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What makes you different than your competition?

What makes you different from all the other choices that your customers have when they go to purchase your goods or your services somewhere else?

What Makes You Different?

Please notice I asked, “what makes you different?” I didn’t ask “what makes you unique?”

A lot of marketing people and ad agencies talk about what makes you unique. They call it different things, “USP” maybe – your Unique Selling Proposition – or perhaps they’ll talk about your “X-Factor,” or your “Black Box.” But what they’re all looking for is uniqueness. Sadly, there aren’t too many things that are really unique.

Why? Because the definition of the word unique means “unlike any other.” The word unique has a singular meaning – you’re either unique or you’re not.

You can’t be a little unique any more than you can be a little perfect, a little excellent or even a little pregnant.  Yes, you may be one month pregnant or you might be nine months pregnant, you can be more or less pregnant, but you’re not a little pregnant. You’re either pregnant or you’re not.

Why aren’t you uniquely different?

First of all, being unique is really hard to accomplish. Lots of businesses have been searching for their own uniquenesses since the beginning of commercial endeavors. Very very few of them have ever found it. Ivory soap floats. The Beatles had John, Paul, George, and Ringo. The Concorde was a commercial airliner that could fly from NYC to London in three and a half hours. Keep thinking about it and you’ll list some others, but you’re not going to come up with too many more.

Sure, patents, trademarks, copyrights, and the like can create temporary uniquenesses by regulating other’s ability to use your secret sauce. But that’s an artificial environment created through governmental fiat, not an example of true uniqueness.

There’s probably nothing in your business that is absolutely unlike any other to begin with… and that’s a good thing.

Why? Because uniqueness is really hard to sell.

No customers are looking for something that they’ve never heard of before. After all, when you offer something truly unique, you’re answering the question that hasn’t been asked; you’re selling a product that no one’s ever heard of; you’re providing a service no one knows they want… yet. No one knows what it is, and no one knows why they want or need it.

Why do they tell you to be uniquely different?

Chances are you were told that you needed a USP by the people who get paid to create USPs, by the folks who run advertising agencies, manage consulting companies, and own creative firms. They tell you they’re going to figure out what your unique selling proposition is. Instead, you’ll pay them to show you how to be creatively different, not unique.

Why does this make a difference to you?

This is important because people spend so much time, money, and effort trying to create – or trying to purchase – something that’s almost impossible to achieve in the first place. And if they do happen to succeed, they’re stuck with something that’s almost impossible to sell. Simply put, being unique is not an attribute to strive for when you market your business.

Instead, look for your PODs, your Points of Difference and your Points of Distinction (PODs). What’s different about you and your company? And, what are you really good at?

We’re not looking for what’s “unique” about you and we’re also not talking about where you’re perfect or excellent. Instead, we’re talking about what you’re really good at and what sets you apart.

Look at your customers’ lives and their businesses and try to uncover the opportunity that isn’t being met, the itch that isn’t being scratched, the question that isn’t being answered. Figure out how you’re positioned to answer those needs – make that your distinctive difference, and you’ll find the fastest path to success and profitability. And maybe that will be YOUR uniqueness.

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