Small businesses frequently struggle to compete.This is especially true when operating in a saturated market.
Statistically, making your product unique is unlikely to help it stand out from the crowd. Some of today’s most successful products hardly qualify as creative or inventive. Customers have many options, and many other businesses offer the same or comparable items, so why should they choose you? Nowadays, it is getting harder to know how to separate from competitors due to the intense competition. But it’s crucial to have sound tactics if you want to succeed and produce positive results.
Consider well-known brands such as Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, or Levi’s. They have established strong brand identities and control a significant market. This week’s edition of Let’s Talk focuses on strategies for making your product stand out and beat the competition.
Sam Kothari, Head of Growth ANZ, Airwallex
“Setting your product or service apart has never been more challenging. The market is crowded and fiercely competitive, and customers are truly in the power position. Instead of jumping from one customer acquisition strategy to the next, I advocate for getting the basics right:
- Be clear on your market position: Understand how you are unique from your competitors and communicate the differences in a simple and easy-to-understand way. If it’s not your offering, consider other areas where you can stand out, such as customer service, geographical coverage, helpful advice, and tips.
- Evolve your product-market fit: It’s critical to change with your customer, or you will lose them. Create customer feedback loops and communicate these to relevant business functions regularly. This will ensure your offering evolves with your customer.
- Double down on what’s working: If a particular message, offer, or channel brings in customers successfully, increase resources accordingly. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel (most of the time!).”
Kristen Pimpini, Regional Vice President Australia & New Zealand, Twilio
“In today’s digital world – brands trying to stand out should consider two things: hyper-personalisation and agility.
“Brands must personalise every single interaction with their customers. It’s important to remember that brand marketing can be relentless for consumers – so the key is offering fewer, more meaningful interactions that appeal to their interests. It’s also important to take note of their channel of choice and meet them there. To deliver hyper-personalisation in this way, organisations need relevant, contextualised information, and that’s why customer data platforms (CDPs) have become so valuable. CDPs are the best way to aggregate and organise data from the many mediums through which consumers now engage.
“Brands also need to be agile enough to change tact quickly if that is what the market and consumers demand – or they risk losing customers. Modern, cloud-based contact centres can deliver digital-first engagement with the widest breadth of communication channels. And they can be built in a matter of days – making such swift change possible.”
Jordan Sim, Senior Director of Product Management, BigCommerce
“Honing into the cultural DNA of your company creates a unique appeal that can help your product or solution stand out from the competition. Customers aren’t just buying a product when they make a purchase, they are buying an extension of themselves. That’s why it is crucial to view your website as an engagement tool, and not just a sales tool.
“Your website is your platform to push for emotional marketing by demonstrating the values that reflect your company’s mission statement. If customers align with your passion, outlook and values, they buy into your brand. Most consumers want to purchase from brands that prioritise corporate and social responsibility. In fact, 85 per cent of global survey respondents rated sustainability important when purchasing. To truly stand out, businesses can take this to the next level by ensuring their values are consistently reflected in the brand from marketing materials, product packaging and tailored customer support services such as live chats with staff members.
“Alongside this, retailers and merchants should offer an exclusive community experience for customers who subscribe to their mailing list or newsletter. Examples of these include exclusive discount codes or access to members-only sales or giveaways. This addition forges stronger relationships through a unique point of difference, incentivising customers to return for repeat purchases.”
Kelly Walter, Founder, Daily Orders
“Your paying customers are your best product development advisers; listen to them.
“One of our best-selling products was created based on customer feedback. One of our mums told us what she wanted in terms of a family planner, and we were happy to oblige.
“Since we launched Daily Orders, we have bootstrapped the business to a multi-million-dollar turnover, and I’m proud to say you’ll find our planners in over 45,000 homes around the world.
“None of this would be possible if we didn’t listen to our customers. So, when customers tell you what they need and want, you just have to listen – we’re constantly innovating and evolving our products to ensure they’re meeting families’ needs.
“Your paying customers are your best product development advisers. Listen to them.”
Dave Hemingway, Chief Product Officer, Till Payments
“Great products that have a genuine impact are, at their core, well-designed, well-thought-out problem-solving tools. They don’t perceive or assume customer problems. Instead, they tackle real-world consumer challenges that are uncovered through user research and extensive validation.
