The Best Advice I Ever Got on Standing Out from the Crowd

Posted by Matt Hodkinson
05-May-2015 13:42:00

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In business, there will always be competition when it comes to getting noticed and gaining customers. And in no industry is this more the case than in technology, where ever-changing and improving systems and programs mean that there is always going to be a number of companies trying to meet these needs. So for any IT business owner or executive, the question is "How do we stand out from the pack?".

Some, if not many, businesses take the path of most resistance by doing just about everything to make themselves stand out from the others, offering deep discounts, spending untold fortunes on advertising, and more. But is there a way to stand out while remaining authentic, without having to stoop to unsavory or out-dated tactics, and without losing integrity?

There is. For instance, in a world where Ringling Bros. ruled and where the concept of the circus was fairly universal, one organisationsought to find their own success. This new circus found ways to set itself completely apart and has achieved massive success by focusing on presenting an elevated entertainment experience. And anyone who has ever tried to purchase a ticket for a Cirque du Soleil show knows how expensive they are - just like anyone who's ever attended a show knows how worthwhile the price is, and how completely the organisation's leaders managed to eliminate the competition by focusing on where they could deliver in ways other circuses couldn't or hadn't. From beginning to end, the experience is unparalleled.

Think, too, of the Nintendo Wii, which changed the concept of home gaming. Too many companies assumed that gamers were only young men and marketed themselves to this demographic. Nintendo decided to build a control that was easier for under-served markets such as women, the older and the very young to manage, and designed an entire system and series of games geared toward these untapped markets. This new system also used less CPU power and less intricate graphics, making it more affordable. This opened a whole new world with no competition, since there was absolutely nothing like it on the market.

Starbucks changed the way we drink coffee. Apple changed the way we purchase, store and listen to music. These are just a handful of examples of what's called the Blue Ocean Strategy, referring to the notion that instead of being just one more shark competing in a blood-filled red ocean, organisations should instead look for ways to separate themselves from their competition - to the point where competition is eliminated or made irrelevant - and float peacefully in a blue ocean.

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How can an IT company use the Blue Ocean Strategy? First, its leaders cannot be afraid to think creatively and embrace potential strategies and policies which may seem outside the norm. 

So what advice did I get?  Think of your three biggest competitors and ask yourself:

  • To whom do they market themselves?
  • What sort of brand/image do they convey?
  • What sort of overall experience do they offer their customers?
  • How do they address their customers' needs?
  • Do they offer any guarantees in terms of service or reimbursement?

Now it's a matter of finding ways in which your company can stand separate from your competitors in these areas. Are there markets which are currently untapped? How can your customer service policies rise above others?  How are you using co-creation to have your customers "design" the experience they desire from you?

Especially in industries which are saturated with competition, it's crucial to innovate. Allow your business to stand apart by making competitors irrelevant. "Business as usual" isn't the way to go about this - but that's never been the way to real growth in any situation, either.