Stand Up and Out

Sunday, November 1, 2009 - 09:11

Refresh your marketing offering with these five tips for standing out from your competition. By James Ward

We've all heard the phrase 'stand out from the crowd', but with so many product and service options around for consumers, it is now more important than ever to make your mark in business and position yourself above your competition.

Here are some leading pointers to help you along the way.

1. Branding
The best way to captivate your audience is with an authentic and powerful brand. Strong branding will give you an edge over your competition and enhance your value in the global marketplace. Branding identifies and differentiates you, your business and your products and services. So get noticed. Your brand could mean the difference between prospects and customers.

Once you have a powerful brand, the next step is to consistently communicate it. Create your brand identity through all communications, such as logo, business cards, letterhead, website and invoices.

2. Personalise your service
Treat each client as an individual and tailor your service to their needs. If you give the same advice to all your customers, it is time to rethink your approach. Every company or industry thinks it is - or its needs are - unique, but instead they are usually variations on a theme. Even if you have seen the same problem many times before, try to adjust your standard solution a little to make it unique for your client. They will then believe you specialise in their industry; and specialists are always in demand.

Pitch to different industries by using alternative headings and tailored solutions to enhance this specialist feel. For example: alarm systems for offices, negotiating skills for chemical engineers or time management for accountants.

3. Build a great website
There aren't any magic pills to create a great web page that everyone will visit again and again, but if you follow these tips your site will be easier to read and, as a result, more popular.

  • Know your audience and keep them in mind when you write. If your web pages are frequented by people with slower modems, then designing a page that looks best with a high-speed digital connection is not a successful strategy.
  • Keep your pages short. If you minimise the need for scrolling, chances are your readers will get your message. A good content area size is 640 pixels wide by 480 pixels tall.
  • Use tables of contents. According to web page usability guru, Jakob Nielsen, only 10 per cent of users will scroll beyond the first screen of text. If that first screen has a table of contents, viewers are more likely to click on the links to the explanatory text and look at more of your site.
  • Keep images small. Large images annoy people.
    If it takes too long to download, many people will never see it as they will have gone elsewhere.
  • Use web colours. Choosing colours from the browser-safe palette ensures most people will see your page and images in the colours you intended.
  • Avoid big chunks of text. People don't read the web, they skim it.
  • Check your spelling. Use a spell checker, either in your page editor or online, before uploading text.
  • Keep links current. Check links often to make sure they are still valid. Using a link checker speeds up pages with many links.
  • Annotate your links. If a page is good enough to link to, then it's good enough for you to explain why you like it.
  • Invite contact. The web is interactive and dynamic, and savvy business-people welcome comments on their web pages. This is also important if there is a broken web link or site problem; your readers can let you know easily.

4. Win the Google battle
Most people search online first when looking for a product or service, so it's important to come out at the top of the search engine rankings.

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is used to get your website to the top of Google, MSN and Yahoo searches so your site is ahead of the other millions of web pages on the internet. SEO uses keywords that are relevant to your product or service and links to your site to determine its importance; that is, the more links a website has, the more important search engines think it is, and so rank it at the top of the list.

5. Deliver
Willingness to go above and beyond was instilled into me in the US army. My years as a salesman have reinforced that tenfold.

Going to another town 193km away at night on my own time to pick up a box of parts we had left on a dock and delivering them to a job site at 2am won me more orders than I could have ever gained in any other way.

Whatever it is that you have to do in your industry to make your services more valuable than your competitors', do it.