“The most effective product teams then utilise these insights to design products with outcomes, not feature sets, in mind while prioritising product design to optimise intuitive UX and usability. Exceptional products will elicit positive emotional reactions from their users and generate fellowship.
“When you integrate these considerations into your product development principles, people will fall in love with your product, building loyalty and encouraging word-of-mouth referrals that will undoubtedly help you stand out from your competitors.”
Michael Savanis, Chief Revenue Officer, NextMinute
“The very essence of maintaining a profitable company is understanding your customers’ needs as well as “anticipating” their future requirements. Many companies believe they need to be everything to everyone, but I disagree. What customers really want is the ability to solve the issue they are having, which is the reason they came to you in the first place! Customers will pay for value, not for having all the bells and whistles and only using less than 50% of them.
“In order to stand out from the competition, you need to analyse the following:
- Does your product or solution solve a key issue in the market?
- Does your product or solution do this within a price the customer is willing to pay?
- Is your product or solution targeted towards a particular market segment/geography that allows you to adequately market and serve that segment?
“Standing out from the competition is not easy, but the simplest way to stand out is to ensure you understand your market segment and solve their issue at a price they are willing to pay. Show value, and you will stand out. Show a bucketful of features, and you will stand out for the wrong reasons.”
Walter Scremin, CEO, Ontime Delivery Solutions
“Standing out among the competition means solving a genuine problem and removing your customers’ biggest headaches. But it’s important you are genuinely responsive to your customers. Too many organisations in transport and other industries try and impose a fixed solution on the customer, without really getting to know their business, unique challenges, and needs. They over-promise and under-deliver.
“Responding to customers means being attentive and taking the time to get to know them better – it’s worth asking, how can you make their business better? How can you make them more efficient and save them money? You need a professional and disciplined approach to truly understand your customers’ needs, put the right steps in place, and measure progress.
“Good communication is vital. And while technology plays an important role it’s ultimately about relationships, and the mindset to put your customers first.”
Ivy Ong, Cofounder, The Good Seed Kefir
- “Build an exceptional product. Not just 5% or 10% better but 10x better. With Sorted’s Prebiotic Soft Drink, we created something that hadn’t been done in Australia yet. Fuelled by consumer demand, we blended natural plant-based ingredients with scientifically proven health benefits with the consumption enjoyment factor into a product everyone can enjoy. This is what earned us national distribution within 4 months of launch.
- Finding and capturing the white space in a sea of products. You’ve got to thoroughly size up what competitors offer and find an unmet consumer need or emerging demand. Without this, it almost always comes down to price, and pricing alone can be dangerous to compete on.
- For retail products, packaging design and form are the first things that capture attention. Although you should consider contemporary design trends, you need to be careful not to create an undistinguishable design. For Sorted, we wanted to communicate the nostalgia of soft drinks we grew up with, so we opted for bold colours and comic-like artwork. Don’t be afraid to set your own design trend if you have a story to back it up with.
- Building a community around your product and brand can be your biggest asset because it creates a collective social understanding of what the brand means to people. But doing this takes time and consistent effort. A loyal and flourishing community will almost always act as a defence mechanism against competition because it’ll defend the brand from new product entrants.”
Rami Weiss, Co-Founder, HealthShare
“The key to creating a product or solution stand out from the competition is to help people by find a gap in the market and solve problem that is yet to be solved.
“HealthShare, a leading digital health company dedicated to improving health outcomes with innovative digital health tools has done exactly that. In 2010, our executive chairman, Gavin Solsky, and his wife Rochelle Cadry Solsky faced a serious illness in one of their children and discovered there was no great place where Australians can find local health information.
“This is when HealthShare was founded, creating a digital tool that serves the needs of patients, practitioners, consumer health organisations and health care enterprises.
“To make a product or solution stand out, it’s not just about solving a gap in the market but uniting people by championing engagement, empathy and understanding, and solving a problem that improves their lives for the better.”
Chris Ellis, Director Pre-Sales, Nintex
“Differentiating from the median or norm is key to standing out. By creating something unique—or taking something that already exists and improving it exponentially—a product can price and place above its competition. To achieve this, make it your core objective to address a specific pain point, challenge or metric, thereby establishing a new bare minimum of what classifies as success. Also, consider your audience. Something that appeals to a wider group could be seen as generic. Something narrow and targeted in the audience, too specific. But an ability to appeal cross-functionally while maintaining a sense of uniqueness is a stand-out quality.
