship – bonds for the customer so that they identify your business as one that cares. Maybe your business includes personal information in a purchase record – not just parts or products or packages, but actual relationship-type information: as small as birthdates, as much as topics you discussed or listened to them mention. Here’s an example of a small experience I just had: I needed to know about boat cruises and what facilities they had onboard in order to see if my whole family could join in. I sent off an email, expecting in a few days to get a response. I got an enthusiastic response right away – within 30 minutes. That was enough for me to get excited and respond enthusiastically back – thinking that would be the end of it. But no, they responded again saying they hoped to see me soon on a cruise AND if I needed help booking just email them back. Given the timing and responsiveness, I didn’t take that as an idle offer (and so often it is because the responsiveness just isn’t there). My takeaway is that they want business, they offer service, and they are willing to be on top of responding to someone they don’t even know yet. I’m impressed.


  1. Incredible experience of buying, opening, using, and asking questions about the product or service. You could have superfast, high quality delivery, or custom options, or a beautiful showroom, or a new experience of buying, instead of the expected experience everyone else is offering. I once purchased a lot of housewares at a regular department store. They recognized that I was tired, loaded down, and just could stand on my feet any longer. They found a place for me to sit, took care of reorganizing all my packages, found transport, and brought the entire payment process to me sitting in the chair. This wasn’t some store known for this service, but I certainly went back to that place and looked for that person to help me again.


  1. Unparalleled expertise. You could become a source of learning more and empowering people to make better decisions when purchasing your type of product. You could become the go-to spot for people who care to invest time and energy understanding all the ramifications. That builds trust, credibility, and you become part of their process, not to be left out. I have a friend who recently attended a short, free workshop at a car repair shop she hadn’t been to before. The workshop focused on women who need to have some detailed insight into vehicle repairs because they’re alone or have primary responsibility or travel alone. She and some of her friends who travel with horses to various events attended. And now that car repair place has a few more impressed customers spreading the word about how they care about women. They built trust and relationships – and likely got people to switch to their shop as a result.

Essentially, the way YOU stand out entirely depends on what you’re already good at, love to do, and have the energy to expand into something that impacts your customers and prospects positively. Doing something that doesn’t quite match who you are at the core will be unsustainable and your customers will feel that. You can’t fool them.

Instead, spend time taking stock of all your talents, skills, personalities, inspirations, and processes involving everyone in your business. Then compare that to your competition – including the customer’s option to do nothing. What stands out? What do you have that others don’t? Maybe you have an employee inspired to do something amazing that you can turn into a core experience? Perhaps you have expertise not visible to your market?

You can also take time to listen to what your customers love about your business – why do they come back? Get a new perspective on what your business creates and then put that into play consciously.

Any questions? Or do you need help? Let me know in the comments below or contact me here.

“Why fit in when you were born to stand out?” —Dr. Seuss

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