Too many competitors? How to stand out

Make it easy for customers to choose you

Read time: 3 minutes

Hey there - it’s Brian 👋

I get frustrated when I don’t know which option to buy.

Right before I moved to SE Asia I had to choose a storage unit in Boston.

A quick scan online tells you there’s 70 options in the area. 70!

So if you own the storage unit, how do you make your business stand out when customers have so many options?

This week, I spoke with a Boston storage unit owner to find out how he differentiates his business.

In this issue, you’ll hear:
• How you differentiate yourself if you have a lot of competitors
• Show you an example from a storage business
• Introduce you to your peer who won last week’s naming challenge

Let’s get you customers!

It’s hard to stand out when you have a lot of competition

But what if your business has a lot of competition?

• Flower Delivery
• Cabinet Making
• Plumbing
• Painting
• Storage

The list goes on.

For all these businesses, customers compare their options, struggle to quickly tell the difference, and choose one at random. It’s a gamble if you get the sale.

So let’s talk about how you stand out, when you have a lot of competitors.

Here’s your first steps to stand out

3 steps to make your business stand out:
1) Group customers by their needs
2) Break those needs down to actionable parts
3) Translate the parts to what you’ll do for them

This way, you’ll be focused on customers that your competitors aren’t, or provide value to those customers in a different way.

Let’s use a real business as an example as I walk you through each step. My friend, Barrett O’Neill’s storage business, OnDemand Storage (ODS):

1) Identify customer

First, talk to your most loyal customers to see what needs they have in common.

These needs will give you an idea of what you do better than anyone else.

Steal these questions to get to know their needs:

  • “When using [our solution], what are you ultimately trying to get done or accomplish?”

  • “Are you using multiple solutions?”

  • “What are you trying to accomplish as you pull together multiple products and services?”

  • “What’s the final output you’re looking for?”

Source: Questions came from this Jobs to be Done website.

From the interviews you’ll create a list of outcomes that your customers are using your solution to achieve.

Phrase the outcomes as “I want to [do a task] so I can [achieve expected outcome]

For a “task” include both the action the customer wants to do, and the object the customer wants to do it to.

For example:
I want to store my business equipment during the summer so I can re-open my business in the fall.

2) Understand what the customer values

Now, we want to translate these needs into something your business can act on. You want to know what your customer values and how you can solve it better than anyone.

But the word “value” is so vague.

Bain Consulting thought the word “value” was too fluffy too. So they ran a study to break value down into it’s core elements. They found 30 “Elements of Value.”

These elements are much more concrete.

Here’s why I’m so excited about this. If your customer says they want convenience what they really mean is these 4 elements:
• Simplifies
• Save time
• Avoid hassle
• Reduce effort

Those 4 elements are much easier to act on! Let’s do that in the next step.

Use the pyramid below to see what “value” really means to your customers (and check out this article if you want more of an explanation).

3) Find values where you can win / application

Now you take those elements and come up with ideas on how your business can solve them better than anyone.

Let’s take that convenience example:
• Simplifies
• Save time
• Avoid hassle
• Reduce effort

Here’s the first 3 elements as an example for OnDemand Storage (ODS):

Storage is complex if the items need to be picked up from multiple locations. ODS built in-house logistic software to make the logistics simpler.

Save time:
ODS can save time during initial move-in and save time during the storage period itself. A few examples: using autopay, having the facilities ready when users arrive, movers ready on arrival.

Avoid hassle:
The big hassle for commercial storage is when they need a space too big for standard storage units, but getting their own warehouse would be too expensive.

Barrett gives businesses this mid-sized storage space so they don’t need their own warehouse. Businesses don’t need insurance, employees, or a logistics network.

You don’t need a new idea

You’ll notice that taking care of what customers value isn’t a new idea. ODS isn’t the first business to handle logistics for you.

What makes you different is that you understand what your customers value and message it to them so it’s clear you’re taking care of their specific needs.

In a later issue we’ll cover how you message your differentiation so that customers know what makes you different.

If you want more lessons from Barrett’s experience. He talks about it in his weekly newsletter. Subscribe here for free:

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Business Owner Spotlight

Last week, I asked the community to come up with new names for the community. One business owner gave amazing answers so I’d love for you all to meet him.

Meet Marvin Kaunda, the founder of Cocktail and Dinner.

Cocktail and Dinner gives you a chance to rent a kitchen and a dining room of a private home to host intimate cocktail, dinner, or BBQ event with your guests.

Think of it like an Airbnb for in-home dining.

I love the idea. I’m currently living out of a hotel in Kuala Lumpur with no kitchen (but I love to cook).

If you want to be featured in next week’s email, reply to this email and let me know how you’re using (or plan to use) this week’s tips.

That’s a wrap!

If you're struggling to differentiate your business online, reply to this email with your challenge. Happy to point you to resources to help.

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See you next Thursday 👋

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On Brian’s Mind:

A few things on my mind this week to improve my own business:

Make better business decisions:
I want to improve my decision-making. Better decisions means my business grows faster.

So this week I picked up Charlie Munger’s biography: Poor Charlie’s Almanack.

The big takeaway (so far): be curious about how other industries solve problems. They use a different angle that could solve your problem.

Stop losing ideas:
I get all these great ideas and write them into Notion. But my notes are so disorganized I lose a lot of them.

I’m working on a system to better capture notes the way I think. Testing out a different method (using Obsidian). Will let you know what I think.

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