How do I differentiate my start-up from the competition?

How do I differentiate my start-up from the competition?


Often this is because their market research or marketing strategy may be at fault. Before launching a new company, many people ask their friends and family if they would use the service. Because it is a service that everyone needs, they say yes, and the entrepreneur believes they have a viable business idea. But once again the question arises: why should your customers buy from you instead of your competitors?

Finding an answer

According to start-up consultant Ed Hatton, your initial customers will be whoever uses your services, because your start-up needs an income. Eventually though you will get out of your initial ‘survival phase’. This means going after customers who need your services.

You will need to develop a marketing plan. Marketing promotions do not necessarily need to be expensive. Your best opportunities will come from networking with people in your target markets. Attend networking events and use forums like LinkedIn and other social media. What you will need is a well written profile, a web site and business cards.

Social Media

Creating a blog, opening a twitter account and a Facebook page allow you to reach your customers on a personal level. Instead of trying to simply sell them your product or service however, you should use these platforms for two purposes: research and creating a community.


According to Hatton, classic marketing theory says that the questioner needs to identify unmet needs, and then provide products and services to meet those needs. So instead of asking people if they would support your business, ask them what they are not getting from their current suppliers.

Start conversations about the industry you are operating within through social networking sites, and see what your potential customers are talking about. And then plan to plug those gaps.

Creating a community

The most important thing to remember about social networking is that it is a community. Melanie Minaar, the creator of the Twitter Blanket Drive, has this important advice to offer:

  • Don’t leave the conversation. Social networks are about sharing, so make sure that whatever conversations you start, you stay in them. Do not start a conversation, and because it takes a different direction to what you were expecting, you ignore the thread. You want to be seen and heard on social media, so go where the conversational flow takes you.
  • Look and Listen. What are people talking about? What do you have to offer the conversation?
  • What’s your zoom factor? Make your social network interactions about ideas rather than the products and services that you offer. It’s not about you, it’s about the community. What great ideas are you offering to that community?
  • Make sure people are talking about you. You need to keep the momentum going. If you offer great content, people will send it on, your community will grow, and your name will start to be known. This won’t happen over night, but word-of-mouth is a powerful marketing tool.
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