“Crucially, prioritise the engagement of your market through ease of use and accessibility through mobility. And finally, measure and mark the successes of your users. Prove that utilisation creates wins, whether a monetary return on investment, an increase in customer satisfaction, or the freeing up of participants’ time.”
Dipra Ray, Managing Director and CEO, mPort
“Making a product stand out from the competition is less about the competition and more about the customer. At the end of the day, it’s the customer who you need to stand out too, so your product should be created with them in mind. Consider who your customers are, their needs, and their pain points – then make sure your product is the solution to these pain points.
“Often, customer personas are created within marketing teams, but this doesn’t extend to other departments. Define who your customer is and embed this in all your business decisions, from technology to product development to marketing and sales.
“When you’re authentic and customer-centric in your approach, you create a product that stands out from the competition because it fulfils needs that extend beyond your product alone. This helps you create long-term, loyal customers who also recommend your product to others.”
Jarrad Dober, Product Manager, WithYouWithMe
“When businesses fail to recognise issues on an “Oxygen” level, they stay on a playing field crowded with competitors. To make a product stand out from the crowd, make sure it solves a problem akin to a human’s need for oxygen. Without it, they won’t survive.
“Too often, businesses aim to solve for the largest market, and while this may result in sales, it also results in customers that are only “somewhat satisfied” with their product, and no one wants that.
“To make a product stand out in a crowd, you need to think smaller to grow bigger. Companies need to find niche market after niche market so that each time their products literally change the lives of their customers.
“To do this well, you need to break down a target audience. Our company set out to solve the problem of underemployment by initially only focusing on the needs of a niche market – highly skilled Army veterans. Translating years of military experience into meaningful civilian work became an oxygen level pain point when the result was repeated failure in job interviews.
“From here, we knew we had a problem for which our product could stand out from the competition.”
Graham Glass, CEO, CYPHER LEARNING
“Innovation is a big differentiator when creating a unique product or solution that sets you apart from your competitors. How are you solving the existing challenge? Customers seek solutions that answer their needs and keep them up to date with the latest market trends. At CYPHER LEARNING, we’re pushing the boundaries of what a learning platform can be and do whilst also empowering users to take control of their learning. At the same time, it’s just as essential to constantly improve the product and its features so that it feels brand new no matter how much time it’s been.
“Passion also plays a big role in making a product or solution stand out from the crowd. The first product CYPHER LEARNING released, NEO LMS, was launched to make a real difference in the world of education. It took a lot of perseverance and dedication to growing the platform into what it is today.”
Leigh Rust, Director, Safetyline Jalousie
“At Safetyline Jalousie, we established ourselves as a premium, innovative louvre window manufacturer to stand out from the competition.
“We launched the business on the back of the best technology we could find at the time and, as a result, our windows exceeded the minimum required standards.
“To this day, we continue to innovate and develop our products to this high standard. This has resulted in our company and its products being recognised as innovators – giving us a point of difference over our competitors.
“We achieved this recognition through various tests and certification requirements and have taken out numerous awards, including the Good Design Awards Australia, for our SmartAir system.
“Through offering premium products, being innovative and putting your products up for formal recognition, we’ve proven you can stand out from the competition.”
Anil Patel, Co-founder and Chairman, VIRTUAL MGR
“One secret to a successful, standout product or solution is to regularly review your offering, and obtain feedback from varying levels which then contributes to improving that product.
“With our technology, we have established product committee advisory groups within our client base from end users, supervisors, managers and Directors. We meet every quarter to review the product, UI, and features and discuss areas of innovation, which we then share for further rounds of immediate feedback. We also ensure that the end-users reviewing the product are a mix of existing clients and those who are yet to buy in. Continuous product innovation is paramount to a tech company’s success and certainly ours at Virtual MGR.
“Another way to ensure success is to not only find a ‘niche’ in the market but to find niches within that niche. We did this by developing deep functionality into our processes which were yet to be tackled by our competitors. We spend a great deal of time looking at trends, innovation and where the industry is heading to capitalise on client successes.
“A quote I love by Steve Jobs is, “Innovation is what distinguishes leaders from other companies.”