Marketing: How to Creatively Distinguish Your Business

By Nick May
Owner at Walls By Design and Podcast Host at The Chaise Lounge

We live in a challenging time to grow and market a business.

Twenty years ago, when I was just starting to build an exterior painting firm, you had to spend thousands on an enormous Yellow Pages advertisement for people to even know your business existed. Now, setting up a website is cheap and easy, and potential clients all over your market area can simply Google your business – or its service – and find out everything they need to know.

On one hand, this unprecedented access is great. On the other, though, this means that every other business is taking the exact same approach to marketing that you are.

How do you distinguish your business in this age when consumers are blindsided by information from every angle? Do you build a bigger and better website? Maybe. Cue in those SEO phrases and play the search engine game? Perhaps, but these moves just get your name out there. Potential customers still need to select you over your competitors. So ask yourself, what is it about your business that makes people willing to give you a shot, and trust that you’ll provide a killer service, instead of the competition? Why should they choose you?

These are questions that all lead back to your business’s guiding philosophy, or what I call a value proposition. In communicating your value proposition, you are reaching out to potential customers and explaining what makes your business tick and how that will benefit them. This means getting beyond the platitudes spouted by many business owners when I ask them what sets them apart from the competition: things like, ‘We care more’, ‘We are on time’, ‘We offer free estimates, use quality products,’ or a number of boring and standard responses.

The truth is, customers assume you will do these things, and when you don’t, they are not pleased – and you lose business.

Instead, focus on something that is unique to your business. Is there a service you provide that says, ‘We’re better than the competition, and that’s in our DNA.’ I’ll give you an example from Starbucks, who have seen unbelievable growth since beginning as one of Seattle’s myriad cafés in the 1970s. When you walk into a Starbucks and order a coffee, the barista will ask you what size: not small, medium, or large, but tall, grande, or venti. In doing so, Starbucks is indicating that their products are actually a cut above other cafés, instead of giving a lame explanation that isn’t reflected in their products.

In other words, this tactic is one Starbucks’ Unique Selling Propositions, or USPs, which communicates their value proposition – something like, ‘When you walk into a Starbucks, you’ll have an experience that you simply will not have anywhere else, and here’s why.”

You can, and should, do this in the painting business, too. At my painting company, Walls by Design in Denver, CO, we offer a lifetime warranty and free yearly touch-ups to all our customers — for life. This is very unique, and people think we’re crazy, but we paint over 600 projects a year, and this year, we performed 115 free touch-ups. Our customers love this USP, and it communicates our value proposition: we turn houses into beautiful homes.

No matter what makes your business tick, get creative, and don’t try and do what others do. Look to stand out, be different, and bring great value. There’s nothing worse than being bland. Instead, celebrate what already makes your business different from your competitors. If you specialize in designing children’s rooms, for example, make sure that everyone thinks of you when they see an opportunity to re-vamp their kids’ rooms.

Your customers will know the difference you’ve identified, and you’ll know when you’ve set yourself apart from others that simply don’t have the creativity – because, trust me, the money will follow.

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