Being unique and new is one of the main ways you can gain the competitive edge on the internet. That is at the core of any marketing strategy – to have your business stand out from the rest of the market.

In order to differentiate your company you’ll first have to understand your current marketplace. Competitive intelligence will give your business an understanding of how your services, products and brand names are positioned in the marketplace in relation to your competitors. This will be the basis of how your company determines what market strategies it needs in order to attract new customers and increase conversions or sales. From there, differentiation in the market just takes time and meticulous planning. Here are 5 simple steps to begin a basic competitive market differentiation strategy:

  1. Establish and absorb your business marketing plan

Set out and discover what your company has to offer, its current market positioning, distribution, and target audiences/markets. This invaluable information will serve as the cornerstone for analysing how your business measures up to the competition in your niche market.

  1. Know your competition

Next you’ll need to figure out who your current competitors are. Remember that your competitors will not only consist of those businesses that offer similar products and services. They could also be businesses that are different from yours, but are competing for the same revenue and same target markets. They might also include businesses that offer the same products and services but are targeting different markets. Try and organize these competitors into different categories based on the strength of how well they are competing against you, and don’t discount the effect that soft skills and face to face interaction from their employees has. If this can be tested by visiting their branch, then do it!

  1. Know your competitor’s products, services and marketing strategies

Gather important marketing information regarding your competition’s products, services, pricing, benefits etc. You should also understand how your competition is marketing what they have to offer, taking into account what has succeeded for them in the past as well as what has failed.

  1. Examine and put into practice

Now that you’ve done your research, it’s time to sit down and look at the data and figure out where you can gain the biggest competitive advantage. Data collection will be a constant, ongoing job. Where do your specific products and services have an advantage over the competition?  Once you figure that out, try and turn those advantages into benefits that you offer to your customers. As soon as you compile and organize your benefits, add them to all of your marketing messages and then lead into additional detailed and searchable information on your websites, commercials, and brochures.

Here’s an example: At my company, USB Memory Direct, we sell promotional usb drives for marketing purposes. Something we found during our market research was that we offered one of the quickest turnaround times in our market. Speed of delivery in our business is a huge benefit to customers, and we promoted that on our site and in our advertisements. Whatever it might be, if it’s a strong advantage for your business, try and exploit it.

If you find that you don’t have any particularly unique benefits to offer your customers in terms of advantages over your competitors, then try and figure out what features your competition is weak on. Perhaps your competitor has better prices, but offers very poor customer service. Try and improve on your own customer service and make it one of the best in your market. Trust me; customers will pay a little extra if it means they will be serviced fully, understandably and considerately. If you really can’t find any marketable advantages to your company, or exploit any of your competitor’s weaknesses, try to take a creative angle on something that might seem mundane to set yourself apart, like Don Draper did with the Lucky Strike It’s Toasted campaign.

At the same time, also try and work on improving what your company might be weak on. Maybe search for cheaper production companies to offer better pricing for your products, or redesign your website so that customers can easily navigate through and purchase your services. Find out what is currently a challenge for your business and then try and overcome it.