To be different or to be better?!

You have seen quotes suggesting “be you, be different”, or “be different or be dead”, or “be different to stand out”. What these quotes are trying to say, and what’s in it for small business owners? Why is it important to be different? Is it important to be different, or to be better?

Today the competition among the businesses in any sector is hard. Start-up companies try to identify less crowded niches, even develop a new niche so attracting customers does not cost them a fortune.

The bottom line is that, no matter how hard you try, sooner or later there will be someone out there that will beat you up in product and service quality. So, if you are providing a simple product or service to your customers then you may choose to be different instead of being the best of class. Often “being different” approach would cost much less.

An example: Let’s say that you run a small local coffee shop in San Francisco. Your line of products is limited because you cannot carry a lot of inventory (cost and space). Then how would you compete with big names such as Starbucks? Here are few ideas how you could be different:

  • Name: A catchy name and a nice logo stick in mind. You need to study a bit to understand the local community, the demography of the community so your name comes at the right angle to them.
  • Ambiance: Play a music that goes well with the time of the day. You need to consider the age group and the demographic mix of your customers too.
  • Complement: Depending on the demographic mix of your customers provide magazines and newspapers.
  • Connect: You are local, so know your customers. Try to remember the names of your customers. Go beyond serving them a cup of coffee.
  • VIP: Occasionally offer your regular customers a free coffee. Let them know that your regulars have a special place in your shop.
  • Engage: Participate in your local community by setting up a local advertisement board. Post a daily “quote of the day” on it to show that your business is dynamic.


Need more ideas how to be different in your business? Call your friends in for a pizza and beer to brainstorm ideas. Write the ideas each on a piece of paper. Be specific on each idea. Score them on two things, cost, and how it could have a positive impact on your business. Rank them all, and start implementing them one by one.

Few general guidelines that could inspire you how to be different:

  • Packaging: If your product is just like others the wrapping or the packaging could be a differentiator.
  • Presentation: You go to farmers’ market to buy tomatoes. Would you buy the tomato from a shop that has piled tomatoes altogether, or from the one that has ordered them in form of a love sign? And every time you visit the later the tomatoes are arranged in a different shape. (assuming both outlets offer the same quality of product)
  • Customer experience: The appearance and behavior of your staff could be a differentiator. Remember the no-frill airline who becomes famous simply because the staff started surprising passengers with jokes to make the boring travel time more pleasant.


To stand out, your business needs to be seen, be visible also it should attract customers. That’s what a proper marketing strategy would do. A perfect branding strategy, however, would make you or your business memorable.

Your turn, if you have a small business what have you done to be different? Please share your experience.


Tags: #Branding #BrandingStrategy #Startup #SmallBusiness #BusinessTips #Locobiz










Koorosh Nejad

Koorosh started up his first venture in 1999, an online flower shop. He is an angel investor and a startup guru in the technology domain. Koorosh believes in developing local economies through sup...

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